Christmas – The Best Memories Ever —
Our mother and father would go all out. Mom made so, so many candies and cookies. Starting about the first of December there was always a table with some sort of candy on it. Our biggest part of Christmas was usually Christmas Eve. My father was a conductor for New York Central Railroad, later to become Penn Central. He was gone so much of the time. Christmas fell when dad was home, mostly that was Christmas Eve.
Mom always decorated the house beautifully in my opinion. Our Christmas tree was a real tree, probably because there were no artificial ones then. I am not sure about that but I do remember when I saw my first “silver” tree. We called them foil! They also came out with white trees. Do any of you remember those? I think my Grandmother was the first to have one in our family. They also came out with a color wheel that spun and had a light in it. You put that under your tree and the colors spun around lighting and changing your foil tree.
Mom and Dad would bring our freshly cut tree in and set it up. Mom said we had to wait until it warmed up and the branches dropped. We could hardly contain our excitement. That tree made the house smell so good! It was always too large and had to be cut off, but it was so big and full. It was a perfect tree every time. Mom or Dad always strung the lights as it was too difficult for us to do and perhaps because they wanted them done properly. We had the lights that made bubbles of liquid run up and down, in multiple colors. They were so pretty I could stare at them for hours. Next came the ornaments. We would go through the box and we would find our “favorite” and tell the others that we got to hang that one. We could only reach according to our heights, so the top was left to the older children and mom and dad. We also actually strung popcorn. We never had the patience to completely do the tree in this but we had some chains of it. I know a lot went into our stomachs! Of course, this was popped in a kettle on the stove and not in a microwaved bag. Incidentally, there was no such thing as a microwave then. We also hung the candy canes and made paper chains. Lastly, mom would precisely hang the tinsel. It just sparkled and twinkled and made the tree perfect. She would give us the last bit and let us either hang it or toss it. Such fun! Mom would take crepe paper in red and green and accordion fold it. Then she opened it and hung it from corner to corner on the ceiling meeting in the middle at the light. It was beautiful! I think the “old-fashioned” decorations were the best. The pictures below are faded and even though in color, the crepe papers appear red and white and maybe they actually were red and white. These were taken in 1955 and I would have only been 13 months old, but I wanted to show you what they looked like. The pictures below those are of my sister and I at that same Christmas. I apologize for the terrible colors of the two with my sister and I, they were restored from negatives and did not turn out well. I am happy to have them though.
The presents began to appear under the tree. We would assess our presents, pick them up to gauge the weight, shake them, anything to figure out what was in there! We even tried to press the paper flat in an attempt to see if we could read the box. Mom would always tell us to put the present down and not to shake it. They always rattled. She said it was just pieces and that Santa would put them together when he came. She said we would break the pieces and of course if we did not behave, Santa would not fill the presents at all! We took our chances and picked them up and shook them anyway. She said she had no idea what was in the box because only Santa did when he put the pieces together. I never knew that Santa put presents together inside of the box!
The day of our Christmas, ALL of the candy was put out on a special table. She made the good old fashioned candy, all homemade. There was divinity, fudge rolls, refrigerator fudge, various cookies and pies, peanut butter balls, rum balls, church windows, every type of homemade goodies she could think of. She even made me chocolate covered cherries! The fudge roll required a lot of stirring by hand, the recipe said stir until it lost it’s gloss. We had to take turns helping her stir that because it took so long and it got so stiff. The older, stronger children were the ones who did the stirring at the end. Who knows, that may have just been mom’s way of involving us. You will find the recipe that she used at the end of this article. The candy had real walnuts in it. We would gather them and dry them and crack them ourselves. On our candy table was also a variety of nuts that you had to crack yourselves. Pecans, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, English walnuts and such. Yum! Brazil nuts were my favorite and seemingly the hardest to get out. That pick was constantly used. Sometimes, you were lucky and got the entire nut to come out at once. I still buy those today and set them out at Christmas. I do not make her fudges and candies, as I never really tried. I was more interested in meat, potatoes and gravy. I sure do miss the tastes, though. All of the family would arrive and it was time for Christmas!
We would finish eating and would be playing together, laughing and talking and out of nowhere you could hear sleigh bells ringing!!! My mom would rush and tell us to get into the bathroom and shut the door! If Santa knew we were around and still awake, we would get nothing in our boxes! Boy did we hurry into that room. We would make it just in time and we could hear his heavy stomping around up on the roof! Then we heard him….. Ho! Ho! Ho! Gosh, it was certainly hard to stay in that room, but we had been eyeing those presents far too long to take a chance on losing them now! I can still feel the excitement we had while we were waiting. Waiting and wondering what was beyond that door! We could hear him again stomping on the roof and we were told to come out.
There were so many new presents under the tree and the stockings were now filled. The room was like an entirely different place, so sparkling and magical looking! The cookies we left him were gone except for a few straggling crumbs on the plate. The first thing we did was to head for the present that we had been wondering about and shaking the most. Amazingly, that present no longer rattled! Santa really did fill our presents! Mom and Dad must have some sort of deal with Santa because we always seemed to get just what we wanted. How exciting Christmas was! My mother loved music. We always had the music playing and we were always dancing. Near the end of the night Mom would have us sing Christmas songs. We always sang the joyful songs and we never knew all of the words and we did not sound the best. We would finish and Mom would say, “one more”. We knew we had to sing Silent Night. We were not good singers, well some were but not many of us. I cannot sing for sure. However, when our family was together and that song was done, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. What wonderful memories Mom and Dad left us with.
This is a picture of the recipe that was in her cookbook – Granny’s Cookbook.