Posted on December 14, 2022

Reason for the Season - Gebo's

Do you remember when the holidays were about family, not material things? When it really didn't matter what was under the tree? All that mattered was that you were together. Families made the holiday special.  Maybe you didn't see each other for months, but when you reunited it was as if you had never been a part. 

My fondest childhood memories of Christmas are not about toys or fancy clothes. I grew up poor. No running water in 1974 poor. But I remember the love we had for each other and for God. I remember baking a birthday cake for baby Jesus. He was the center of our day, not what presents we got.  Daddy reading the Christmas story from the Bible. Mom’s face glistening from the heat in the kitchen as she prepared our Christmas meal. Aunts and uncles visiting from far away. My grandmother’s pineapple cake.  We didn’t get many treats throughout the year, but at Christmas we would have so many sweets our bellies would hurt for days, if we weren’t careful. 

The thing is, we never really knew we were that poor. Most of our friends and family were in the same situation. I remember some people even being worse off than us. Those of us who had more shared with the ones who had less. At that time there was no such thing as angel trees or toy drives, or even food drives for that matter. Churches  helped when they could, but mostly it was left up to families to help each other. Christmas was no different. If we knew that someone was hungry we shared our food with them. I remember going through my toys and donating to children who had lost everything in a fire. We were just grateful to be able to help. And people didn’t care if things were handed down. They were just grateful to have something, anything,  to give their children at Christmas.

I remember getting paper dolls one Christmas. They were inexpensive, and provided hours of fun. They were of twin girls. I remember I named them Trixy and Trudy. They had hats and shoes and even tiny purses. I played with those paper dolls until the tabs that held the clothes on came off. And then Mom found tape somewhere. I would pretend and make up stories for them. I can still remember,  even as old as I am now, playing with those paper dolls.

I fast forward 20 years to my own children. We all want better for our kids than what we had. But even though as a child we were poor, the one thing that we had lots of was love. That did not change with my children, though I think my childhood was richer in someways than theirs. My children didn’t want for anything, and  I think they were a little poorer because of that. 

And what about Santa?  I know Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicolas. But we have gone so far from that holy man it seems no one even remembers what Christmas is really all about. One year, my husband and I spent a good part of Christmas Eve putting together a kitchen play set for our two girls. When the oldest woke up, she ran to the window, never looking at the play set or even the tree. As she turned around, there were big tears streaming down her cheeks. 

    “I wanted to see Santa Claus!” she cried. 

My husband threw down his screw driver, looked at me in disgust and went to bed. He never helped me play “Santa” again. 

 Now stores go directly from Halloween to Christmas. It’s as if Thanksgiving doesn’t exist.  At Cracker Barrel,  the Christmas trees and decorations go up in August, when days are  still 100° and people are in shorts and tank tops. It just doesn’t seem right when you are sunburned from swimming in the lake and go in and see Santa’s sleigh flying around the tree. Or you stand in line for  hours for the newest toy that your child DEMANDS. Or fights breakout because someone took the last whatchamacallit. I knew a family that sent the grandparents and both parents to four different stores to make sure that their child got the most popular toy that year. And it is truly a Black Friday when people go from giving thanks on Thursday to running over a person for a parking spot  the next day. 

I won’t say that I didn’t fall victim to some of the things I just criticized. No, I never ran over anyone for a parking place. Nor did I taser someone for a toy. But there  are  times I don’t think I did as good a job as I should have of teaching my children the same Christmas spirit I had as a child.

Written by:  Gail Lindsey 

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