Thoughts of past Christmases linger long in one's memory bank, especially those made in childhood. I have many of them stored there, that I often ponder this time of year.
I well remember those Christmas years when I was a child growing up in Dewittville. We had many wonderful ones at our grandparents home on Wright Road, and also at our home, which was only a mile down the same road. The emphasis was never just on Santa Claus, but on Jesus. We knew about Santa, but we also knew that it was our parents that brought our gifts, at least when we were old enough to understand, and also knew the reason we celebrated that special day.
Christmases after I was married were much as they were when I was young. I recall how our children hoped we'd have enough snow for Christmas so they could try out their new sleds. The older ones knew that there would be at least one under the tree because there always was. One year to their surprise, they found a toboggan.
Christmas memories remain vivid for many years. Tthe Cole family in seen in 1966, with four of its eventual five children.
Brothers Chad and Cyle try out a homemade marshmallow shooter during a more recent Cole family Christmas get-together.
Oh, the fun, the fun, the children had zooming down the hill on Bailey Hill road on it in winter! Some times we even joined them and often other children did. I remember the crew as they came noisily tumbling into the house, with cold toes and noses, giggling and talking. After dropping their wet outer clothes on the floor, they sat by the fireplace and eagerly welcomed some hot chocolate and strawberry shortcake, or some other tasty dessert.
Looking back even further the most important thing on Christmas Day was the church service. It was announced by the church bells ringing early in the morning. As many families gathered together some folk probably thought it was a much better place to be than in the stable where Jesus was born. Some have said that on that more quiet day, only Joseph cared for his wife for there was no place found to house them except in a stable.
As time went on almost everyone knew the scriptures and they celebrated Christmas in honor of Jesus' birth. It is recorded in the New Testament in the Bible saying ''she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn'' (Luke 2:7).
Mary had been told previously, by an angel, ''fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring fourth a son and shalt call his name JESUS. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall that be seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God'' (Luke 1:34-35).
An angel also visited Joseph telling him ''fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: because he shall save his people from their sins'' (Matthew 1:20b-21). Jesus was born to die and rise again to be the propitiation for all who will repent and accept the Gospel message.
In those long-ago yesteryears mentioned, Christmas celebrations were different. No one ever had heard of early shopping on Black Friday or specialty stores. At Christmas time folks were happy and grateful to get a few homemade toys and candy. They didn't always say they wanted something special, just that they liked something they had seen, but no doubt parents knew what they meant.
Moms and grandmas began early to knit and or sew things early, but kids sometimes knew what they were making. It could be clothing, dolls and their outfits, hats, mittens and a variety of other things. Dads and grandpas often made wooden toys or kids furniture or even a doll house and children were grateful for what they got on Christmas Day.
Sometimes parents or grandparents would go to the local grocery or five and dine store, if there was one, and purchased some toy or trinket that the kids had mentioned, but that was about the extent of store bought items except for some very special foods for Christmas dinner.
Folks often sang Christmas carols for entertainment and they often went caroling on Christmas Eve, walking on foot in the cold or snowy weather. Usually they were invited in the houses and given a glass of cocoa or hot skidder along with a Christmas cookie or other sweet treat.
Children back then didn't even know that they were poor because most people were just like them. Christmas entertainment came from visiting family, neighbors, at home playing games, sledding on home-made sleds, ice skating and in a host of other activities.
At Christmas time most everyone cheerfully helped others even if they had little themselves. The Christmas spirit was evident in homes, schools, businesses and stores. Folks were greeted on the street with ''Merry Christmas,'' not ''Happy Holidays.''
The Christmas dinner was fabulous with an abundance of all kinds of food, most of it homemade. Children also had fruit and maybe a candy cane in their stocking. Sometimes the day was spent with grandparents or other relatives and usually all the aunts, cousins and even strangers came. It was definitely a family and neighborly celebration.
Although the Christmas season and Christmas day today is different than it was long ago, some Christians still celebrate it in honor of Jesus' birth. Most folks have a joyful spirit during the season and many people still readily help those in need. The main differences are that it has become more of a commercial celebration with all kinds of advertisements that start even before Thanksgiving. There are also a vast amount of parties, programs and other activities taking place the whole season long. It's often a much more flamboyant time and elaborate decorations of all kinds are seen, not only in homes, but everywhere one goes.
Nevertheless, the Christmas season for most people is a wondrous, glorious time of year. One must remember however, not to forget those who are sick or sorrowing for one reason or another and to help them in whatever way they can. Always remember that love came down at Christmas and love still abounds in many places, especially during the Christmas season.