Religious or not, Christmas belongs back in December

By Dorothy Swart Fleshman December 30, 2011 08:11 pm

I’m glad they are putting Christmas back. Back in December, back in greetings, back in cards and back for each of us to enjoy.

I heard it more and more around our city this year, and it gave my heart a lift. People seem to be getting tired of being told what to say or do, and they are speaking out.

Holiday greetings are fine, too, but not to change our customary way of doing things during this special season. The greetings and Christmas carols add so much to our enjoyment of the season, religious or not. I just wish they would put it back in our schools as well.

I did spot some wrapping paper with Santas all over it. It was great fun until I read the little tags attached to each one. It said “Happy Christmas.” Happy? Christmas? Who were they trying to kid? Did anyone else happen to notice it? I looked in my old dictionary under both words — merry and happy. It said that they are synonyms, meaning the same thing.

Happy Birthday, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy New Year, but Happy Christmas? Merry Christmas has such a much better ring. Why change it if it means the same thing?

There are some of us who are too old to change our ways. More probably we don’t even want to change. It seemed fine the way it was regardless of one’s outlook on things.

It was so nice, way back when I was a kid, to hear the Merry Christmas greeting all around us and no one ever thought it needed revamping.

We most usually had snow on the ground in December. It crunched under our boots as we trudged to school wrapped in mufflers and mittens, heavy coats and boots with clip-on fasteners. Even loaded down with books and lunch pails, we still could take time out to form snowballs and loft them toward other students.

This was just for fun, though. The real snowball battle was reserved for the open area next to the old Central School (now Middle School building) where it was mainly boys bent on mowing down other students with a barrage of finely aimed white missiles.

I, for one, managed to escape the deluge by skirting the area, head tucked down and a “don’t you dare” scowl on my face.

Some girls seemed to enjoy their part in the battle and squealed like crazy over face-washing with snow by boys trying to get their attention.

December was an exciting month. That’s when we spent hours looking at all of the wonderful toys offered in the colorful Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney’s special Christmas catalogues. We knew we couldn’t even hope to have anything in the annual “wish-book,” but it was fun to dream over them.

We hoped Santa Claus would bring something special to put under our tree, and he seemed to know my hearts’ desire, whether a doll with hand-made clothes, a doll buggy with pillow and blankets, paper doll books or a cast-iron toy kitchen range with pans and griddle.

With imagination, it became a real stove on which to griddle our flour and water “clay” hotcakes or pretend-bake the wee loaves of bread in the oven where the door really opened.

There were always special parties or programs in December at school and church, and Christmas Eve was usually reserved for family. But, on Christmas Day was the big gathering of all our cousins, aunts and uncles and company from out-of-town.

Dec. 25 was my Hofmann grandmother’s birthday as well, so that made the gathering even more special.

Each family brought food and the table groaned under its load of delectables. We always did justice to it, too.

There were presents under the tree with each aunt seeing that each niece and nephew received a package. If you got a box of crayons from one aunt, you might get a coloring book from another, then a school pencil or tablet from yet another and perhaps a pair of sox from still another one. With seven aunts and a grandmother, we did pretty well for ourselves.

Our uncles’ names were on the gift tag even though we knew it was our aunts who did the buying, but we made sure to thank each of them.

Grandma always had a nickel for the little kids and a dime for the older ones. We felt rich with that in our pockets.

What a fun time it was. While we quietly amused ourselves with our gifts, it was then Grandma’s turn to be in the spotlight of attention. Seated in a chair where everyone could see her, she was then given her birthday gifts separate from her Christmas gifts. She always showed her appreciation for everything with her thank-yous, shaking her head in disbelief at all she received, no matter how small the gift.

When she seemed to “puddle-up,” the singing would begin with the Christmas songs. The kids could all join in because we had learned the carols at school to perform in the Christmas program for the parents.

After our big family celebration, ending late at night, the sleepy wee ones would be carried out to waiting cars by their dads, the moms trying to tuck blankets around them before going out in the cold.

It seemed like the snow was always crunchy under our feet then, too, and the nights crisp and clear with stars brilliant in the sky. Merry Christmas greetings still hung in the air.

At our house, we knew we would continue enjoying the colorful decorations until New Year’s Day. Then we would take the tinsel, ornaments and lights from the tree, storing them in boxes for the next year. The popcorn and cranberry strings were taken out to the yard for the birds and squirrels to enjoy while the paper-ring ropes made from colorful catalogue pages were torn apart and discarded. We knew we could make new ones the next year.

Dad would carry the Christmas tree from its place before the window, where its lights had cheered passersby, and deposit it outside to have its branches shorn for bonfires or stacked for bird refuge and the trunk chopped into proper lengths to burn in the stove.

Mom would empty the bucket of water that had kept the tree fairly green so long and then sweep up the needles that had dropped to the floor.

It was sad to put away Christmas, but starting a new year was a challenge in deciding just which New Year resolutions were worth the challenge.

Yes, I’m glad we are putting Christmas back in December. There are a few things you don’t mess with even though Happy Holiday has a nice ring to it.

You just can’t improve or change either the greeting or the meaning of Merry Christmas.

And, the people said, “Amen!”