What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?
Mahalia Jackson…she is my most vivid memory of Christmas music in our house. I don’t know where my parents got the album but it was played every Christmas. One of those old LP albums, that my son calls “those big CDs”! For me it’s just not Christmas without Mahalia! My sister kept that album and transferred it on to her computer. She made me a CD of it and now every year in my house we play that album. My favorite song is Sweet Little Jesus Boy. Nobody can sing it like Mahalia!
Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
I know I must have sent a letter or two to Santa when I was young. I know we visited Santa a few times too. No pictures exist, as far as I am aware. I remember when we lived in El Paso, our house did not have a fireplace…boy we used to worry a lot about how Santa was going to get in to leave us our presents!
Visiting Santa was always something fun that we did with our son, Graham. He attended the same preschool and after school program for many years when he was young. The best part was that the same gentleman played Santa every year. He had a real white beard and mustache, too. My son grew up believing that this guy really had to be Santa because he saw him every year!
Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?
When I was growing up in the 60’s I remember we always selected one night before the holiday and would drive around the city looking at all the lights that people had on their houses. I know my Mom particularly liked it when a neighborhood of houses all had luminarias lit.
Each year, my Mom would decorate our windows. When we lived in El Paso, Texas we only had one picture window. My mom would make a stencil out of newspaper of a particular scene she wanted to use that year. She taped the stencil to the window and then used that spray snow to decorate. This picture gives you an idea of how it looked. That’s my younger sister (Karen) and I out on Christmas Day dressed up for church. Those are our large stuffed animals that Santa brought us that year.
When we moved to Denver, Colorado, my Mom had a larger canvas to work with…
What you can’t see in this picture is another angel on a window to the right and then to the left were three wise men on the living room windows! (I know there is a picture around here somewhere…but can’t seem to put my hands on it right now!)
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?
I believe my parents sent Christmas cards each year. Although I don’t have any particular memories about them. I do remember how my mom would try to come up with ways of displaying the cards we received. Hanging from a string across the wall. Taped to ribbon down the wall. Tucked into the slats of wooden shutters. A wide variety of display options!
My family sends Christmas cards each year. This is getting harder to do with all the new electronic ways of sending cards. It is nice, though, to get a card from someone you haven’t seen or talked to for a while. That’s why I send actual cards to our family and friends.
One of the things I have done is save the cards my son has received from his grandparents. One day I think he will enjoy seeing them and having something each year to remember them by.
Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?
I don’t remember as a child having any specific cherished ornaments. I remember the fun and excitement in the air on the day that we decorated the tree. I know that with 5 of us kids there must have been many handmade ornaments that we hung each year. Sadly I don’t even know what ever happened to our childhood Christmas ornaments…
The Christmas before I was married in 1980, I had my first ever tree in my apartment. Not having a lot of money for decorations, my sister and I spent a great deal of time making our own ornaments out of wrapping paper or whatever we could find. We even wrapped old cigarette boxes with gift wrap and put bows on them to make little presents that sat on tree branches! I still have many of them still today. After we finished decorating that little tree…there were small little snippets of wrapping paper that my sister and I folded in accordion style and threw on the tree at the end. I have saved one of those little pieces now for over 30 years and each year the last ornament on the tree is that sliver of wrapping paper. I now have it encased inside a crystal clear ornament.
Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?
Our traditional Christmas dinner now is probably a bit different from those of days gone by or even some of the more traditional foods. Each year we order racks of barbecue ribs from Dankin Farms and grill them on the grill. We serve this along with my “world-famous” (just ask anyone in my family!) potato salad, olives, rolls and pies for dessert! For Christmas breakfast we always serve pecan coffee cake and we must have those Cutie clementine oranges! The oranges date back to when I was younger and my parents always found tangerines or oranges each year. There was always one at the bottom of our stocking from Santa…along with fudge and divinity candy that my mom must have stayed up half the night to make!
Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas tree did your ancestors have?
This is a picture of my Christmas tree this year. It is a 9 foot pre-lit artificial tree. It is a beautiful tree fits perfectly in our picture window! When my son was younger we always purchased a real tree. Not just one tree, but two! We thought it would be nice to have 2 trees in the house – one in the living room and the other in the family room. One big, one small. The first year we purchased the two trees, my son was adamant that they had to be placed next to each other. They needed to keep each other company, my son would say…so every year thereafter we had one large tree with one small tree right next to it.
When I was younger we would always purchase a real tree every year. That is, until we moved to New Jersey where we had fireplaces and radiators to contend with… My parents worried about the dangers of the tree catching fire. A solution was finally found by taking a large branch that had come off of a maple tree in our front yard and having Dad mount it on a couple of 2 X 4’s! We decorated the branch and placed it in our living room window. Were we the talk of the town! People would drive from all around to see our “Christmas Branch”. We kept the tree in the basement and brought it out each year for many years.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” Teaching children values and giving them the opportunity to excel is essential to good parenting. However, I feel I must also provide my children (and myself) insight into the ones who came before us: our ancestors whose lives and stories have shaped us into who we are. This is my journey; these are their stories…