Christmas Comes From the Heart, Not a Store

I often hear people say they wish Christmas was celebrated the way it used to be. In the past, Christmas was celebrated very simply.

When I was growing up, we looked forward to Christmas. We believed that Santa kept a list of who was naughty or nice and we were on our best behavior. Times were difficult financially for many families during the 1940s and ’50s. We did not enjoy the luxuries of today. Many people did not own a TV.

MP900409379Christmas was not tied to the commercialism of shopping or competition. Instead, sugar cookies were made and decorated as we listened to Christmas songs on the radio. Live Christmas trees were decorated with shiny glass ornaments. Stringing popcorn and cranberries to wrap around the tree or making homemade ornaments at school was our fun.

We would spend Christmas Eve with our aunts, uncles and cousins, having fun and enjoying family. We could open one present. Our mom would help us pick out our clothes for midnight Mass. During Mass, we would try not to fall asleep as we heard the story of baby Jesus.

I remember lying awake in bed listening for Santa and wondering if I would get what I wished for. Christmas morning we would open our stocking from Santa first. We did not receive a lot of gifts. We were happy for what we received. Perhaps we knew times were hard, and our gifts were given from the heart and of good will.

This is Elsie’s story:

Elsie was born in 1922 and is 91 years old. She recently told me her Christmas story.

When she was 7 years old, her father worked for U.S. Steel in Elwood City, Penn. During Christmastime, the owners would invite the children of the steel workers to their private hall to see Santa Claus.

MP900423696Each child would receive a stocking filled with a popcorn ball, hard-tack candy, pretzels and a box of Cracker Jacks. Santa would ask each child what she/he wanted for Christmas. When Elsie spoke to Santa, she said she wanted a doll and carriage. Santa said to her, “If you are very good, you will get what you ask for.”

On Christmas morning, she woke up and looked for her present behind the chair in her living room as they did not have a Christmas tree.

Instead of a doll and carriage, she found an orange, a dime and a box of Italian candy, Terrone. She was so disappointed that she would never again ask Santa for a Christmas gift.

This year Elsie opened her Christmas present from Santa early and found a doll and carriage. She was excited and happy and said, “I got my babydoll!” A dream fulfilled.

“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under the tree.” — Charlotte Carpenter

Until next time, light and blessings to you.

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