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Rich Christmas’s of Long Ago

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

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Christmas Without The Fat Man

As another Christmas has come and gone, I find it interesting that I spend so much of my time now remember Christmases from long ago. My Dad used to say often (too often) that we wouldn’t always have him with us, and of course, I knew that empirically, but it has been hard celebrating without him now that he isn’t with us anymore. I like to remember what it was like when he was still the lovable fat Santa of my youth.

My Dad was the Santa at our house.

My Dad was the Santa at our house.

At Christmas, all roads lead home.

— Marjorie Holmes

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

The Lights

I used to love the Christmas lights, turning out all the lamps and just sitting in the living room watching the twinkle of the Christmas tree lights, even before they would technically "twinkle." I can’t really say why I thought they were so beautiful and mysterious but I did. There was a whole fairy world tied up with those lights. It was somehow magical. Maybe it was just my young mind or the anticipation of presents, but I thought absolutely anything magical could happen at that time of year.

I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season.

— Ashley Tisdale

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Homemade Gifts

For a month or so before Christmas, the garage was “off limits” to my siblings and I. We all knew that there was a sort of Santa’s workshop going on in there and I always loved what my Dad made for us. One year when I was just 10 I got a new bike. I say new because it was new to me. It was perfect and red and pretty. I didn’t know or care that it had been a hand-me-down boy’s bike from a second cousin; not until he told me that is. What a kill-joy he was. Dad had cut the boy’s center bar from the bike to turn it into a girl’s bike. He sanded and painted it till it was new. Why that cousin felt such glee in letting me down that way, I’ll never know. However, as the years went by I feel great honor knowing how much work my Dad had poured into that first bike for me that he couldn’t have afforded to buy new. What I only had hints about was that we didn’t have the money for a new bike but Dad wanted me to have one, nonetheless.

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Handmade Furniture

Dad made a large dollhouse one year, beautiful, with real wallpaper and curtains. Mom even upholstered the hand made wooden furniture that he created to go inside the dollhouse. It was much nicer than any plastic thing they could have purchased at a department store, so I was extremely happy to have it. It was so strong and solidly built that I could stand on it to reach the top of my bookshelf.

Christmas Dinner in the '60s.  I'm the dark haired girl with the cat-eye glasses on the right.

Christmas Dinner in the '60s. I'm the dark haired girl with the cat-eye glasses on the right.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.

— Bob Hope

Rich Or Poor

For many years I thought we were special because we had pheasant for Christmas dinner. No one else I knew had pheasant for their Christmas feast. Dad went out and shot them himself. I still have no idea how far he had to travel or how long he had to walk to get them but he always brought back plenty of them for all of us to be full on Christmas. Mom and I would pluck them together. She stuffed them with her own wild rice stuffing recipe. I remember the only drawback was finding buckshot in my dinner plate. Still, I felt rich because we were so special and always had plenty. By the time I was twelve, I got the clue that things were really tight and that I shouldn’t ask for a long grocery list of things at Christmas. I was the one who clued in the rest of the kids that they should only ask for two things they really wanted. Anything else we got was pure luxury.

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Turkeys and Trees

As the years went by and my parent’s finances got better, the pheasants turned into turkey and the tree got bigger. The presents were more and more often store-bought rather than homemade, but I didn’t think that made them better presents. We always had nice things to wear because my mother could sew our clothes, and my father could make us things. The four of us were well treated in plenty and in lack.

Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.

— Lenora Mattingly Weber, Extension

I'm on the tricycle.

I'm on the tricycle.

View The Past

I think the children my husband and I raised didn’t have a clue about real lack. They expected a dozen or so presents at Christmas and compared what each had to be sure no one was getting more. They protested any perceived favorite treatment and whined if they felt they didn’t get everything they deserved… everything on their list. I remember feeling privileged with a used freshly painted bike to ride, where my girls were upset if it wasn’t the latest and shiniest and newest. Sometimes I wish there were time machines available for just viewing the past so that they could get a glimpse of how things could be for them compared to how things really were for them. But perhaps even that would do no good. I know my girls felt convinced that I was born in the time of horse-drawn carriages and I was living in the past.

