Saturday, December 20, 2008

Simplier Christmases

We’ve all heard the stories about children in the old days who were so happy at Christmastime just to receive an orange, some nuts and candy, a handmade toy or an article of homemade clothing in their stockings. Well, it is true! My aunt Ethel who was born in 1920 in Silver City, Utah remembers…We hung up one of our regular stockings on Christmas eve, and in the morning were excited because Santa had visited. In our stockings, we would discover an orange or a banana, some nuts and candy, and a gift. The girls always got a doll while the boys got games to play like Old Maid cards, Checkers, Dominoes or Parcheesi. (I’m sure their widowed mother carefully saved money all year to be able to provide these gifts for her children.)

Ethel continues her memories of Christmases with her two sisters, two brothers, and a working mom…Sometimes we would each get a dollar to go shopping at Woolworth’s dime store in nearby Eureka to buy gifts for the family. Amazingly, it was possible to buy gifts for the whole family with just one dollar: handkerchiefs, combs, a head scarf, socks, gloves, a woolen cap or some candy could be bought then carefully wrapped and put under the tree to be opened on Christmas day.

The Johnson kids knew they wouldn’t be getting fancy gifts because their widowed mother just couldn’t supply that for them. She was lucky to keep food on the table and wood or coal in the pot belly stove to warm their two bedroom house with no indoor plumbing but their holiday meal was always special because she was an excellent cook. A turkey or chicken with delicious stuffing, whipped mashed potatoes and tasty gravy served with homemade rolls and pies were served and enjoyed by all which sometimes included invited friends and extended family members.

Ethel continues…Our loving Grandma Morby, who lived far away in Coalville, either brought or mailed us special gifts this time of year. One year she sent a small suitcase filled with different kinds of candy. What a treat that was for us kids. (What joy and appreciation they had for anything that was given them.)

May your holidays be blessed and filled with warm memories of your family’s traditional celebrations. Tell your children and grandchildren about your memorable Christmases or better yet write them down to preserve your family’s history.


  1. Good idea about passing down the family Christmas stories.

  2. Oh how things have changed over the years! A friend of mine's grandkids get 3 gifts, just like the baby Jesus. What a great idea!
    We had a Woolworth's nearby when I was a kid, and I remember getting a lot for my small amount of money. Have a happy holiday!

  3. I love this, Lin. It reads like the histories the Washington, CT, museum has been collecting for its oral history project.

    My daughter annually asks Santa to surprise her. I love that she does that. She said to me this year that it is nice to be surprised because sometimes she receives gifts that she never would have thought to ask for and found she likes new things. I only wish she felt the same way about my cooking!

    God bless, friend.

  4. I have my great grandmother's diary. It is worn and the handwriting isn't good. I should transcribe it before it is lost...

  5. Christmas is a bit simpler this year. I know it was so different for my ancesters... but for me, Christmas has always been a HUGE deal. My mom loved the Holiday and started making arrangements for it months in advance. We had ginormous trees, tons of presents, nothing elaborate but plentiful, and a table laden with goodies for the entire week between Christmas and New Years as my mom held a seven day open house every year.

    We do have a family tradition of giving Christmas to a needy family, and we have wooden shoes by the front door that Santa fills with oranges, nuts and a few hard candies. We brought them under the tree and talked about how other people celebrate and how little some children receiveed and how grateful they were for it.

    I'm happy to report that none of my children are now or have ever been greedy. They have always asked for little and loved to give at Christmas.

    Good post, Lin.