I admit it. I love Christmas. I’m not jaded, exhausted or “relieved that it’s over.” There is no bah humbug here. I’m in no danger of being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future because I am already converted. I love Christmas.
This year as I mourn the passing of yet another Christmas, I pondered the difference between Christmas past and present without benefit of a Dickensian midnight visit to light my way.
My Christmas memories don’t kick in until the mid-1970s and many are undoubtedly culled from stories and a few precious photos rather than my own recall. In that pre-digital era we didn’t have hundreds of photos of every single Christmas.
We had maybe a dozen or so shots — 24 if your family was flush. Fotomat wasn’t free, my friends. I empathize. Blessed as I am to be able to take pictures without having to worry about whether my Magicube supply is running low.
When I was a child you couldn’t go online to create a Christmas “playlist.” We had to purchase Bing or Perry Como on 8-track or vinyl. In fact, one of the first joyous signs of the Christmas season wasn’t department store Santas, but commercials advertising the K-Tel holiday record collection. You could also earn free LP albums with gas station fill-ups. One of my very favorite Christmas albums appears to have come from Texaco.
One major difference then and now was that people in my neck of the woods did not have multiple Christmas trees. You had one indoor tree and maybe a wreath or two. If you were feeling really holiday frisky and had a dad with a ladder, you had some outside lights.
Tinsel felt heavier and had a nice drape (probably all that lead). Sure it was lethal but it did hang pretty on the tree. It also tended to hang around until well after Easter no matter how thoroughly your mom vacuumed.
I never saw a sugarplum, let alone persuaded one to dance, but I do remember those red plastic mesh stockings with junky toys and cheap candy inside. I remember grocery stores having a drawing for a gigantic mesh stocking and my wondering how I was ever going to convince my mom to buy enough canned ham to win.
My mother would never buy those mesh stockings and I grew up thinking I was missing out. I probably wasn’t but I was only going by my lust and jealousy for store-bought birthday cake, another store-bought fantasy denied by my mother.
I’m sure, looking back, that my stocking was much better. I always got one of those super fat peppermint sticks and loose hard candy that would be eaten last and by that time thoroughly stuck to the stocking fuzz.
Candy canes, by the way, came in two colors (red and green and green was known by all to be “gross.”) Candy cane flavors were mint. Period. None of this color-coordinated, fruity flavored nonsense for us. Pina colada candy canes? Perish the thought. That’s a flavor for poolside — not Christmas!
In my day we could only see Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph one time a year. You couldn’t buy them on DVD or DVR them to watch at a more convenient time that didn’t interfere with bedtime — thank goodness. No, you took a bath, put on your jammies, and sat in front of the TV waiting and waiting!
Our moms (and grandmoms) didn’t have Food Network to show them the error of their non-gourmet ways. Instead of “trying something new this year,” our culinary crafty loved ones could rest on their laurels and bring us the same tasty and traditional treats year after year.
This spared us a lot of tofurkey and as a nation we are grateful. We also had no idea that green bean casserole was supposed to be beneath us. We thought it was delicious. We didn’t have NORAD to track Santa. We had to guess what time he would come to our house. Our parents recommended bedtime be shortly after dinner “just to be on the safe side.” Always looking out for U.S. they were.
We also had no restrictions on wishing people a “Merry Christmas” or being afraid of doing so. I don’t think it ever occurred to anyone to be offended back then.
Looking back on yet another Christmas, I find that we were blessed to have everything and everyone we needed — and many blessings we wanted too. The more things change, the more they stay the same, which is undoubtedly what makes Christmas so magical year after year.
Sure we don’t have deadly tinsel or K-Tel records anymore, but on the upside, you probably didn’t get a Pet Rock either.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes everyone a blessed, healthy, happy and prosperous 2011. She welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@Comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or visit her online at www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)