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.

Don't clean it up too quickly.

— Andy Rooney

I'm the oldest of 4.

I'm the oldest of 4.

Progress

The world is changing and we cannot stop progress. What I want to stop isn’t progress. It is ingratitude, rudeness, and thanklessness. I want my children and grandchildren to learn courtesy, respect, gratitude, and thankfulness. The only way I know to teach such things is to pattern such things in my own life and hope they see and mimic that prototype.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 27, 2019:

Shaloo Walia,

It's true. I have had many store-bought gifts over the years but the ones I remember most are those handmade ones my parents put so much effort into. Thanks for commenting. Happy New Year.

Blessings,

Denise

Shaloo Walia from India on December 26, 2019:

I loved going down the memory lane with you. Handmade presents are always the best because so much love and effort goes into them. Your father surely ensured to give you the best gifts that you will remember for decades.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 09, 2019:

Devika Primic,

I'm glad you had some similar experiences. It tells me people are basically the same everywhere. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primic on December 09, 2019:

It is indeed and it takes me back down memory lane thank you

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 06, 2019:

Dora Weithers,

Thank you. I pray you have a joyous Christmas this year. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 06, 2019:

Christmas and family memories go well together. They make a good read. Thanks for sharing in such a good presentation.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 03, 2019:

Devika Primić,

It is a type of therapy to share your memories, isn't it? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 03, 2019:

Christmas with family is always the best and no matter the meal it feels great. I admire your challenge to share your memories here it is interesting and valuable to you.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

James C Moore,

I'm sorry for your loss. I've been without my dad 27 years tomorrow and still feel the loss. It is hard to face Christmas without the people we love, I know. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

Mary Norton,

I agree that families are getting so big and the economy is so tight for young families, it just isn't practical to bring gifts for everyone, even when you want to. A friend of mine told me her son told her "no gifts" for him this year. He was giving her the gift of no stress, no debt, no gift for him. He just wanted to see her and share a meal. Isn't that special? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

James C Moore from The Great Midwest on December 02, 2019:

I love me some Christmas. I read this hub on the heels of putting together my Christmas card list. Christmas for me has been dad-less since 2012. He was and in some ways still is a big contributor to my Christmas joy. Good seasonal hub.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

Linda Crampton,

You are so right. We used to make everyone wait and open one present at a time so that all the joy could be enjoyed by everyone and the event/mess took longer to create than it did to clean up. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

McKenna Meyers,

You are a very smart woman. I remember taking my children to the family get-together on Christmas Eve, where many of my aunts would bring presents for their children to open but my children had nothing. It made me sad even though my kids didn't make any noise about it. I like the idea of playing games together. Thank you for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

Linda Lum,

I hope my children pass on the same sense of wonder and magic too. I don't know. It seems they often fall under the spell of the "store-bought hype" rather than the homemade magic. Time will tell. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 02, 2019:

You're right that Christmas is not just for kids but also, for adults. Last night, we had our Christmas celebration with family in Canada as some of us are going away to visit other families. We were adults but enjoyed everything Christmas brings with it. We drew names of people and only prepared a gift for that person but the others still prepared more and we were happy with that, too. As families get bigger, some of the younger members complained they can no longer afford giving gifts to everyone so we drew names and if others want to give more, they are welcome to do so and it is all done in good tidings. you are right that kids will get on when they see the adults display deep appreciation for everything they get.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 01, 2019:

I love the goals that you describe in the last paragraph. I enjoyed reading about your memories and looking at the photos. I think Andy Rooney's advice is important to remember. The Christmas Day mess in the living room is wonderful, no matter how much the gifts cost.

