Let's Reminisce: Childhood memories of Christmas
By Jerry Lincecum
Dec 28, 2020
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In more than three decades of listening to elderwriters share reminiscences, I have noticed that the Christmas season has often been the setting for unforgettable childhood memories.  They are as precious as gold nuggets or polished gems.

One dear lady recalled that as children they didn't hang a stocking but put a pan under their beds for Santa's gifts. She never knew why a kitchen pan was used, but on Christmas morning it was always overflowing with special gifts. Santa also left crates of oranges, apples, all kinds of nuts and fireworks under the tree. There was a certain magic in the dark as they stood outside, cold and shivering, and watched the roman candles shoot into the sky and the sparklers twinkle.

Others recall a tradition of celebrating Christmas by traveling to the home of the childrenís grandparents on Christmas Eve.  Only when all children were asleep did adults put up the cedar tree and other decorations. 

Can you imagine the magical feeling experienced by a child waking up on Christmas morning to find a beautiful tree that had appeared overnight, complete with gifts delivered by Santa Claus?

On the other hand, one gentleman remembers the unfortunate year when days of rain on muddy roads made the Christmas Eve journey very doubtful. Then Papa came up with a brilliant solution.  He had a sled the horses could pull, and he placed the wagon box on top of it.  With warm lap-robes to shelter them from the cold, the little family set off through the woods to their grandparents. 

Then Papa decided he wasnít sure if he had securely locked up the corncrib.  He was obliged to leave Mama and the children alone in the dark woods while he briskly walked back to make sure.  It was no surprise that 80 years later his five-year-old son could revisit his anxiety on that Christmas Eve long ago. 

Around 1930 two little girls discovered something amazing: new toys in the smokehouse.  A quick-thinking mom advised them that she felt sure Elves from the North Pole had stashed them there. Moreover, this wise adult had heard that children who meddled in Santaís business would receive nothing good on Christmas morning.  Mystery solved and lesson learned: stay away from that smokehouse.

Often a child was amazed to receive a gift that had been coveted but seemed too expensive. Somehow a parent knew the childís desire and managed to find a way to pay for it.  One lady received a suede-fringed jacket for Christmas in 1946, and fifty years later she still remembered how much it cost.

Coming from a large family, I have memories of a very orderly system of taking turns opening gifts.  Then chaos ensued, and almost inevitably some important tag or leaflet disappeared amid the wrapping paper. 

At least one adult would lose patience as the trash had to be sorted a couple of times. Incidentally, these little episodes occurred after WWII, when wrapping paper was cheap and plentiful. Recently I have read that beautifully-wrapped gifts usually turn out to be less satisfying than others that are hastily and sloppily wrapped.

Iím sure you are already remembering your own little nuggets and gems of Christmas past.  The scenes we can revisit at will with the mindís eye easily surpass all the digital photos and movies that will be made this holiday season. Also, the more gifts we receive, the less we treasure them.

Iím sure that not getting to visit with grandparents and other extended family this year because of the pandemic will make us appreciate the return to traditional Christmas gatherings in the years to come.

A retired English professor, Dr. Jerry Lincecum teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any topic: