December 22, 2013

Sentimental Sunday ~ Christmas on the Island

The excitement began when we received the Sears Christmas Book by mail in the late Summer.  We each took turns passing the catalog around and picking out all the toys we wanted.  Needless to say, after having been passed around by five kids, the Sears Christmas Book was worse for wear within a week or so.

Scott Cobbin
Several weeks before Christmas our entire family would load up in our car and head for the hills to find a Southern Pine Christmas tree.  Because of the high 12' ceilings in our old house, a 5-6' tree just wouldn't do!  The boys' job was to climb a tall tree and cut several feet out of the top.  The tree top would then be strapped to the top of our car for the trip home where our carpenter friend, Scott Cobbin, would build a stand using 2x4 pieces of wood.  

Much smaller store-bought/farm raised Christmas trees like the one pictured above replaced the "tree top" Christmas trees as well as the tradition of heading to the hills in the late 60s when the oldest of us kids went off to college.  Although our grandfather captured every Christmas with his 8 mm movie camera, no one thought to take a still photograph of any of our earlier trees. 

I should mention at this point that not only did our grandfather record every Christmas morning, he also recorded every "night before" when our mother and father played Santa Claus.  We watched those home movies over and over and somehow never figured that part out!

As one brother reminded me not long ago, there was the one year that our Sears Christmas order was delayed due to heavy snow in the Chicago area.  We received toys for weeks after Christmas; causing Mama to do some fancy explaining concerning Santa Claus.

Part of the preparation for decorating our tree was the testing of lights.  Back in the 1960s, one non-functioning Christmas bulb prevented the entire string of lights from functioning.  Mama would stretch out all the strings of lights across our living room floor then plug them into electrical outlets.  If a string did not work, we had to check each bulb until we found the culprit.

Other tree decorations included icicle tinsel, Christmas balls, tinsel garland, and special ornaments such as cardboard glitter birds.

Our Christmas stockings were made from nylon which caused them to stretch and grow longer with each item added.  Oranges, tangerines and apples placed in the bottom of our stockings had them skimming the floor.

On a nearby table we always had our nativity scene with baby Jesus surrounded by angels and wise men.  We also had the Old Wooden Church on display.

Sicily Island Methodist Church

We attended Christmas Eve candlelight services at our nearby Methodist Church where we joined with our neighbors to celebrate Jesus' birth through scriptures, songs and Christmas plays.

At one particular Christmas Eve service all five of us kids were Christened into the Church; making for a special memory all of its own.

We were never allowed to open presents on Christmas Eve.  However, we were allowed to wake up as early as we wanted on Christmas morning.  One of my fondest memories is that of my middle brother tiptoeing into our rooms before daylight and whispering, "Wake up, Santa Claus has been here."

Each of us five kids designated a specific spot in the living room where Santa would leave our toys.  From a child's point of view, the living room looked like a giant toy store on Christmas morning.  Below is a short clip of yours truly on a Christmas morning in the early 1960s.

After fifty years I can still remember how the living room looked and smelled as we tiptoed in just before daylight to see what Santa Claus had left us.  The amber glow from the Christmas lights reflecting off of the pine walls....the new plastic smell of toys and baby dolls....the smell of a slow cooking turkey that Mama would slide into the oven in the wee hours of the morning.

Along with the traditional Christmas turkey, Mama prepared her usual dishes of ambrosia, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, corn, peas, and sweet potatoes.  She also made sure we had all of our favorite sweets...chocolate pies with homemade pie crusts, brownies, fudge, and divinity.

Of the many childhood memories that remain close to my heart, one of the dearest is Christmas on The Island.

Roots from the Bayou wishes everyone a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

(Portions of this post were cross-posted from Photos and Footnotes)

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