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My Christmas Memories – Revised

By admin | December 5, 2017

To me, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and God’s promise of peace and goodwill toward men. We don’t put much emphasis on this today and I miss it. My mind goes back to a time when we didn’t lock the doors and probably didn’t even have a key to the house. A time when we didn’t have malls, no traffic and we had time to anticipate the excitement of Christmas. Christmas was about the joy of giving and getting the family together.

My memory takes me back to childhood on a rural farm in Robertson County. We (I had six brothers and sisters, but I don’t remember exactly how many had been born at this time) get into the old car and go to the Christmas play at the country church. There is the manger scene with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Then the shepherds and wise men come in and there are angels round about. We read the Christmas story and sing Christmas Carols like: Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, The First Noel, We Three Kings, While Shepherds Watched their Flock and others.

The scene shifts to Christmas Eve at a small farm house on a cold cloudy evening. The tree is decorated with strings of popcorn and other homemade ornaments. There is magic and maybe a sparkle in the air. It seems to me that maybe I hear a bell jingle somewhere in the distance as we waited with anticipation the arrival of Santa Claus. On the wood cook stove, there is a pork shoulder (we always sold the hams) boiling in a lard stand. At about seven o’clock, there is a knock on the door and Mama opens it and in comes Santa with a bag on his shoulder. We each receive a toy, all kinds of fruit, nuts and candy. He wishes us a Merry Christmas and away he goes. We eat the fruit, crack the nuts with a hammer on the coal burning fireplace hearth and open the candy, mainly orange slices and chocolate drops. We also eat hoop cheese which comes in the form of a round circle. We only get this special fruit and cheese at Christmas time. Since we always go to Granny’s (we also had a grandfather but we always said we are going to Granny’s) on Christmas day, Santa always comes on Christmas Eve.

It is now Christmas day, and we all get into the old car and drive a short way to Granny’s place where all the aunts, uncles, and cousins are coming to celebrate Christmas. Everyone brings food and the ladies will cook all morning while the kids play and have fun being together. At lunch time, we gather at the table where there is always a big platter of fried chicken. The men eat first and then the children and women. We kids wonder if there will be any fried chicken left for us. In the afternoon, we open presents and Granny always gives all the grandchildren a pocket handkerchief. It is a peaceful time, in an era that will soon pass by, and we all enjoy being together.

The scene shifts to many years later when I am married, and we celebrate Christmas at our house with our two children. The tree is now artificial sliver and there is a revolving color light that changes the color of the tree. There are more presents and more food. We have a great time as the kids look at what Santa Claus brought the night before and we open the presents that we give each other. On the day after Christmas, we again go to Granny’s, only now she is a different granny, we call her Grandmamma, and later Greatmama. We pack the car with presents and food and make the trip back to Robertson County. All my brothers and sisters and their children are there, and we talk, eat and open our presents. My Mamma always has a present for each person there; she did this until her death. All the rest bring a gift to exchange. The adults draw numbers to determine the order of selecting gifts and play family trivia to determine which gift we can choose. We can take a gift from the table or from someone else depending on if we know the correct answer to the trivia question. I, being the oldest, always gets the most difficult family question. The most recent daughter-in-law and son-in-law gets the easiest question.

The scene shifts to years later and we now have our adult children, their spouses and two young grandsons at our house. It is Christmas day. Now there is a new granny and her name is Grandmama Jane. We have lots of gifts and lots of food. We have been up late preparing for Santa Claus. We all open presents, take lots of pictures and have a great time. My oldest grandson is about seven years old and he has prepared a Christmas program for us. He and our youngest grandson, who is hardly old enough to stand alone, take their place on the stage of the fireplace hearth with a microphone in their hand. They each take turns singing Christmas Carols with the other one operating the sound equipment.

Now the years have gone by and our grandsons are young adults but they still come at Christmas. We get together and have a great time. Christmas is about family, fun, joy and celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is too bad that it has been changed into such a commercial enterprise.

More than 10 years have passed and we are now living in the early 2020’s. The scene changes again. We now celebrate Christmas in Shelby County, Alabama (near Birmingham) – the home of Vicki’s (our daughter) family.  We now have a new Granny and her name is Vicki, but her grandchildren call her Honey and their grandfather, Papa John – now retired.  Ricky (our son) and his wife, Karen, now retired, drive from Knoxville and Jane and I (now very senior adults) drive from Nashville. Our oldest grandson, Ben is married to Liz and is now Doctor Benjamin and his brother, Daniel is married to Phebe and is now Doctor Daniel. Daniel and Phebe have two young children, Ruth and Griffin.  We enjoy Christmas dinner at Daniel and Phebe’s home and then have family time afterwards as the children open their toys and gifts. The day after Christmas, we have brunch at Ben and Liz’s home. Christmas is about family, fun, joy and celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

My last scene shifts back to early March, 1978. We are on a tour of the Holy Land and are late getting back to our hotel. The full moon is shining and the stars are very bright as we drive through the little town of Bethlehem of Judea. All the hills are lit by the full moon and there are soft shadows round about. It is a moment in time that is captured and will always remain in my memory. I visualize that many years ago on such a night as this, on these hills, shepherds are taking shelter under the outcrops of rocks by an open fire and keeping watch over their flocks by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:9-14, KJV).

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