I suppose that the very essence of what made Christmas so special was the fact that it was celebrated for so long. Not only was the house decorated with beautiful colored lights, but the inside was decorated as well. Christmas cards hung on the wall. Candy dishes were filled with hard candies. The tree was put up and festooned to the hilt with an array of bulbs, lights , and ornaments . It wasn't just about getting lots of toys; it was about families getting together. Christmas albums were played on the stereo night and day. Activity on blackened night streets was abundant. People were out Christmas shopping , putting up their lights, or just out and about. It was like a dead world suddenly came to life on December 1st.
Some of my favorite memories are of the wonderful Christmas specials on TV . I also loved the fact that all of television shows we watched faithfully, had a Christmas episode. As for the specials, I remember most of the classics. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (narrated by Burl Ives), "The Grinch That Stole Christmas", "Frosty the Snowman", and of course, the ever moral-forging "Charlie Brown's Christmas". There were also these really cool puppet animations, most of which I can't even remember the titles anymore. There was one however, based on Rip Van Winkle that I do remember. The lineup of movies were also fun, such as "It's a Wonderful Life", "A Christmas Carol", (let's also not forget about "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol") and "Miracle on 34th Street."
There was also the fun of Christmas shopping and Christmas Eve dinner and all the presents piled up beneath the tree. It has been said "'Tis more blessed to give than to receive". Yes, this is true. It was also more fun. Once you knew what a family member reeeeaaaallly wanted, it was so exciting to go out and buy it, then wrap it, and spend the remainder of the waiting weeks, teasing. "Hmmm, I wonder what's in that package?"
Of course, the long weeks of waiting before present-opening time were agonizing. On our walks to school, we would discuss what we were sure we were getting for Christmas. The parent-child politics of what you wanted as opposed to "was it good for you" were always factored in. The movie "A Christmas Story" and Ralphie's quest for a BB gun was not at all far-fetched. My request for a BB gun (year after year) was always denied.
In our house, my mom usually cooked ham on Christmas Eve . There would also be fruit salad and then the usual junk like potatoes and the canned goodness of green beans or corn. My mom was a stickler for decorating. She had this Christmas tree wheel light that revolved slowly. It was a round plate with four colors and would slowly revolve, illuminating the tree in white, red, blue, and green. We usually had fake trees, probably because they were more affordable. If memory serves correctly, we had one of the aluminum tinsel trees for many years. I think my mom liked it because it would glow much brighter when that tree light did its thing.
I remember many wonderful Christmases, but one of the most memorable for me was the Christmas of 1964 . We were poor, my mom was alone and on welfare. We had very little to do with, but she still made wonderful Christmas purchases. I remember getting the "Crazy Clock" game , and the Rolling Stones "12 x 5" album. Everytime I hear "Time is on My Side", I think about those wintry days and the Christmas of 1964. You can read more here.
Valentine cards and cinnamon hearts. Red and white and candy striped. Give one to your secret love and pretend you both don't know.
Remember when you had to give valentine cards to the girls in your class? Most of us guys either hated it, or pretended to hate it. Still, it was the perfect opportunity to tell that certain girl in your class how much you liked her. How? Easy. You saved the absolute best valentine in the package just for her. The best one was the one that had the most glitter, color, and hopefully, the least mushy saying on the front. Sayings like "Be My Valentine" was safe; however, Anything pertaining to the word "heart" was a bit of a romantic mine field . You had to step carefully when speaking about matters of the heart to a girl in your class.
Next came the problem of your guy friends. yeah, that's right, you had to give one to them too. It was that whole blasted "sharing concept" that you were being taught. Guys in the class got the dumbest cards.