top of page

Yesterday's Christmas

Did you think Santa had so much to do that he forgot to see if Mrs. Claus was in the sleigh? Oh NO! He would never forget Mrs. Claus! She packs the sleigh, knows where everything is, and who it is for.

Mrs. Claus had to stay home since she was sick. She got a visit from the North Pole's mischievous Elf, Bad Boy Biff. Every Christmas, he likes to show off and hits on somebody and spoils their Christmas.

I guess he was planning all year that this Christmas, Mrs. Claus would be his 2016 catch. Well, he didn't win, because Santa and all his helpers said Santa's visit at 57 West was a great day.

I heard that each little person came in wide-eyed and a little bit scared, hanging on to Mom.

They should be a little hesitant. After all, how many times do you see a man in a bright red suit hollering Ho Ho Ho! If you do see him, it is only once a year. The little munchkins slowly inch their way toward Santa. They want so much to talk to him because this day took forever to come.

All Santa has to say is, "Hello, my friend. Come on and sit on my lap and tell me your secret wish." They quickly hop up on his lap and they whisper only what is meant for his magical ears. I am sure some wishes were big, especially in 2016, when all the workshops were full of everything. There were contraptions and gadgets beyond my imagination.

You know, that Buck Rogers stuff, that really works.

My Christmases were different. They were simple, not so much hoopla. Christmas dinner was Mother's gift to her family. She made goodies and special foods that were only made at Christmas. There were toys, but small things like crayons and a coloring book, puzzles, and one of the popular reading books, like Nancy Drew Mystery, but you also got one big surprise gift.

Mine was a big doll. she had a rag body with beautiful hands and feet with perfect toes and fingers that looked real. She had a beautiful face with blue eyes that opened and closed, and a cherry colored mouth shaped like a heart.

Needless to say, I fell in love with her. I carried her all over that day and I even sneaked her into bed with me. Maybe next year I will get the doll carriage.

Those were lean years in America. The country was growing and people were coming from all over the world. They were leaving everything they loved behind - their families, their culture, and the life they knew. They were hoping for a better life because there was work to be had here and you were paid for it.

They also brought with them their ethnic foods, traditions, and culture, and it changed the face of America. These immigrants tried very hard to fit in. They and their children intermarried and now their cultures, traditions, and ethnic foods are shared by all Americans.

Oh, and the Christmas season started two weeks before December 25th, not in the summer months, like today.

Your Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve. My brother would go out into the nearby woods and chop down a long needle white pine. There were no Christmas tree farms or roadside sellers where you could buy a tree. An old pail filled with rocks and water would be the Christmas tree stand and that would stay until January 2nd, when everything would be put away for next year.

My brother was an inventor and I still chuckle over some of his home made tree ornaments. The biggest and best part came last. Those long shiny strips of aluminum. Tinsel! It was draped on every limb and empty spot. It covered all the bare spots and made the tree beautiful.

In my child's eye, that tree was 13 feet tall and just perfect.

Whoops! All the lights on the tree went out. Not uncommon. Now my brother would spend hours looking for that one bulb that blew the whole line.

I wonder who messes with the Christmas decoration in the attic during the summer. They are so carefully put away after Christmas, but when you bring them out for the next year, there are lights that don't light and ornaments that are broken.

Each window had a decoration that hung from the window shade. My Mom would bring out her red velvet poinsettias and lovingly take out every twisted leaf and every kink in the wires. When she hung them on the windows, they were like brand new.

In school, every classroom had its own decorated tree. The best part of the day was when we sang Christmas carols from little caroling books that were donated by the bank or an insurance company.

The very best part was the Grab Bag. Each child would put their name on a scrap piece of paper and toss it in the bag. When it was your turn to put your hands in and grab a name, then you would buy a little gift for that person, but no one would know who pulled your name from the bag.

I think back with sadness how we thought everybody was Christian. How did Mitzi Fenster, who was Jewish, feel because she was completely ignored? Or my friend, Nick, who was Russian, and celebrated Christmas on a different day. I think of Julius Parks, who thought Santa was only white.

There was always snow on the ground and all the ponds were frozen solid until spring.

My father was a TEAMSTER. He had a team of beautiful, strong, well cared for horses. This is how he made his living. He had an excellent reputation for doing work that was difficult, because he knew exactly how to work his horses without them getting hurt. So he was called away, often for days, because he would be hired to knock down trees, clear the land, and make a rough road leading to this land. These little clearings were inviting to people. They built homes and eventually a little town sprung up. These are the beautiful towns we now live in.

When he was home, people anxiously waited for him to give sleigh rides. Yes! With sleigh bells and people singing.

My Christmas stocking was not a beautiful handmade stocking with my name on it. It was one of my very own ugly, long, skinny, brown stockings, which everybody wore and hated.

First in the stocking, you would find a beautiful perfect orange, and then maybe next, a tangerine. This was a real treat because these fruits came only at Christmas time when they were in season. Even today, the smell of an orange reminds me of those Christmas mornings so long ago. Then next in the stocking was ribbon candy, a handful of nuts that only showed up once a year, and then maybe some ethnic goodies your mom made only at Christmas. Now you have reached the toe part and you would find nickels, pennies, and OMG a quarter! Then at the very toe, a big chunk of coal, whether you were naughty or nice.

That was Christmas long ago, and I cherish the memories because I was happy and all those I loved were close by.

Today's urchins will have their own memories and they will cherish them and remember them with nostalgia. The world keeps turning and each year it spins a beautiful story. The story doesn't change much in the hearts of men.

That wide-eyed child with his secret wishes waiting for his special day will always be there. Could that little kid be you? I know it can be me.

Comments from your hysterical, historical, historian, Elsie Valeski. 2016

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page