Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas then and now


The Christmas holiday from my remembrance then was the day my father showed his family (and anyone else) we could hold our own with presents and food. Everything was to the excess. This was the goal of middle-class families to prove they could consume and provide for the future.

The above picture is from 1966. Gifts sat while we had breakfast or at least OJ, milk, or coffee, and then were devoured through the morning. A gift for each family member was selected and we patiently waited for the wrapping paper and bows to be removed to reveal the amazing wonder.

Every year the gifts grew larger and more expensive. I remember the organ, mink coat, and a car… But there were plenty of socks, shirts, and underwear also. I also remember a cardboard box that was folded into a paper tank and a card table cover that became a fort. Then there was the stuff dog that looked like it came home from the state fair, given to me because I had asked for a dog. When my hair was grown long, my father gave me a Barbie doll. Yes, I got the message.

After the presents were unwrapped and the trashed collected, we stacked the prizes around the lit tree to show guest and visitors what my father could afford.

I continued the tradition for years, with diamonds, animals, clothes, jewelry, electronics, hobbies, and what other desire was expressed I tried to accommodate with the best of my financial situation. The surprises made the day worthwhile, but even those faded.

The one tradition I learned and continue to follow on December 25, while families are gather by the tree, tearing paper and screaming glee of a wish list fulfilled, I go out to a park or wooded area with two loafs of bread. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t cost much, but the rewards are uplifting and memories irreplaceable.

Looking back at the wrapping paper, bows, cards, stress, and “things” soon forgotten, the last tradition is much more relevant and rewarding.

So next year as you sit around your new gadgets and warm snuggles place a few pieces of simple bread outside for earth’s original occupants. They will appreciate it and so will I.

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