McKenna Meyers on December 01, 2019:

It was lovely to read this, Denise. I spent many empty Christmases at my sister's house, watching her kids open gifts until the entire room was engulfed in wrapping paper. When I had children of my own, I vowed to make it simple. We bake cookies for our local homeless shelter and spend Christmas day playing board games. When people talk about the stress of the holidays, I know that's the choice they make, but it's not for me. Happy holidays!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 01, 2019:

Denise, what wonderful memories. It sounds as though our childhoods were very much alike--perhaps it was a generational thing with our parents understanding the need to scrimp and save and taking pride in things made by hand.

One year was especially difficult. My dad was out of work and we had huge medical expenses to deal with. My sisters (16 and 26 years older than me) each had a dolly tucked away from when they were little. They each sewed a new dress for their dolls, wrapped them, and gave them to me for Christmas. I still have and cherish them.

Your final paragraph is sad. Like you, I fear that the present generation has lost the wonder of Christmas. It's become so commercialized and gift-centric. I love the lights of Christmas. I fill my house with them; the soft glow of white lights brings such a feeling of peace and calm and, as you said, magic. I hope that when my daughters look back on their childhood they will be filled with the same types of warm memories.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Bill Holland,

I fear that future generations will never get to see the joy of that kind of homemade ingenuity, don't you? Thanks for sharing.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Rebecca Mealey,

Well, pheasant is not as tender as turkey probably because they are wild and scratch for their own living. And all the meat is dark meat. The taste is a little stronger than turkey or chicken as well but not unpleasant. We really like it, especially with my Mom's wild rice stuffing. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Eric Dierker,

It is interesting how many experiences we all share, isn't it? So I feel like we are all family, aren't we? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Virginia Allain,

Do you think we are doing a disservice to the youth of today by purchasing them all the latest stuff instead of recycling bicycle parts and making homemade dollhouses? I wonder. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Lorna Lamon,

I'm so glad you liked it. The truth is I wrote it back in the summer and have saved it till now. I was walking down memory lane in the heat of the summer of all things. But then I always was a bit strange. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:

Lynne Samuel,

I'm glad you liked my memories. You are right about the feast. Anything is good as long as it's served with love and all the family is around. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 01, 2019:

Thanks for the look back. Reminds me of my own upbringing....Dad was the engine that made our household run during holidays. He loved them, and that sort of died when he did.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 01, 2019:

What a wonderful, nostalgic article! I enjoyed your pics from yesteryear! I've never even been offered pheasant, but I'd be willing to give it a try!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 01, 2019:

Cool. This is a wonderful piece of work. You got me to not take my heritage for granted. I appreciate that. I like the Texico truck and that TV. What memories they brought back. A friend would nearly always bring us a game turkey. But mom also had to cook another one. We had 32 people for one Christmas fest once. Thanks

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 01, 2019:

Sounds like we grew up in similar families and circumstances. Our Christmas tree was a Charley Brown cedar cut in the back pasture. I had the cat's eye glasses too. Mom sewed doll dresses for our Christmas presents and Dad mixed and matched old bicycle parts to make "new" ones for us.

Special memories and it's good that you've saved them here.

Lorna Lamon on December 01, 2019:

Such a wonderful walk down a Christmas memory lane Denise which brought back my own nostalgic memories of Christmas. I can relate to the home made gifts and to be honest these were the gifts I treasured the most. Christmas day was all about family and friends, our house was always full, chaotic and fun. Your last paragraph speaks so much truth - progress is wonderful, however, it will never replace the importance of manners, thankfulness and respect. A lovely article Denise filled with the true meaning of Christmas.

Lynne Samuel from Malaysia on December 01, 2019:

The dollhouse your dad made sounds gorgeous!

I think Christmas is best when you have family around you. Pheasants or turkeys, anything tastes great when mom's cooking. Well, we always have chicken for Christmas cos my dad rears chicken, ho! Thanks for sharing, this was lovely to read.