Experience Christmas Eve in 1959


Once again I’m sharing with you my mother’s thoughts of Christmas and even though you receive this week’s Farm and Dairy on Christmas Eve, most folks are certainly too busy at the moment to read all the interesting material it contains.

But perhaps after everyone has gone to bed, after everyone is taking a breather before the bedlam that will begin in just a few short hours, you’ll be able to put up your feet, rear back in the lounge chair and read what Christmas Eve was like in Mother’s household in 1959.

“Christmas Eve. Surely there is no day, no night, in all the year which contains an interval like this one. From the science point of view, June 21 is the longest day of the year, but any child will tell you no, the day before Christmas is the longest day. It is as if it will never, never pass.

“It is a most beautiful interval, hanging here in the holidays. Slow as the hours are this day, they are full of Christmas meaning. From breakfast on, the signs are there. In your mother’s face, in your father’s voice. Most remarkable of all is the unspoken unsigned truce between you and your brothers and sisters. For sweetness and light prevail at the breakfast table this one peaceable morning of the year. You pass the sugar, meek as Moses, when your sister asks you and she asks you politely, too. Any other day of the year you would scowl, “Get it yourself,” purely as a matter of principle. No use in letting sisters get ideas, is there?

“Because of the busy day ahead, breakfast is a quick one. This is no morning for grapefruit, sausage cakes, or waffles or any other food that has to be fixed, prepared. This is the morning to pass a bowl of those Christmasy fruits, tangerines, in a pretty glass bowl. They are so easy to peel, every young one can fix his own, no juice glasses to wash either. And there can be plenty of crisp bacon to smell good and taste grand, easy to fry and not messy to eat. And hot toast of cinnamon bread or raisin bread. And actually a plate of Christmas cookies for this special breakfast for those who eat plenty of breakfast and eat it quickly.

“These can be the hilarious cookies that have baked funny and have humped in curious places or lost a leg or a head. Best of all on the plate are the grey, puckered, peculiar shapes made painstakingly and personally by the smaller children in the family, wild icings and gaudy colored sugars in strange patterns on these angels and ducks and wreaths and Santas.

“It is a morning to use gay Christmas paper plates and napkins and dixies for the milk. Then burn the whole lot, plus the peelings, no mess, no dishes, only a little bit of silverware.

“We remember, every year, one particular Christmas Eve we all went to the church’s candlelight service. So impressive, so holy. When during the period of silent prayer and soft organ carols, to our horror there crept about us the unmistakable aura of tangerine. Our older daughter had quietly peeled one in her coat pocket and she sat there with her little head bent in prayer, chewing away on the small tangerine sections, completely unaware as the worshippers sniffing and smiling as the truth dawned upon them. Well, the Holy Child can be worshipped with tropical fruits, too, as well as frankincense and myrrh. At least He was, that Christmas Eve.

“The 24th of December is even better than Christmas, for it carries with it that heavenly anticipation of what is to come. Our house shines forth its welcome. Our family, our most beloved friends, even the fringes of family and friendships come and go all day. Packages of outer splendor and mystery arrive, and others are carried out. The cooking and the baking go on like some faint familiar obligato to the whole. Christmas melody. Doors open and close on light and love and gaiety. The nicest thing in all this world is to belong to a family that loves the festival of Christmas and God has touched you especially this day if you have children about you so you may see it again through their eyes.

“This is the evening to hang the stockings, to trim the Christmas tree. To remember the ornaments you have liked the best all your life. To carefully place your little old tin candle holders and your glass icicles. To have a tray ready with hot coffee and eggnog and fruitcake.

“And finally, at 11 o’clock in the starlit night, to go to church, with all the candles and the old carols. For us, Dec. 24 is the best of it all, and we are now ready to greet the morning amidst the bedlam of His birthday celebration and to savor once again all of our bygone Merry Christmases.”


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A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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