Friday, December 25, 2009

The Bounty of Christmas Past

Growing up, Christmas was the one day of the year you could count on our family being home. Any other day we could be anywhere. But Christmas we were home.

Mom's presents were wrapped and under the tree well before Christmas, with gifts from Santa securely hidden nearby. Dad usually did most of his shopping in the days before Christmas Eve. He'd come home, drag bags down the back steps and spend the rest of the day wrapping presents in the basement.

I got everybody up Christmas morning. Well, not directly. But I did coerce my sister into asking my parents if we could get up. Most of the time it was still too early. We'd go back to bed and ask again 15 minutes later. I did sleep until 7 one year, but was in my 20s at the time.

Santa artfully arranged gifts for me and my sister on either side of the tree. Everything was fully assembled and ready for action. When we were little the displays rivaled anything seen in department store windows. To my knowledge, no pictures were ever taken.

After gifts from Santa had been admired it was time to open the rest of the presents. The shear volume made taking turns impractical. Instead, we all tore in with abandon. It was all over in 30-minutes or less.

Then we had a couple of hours to enjoy the Christmas bounty before guests arrived for dinner. You never put stuff up because everyone coming over wanted to see the gifts. This practice started when we were young and continued out of habit well beyond the time anyone cared what we got.

By the time guests arrived we were cleaned up, wearing new clothes and reeking of new soaps, shampoos and colognes. Grannie and some of our relatives from Dad's side of the family hit our house for early dinner, and my Aunt Doris's house for a late dinner. Mom's family tended to drop by after dinner for an evening of the latest board games.

Dinner was always the same, give or take a side. Turkey, country ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, scalloped oysters, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn pudding, gravy, Waldorf salad, cranberry sauce, and brown-n-serve rolls. Grannie usually brought chocolate meringue pies and tons of her homemade candy and fudge.

After dinner we spent the day playing with new toys and games. Board games were a constant, with favorites changing as we got older and as new games came along. Sometimes somebody even took the time to read the rules, but mostly we just made it up as we went along. Good times were had by all.

Merry Christmas!

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