Country Christmas in the Sixties-I Remember Well
Country Christmas in the Sixties-I Remember Well by Diana Pierce
Just at the break of day my three younger siblings and I follow the banister to an open stairway. From there we can see the packages done up in white, red and green tissue paper under the tree. There never was a tree quite, so pretty as that one sided hemlock that had summons us to take it home and make it extra beautiful. We did well by it with paper chains, cardboard stars covered with foil, pipe cleaner ornaments, popcorn garland and glimmering icicles placed around to hide the open spaces. There were several glass ornaments of various colors and an angel that had become a common fix to top every Christmas tree we had for years to come. A single string of lights turned our hemlock bough into something spectacular. And the smell was sensational as nothing can beat a fresh cut evergreen to send an aroma through the house that last long after it has been taken down.
I couldn’t have been more than nine that particular year. It holds memories that I have never forgot. Times were rough. Dad was laid off from a local tannery. After the main dairy barn full of cattle had gone up in flames a few years before that, he kept a couple of milk cows in a grain shed that he converted into a barn. Mom raised chickens and she often harvested a large garden. Hard work and tons of determination made up for anything we lacked that money could buy. We were by no means poor, even if by most standards, one would think so. It was a country Christmas blessed with many good tidings. I miss those good ole days back when life was simple. Being a baby boomer I can tell you the sixties were a special time to be a kid.
Mom had been busy for weeks making flannel pajamas that were red with white snowmen. I saw her make my siblings some and to my surprise there was a pair for me, too. At first I thought I was opening the wrong package. She made us flannel lined mittens from some leftover corduroy she had used in another sewing project. After all these years I can still recall quite vividly what was under our childhood Christmas tree. I got a Barbie doll complete with a handmade wardrobe; my little sister got a baby doll and my two brothers each a Tonka truck. We each got coloring books and crayons. There were stockings hanging with our names on them. In the stockings we could find candy, walnuts, small toys and fruit. One year mom wrapped an orange with pennies and clear cellophane tape. This one little clever gift seemed a priceless treasure that has been implanted in my memory permanently.
One tradition we never tired of was, heading over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house. This was more than a song to us. We really did travel through these conditions on Christmas day to my Grandma’s house nearly forty miles away. There we were greeted by cousins and aunts and uncles to celebrate Christmas and to enjoy a traditional feast. I come from a long line of great cooks and grandma surely taught them well. Her table would have a turkey or ham with all the trimmings. Baked beans, scalloped corn, cabbage salad, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy were a regular menu for this Christmas feast. There were homemade dinner rolls, banana bread and brown bread. Homemade pickles, olives and cranberry sauce also complimented this traditional family meal. But that’s not all. Several kinds of delicious pies were offered for dessert with fresh made whipped cream straight from the milk house as my grandparents were also farmers.
Let us not forget the real reason for the season as every church for miles around rang their bells on Christmas day. Heading home that Christmas day as we did so many times before that, we sang carols all the way home.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
Yes, a country Christmas in the sixties was the best. I’ll never forget.