Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Gift of Tradition

In the 1950s and 1960s, Christmas morning started with our Christmas stockings, which, since we didn’t have a fireplace, were laid on top of the presents and contained just enough stuff to keep us busy while our parents made breakfast – an orange in the toe topped with some candy and small toys.

After breakfast we all got comfortable in the living room and started the gift opening ritual. One of us kids played Santa, picking out one present at a time, reading who it was “to” and “from”, and ceremoniously giving it to the recipient.

We would all admire the wrapping and then it would be carefully opened without ripping the paper, which would be put aside for future use. Finally the actual gift was uncovered and passed around the room to be admired by all and the giver was thanked before moving on to the next gift.

Each child received one “big” present and maybe two smaller ones. A “big” could be a bike or a wagon or a piece of real jewelry or a doll or a science kit or, when we were in high school approaching college, our own suitcase. The smaller gifts were such items as toys, books, clothes, or board games.

When we were sure that all the presents were opened – none hidden behind the tree - we would spend some time playing with them until it was time to get dressed up and start setting the table for the big turkey dinner in our small dining room.

After lunch we could check in with our cousins who lived next door and go outside and play with our friends. Most of that play consisted of comparing our haul and the older kids elbowing each other and laughing while asking the younger ones what “Santa” brought.

By evening we were ready to eat leftovers.

Before bedtime our presents would be put back under the tree displayed in their boxes to be admired for the next few days, completing another exceedingly satisfying and most important, traditional, Christmas Day.

"A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril." - Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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