Christmas Past  

Posted by Stan Harrington

During this, our greatest  Holiday Season of the year, our culture and values have changed through the years.  Today, via the mass media, we are bombarded with the commercialization of Christmas.  Although,it is an important business season for our economy, I maintain that there is a better way to market the season.  I see parents getting stressed out to get their children everything that is on their Christmas list, despite the fact the majority of the Christmas season expenses are put on a credit card and paid through the New Year.  Modern technology and the electronic generation adds to this since every child wants or thinks they need the latest electronic gadget on the market.  Parents feel guilty if they cannot provide the things that their children request from Santa.  Today, a parent takes their young child into the mall to see Santa Claus, they sit on his lap and have their picture taken, of course at a small expense to the parent.

I am not naive enough to believe we can return to Christmas Past, but like many things in our lives we can learn from the past and apply to the present.  As a pre-teenager, I lived in a small rural community in western Colorado.  Predominantly, it was a ranching and farming community.  At that time, the population base was around 5,000 residents.  Each Christmas, I thank my mother for teaching myself and my siblings the meaning of Christmas.  But, I also thank the community for similar values.  Today, in this community, in the center of town is the movie theatre, the Fox Theatre.  The last time I visited the community, it was still there and still in business.  As a child, the theatre always had a Saturday matinee, cost of admission was a dime.  But, Christmas was very special.  On the Saturday before Christmas, the Fox would host a free matinee for the children of the community.  It would consist of two cartoons, the news reel, and a full feature movie.  Following the movie, the lights would come on, Christmas carols would start playing, and then the Mayor would make a short speech and introduce a special guest, Santa Claus. 
Santa would not sit in a big chair, he preferred to stand up with a Elf standing next to his side.  He to, would make a very brief speech, highlighting important things like school work and listening to our parents. When he finish, those of us in the audience, would file out by row and proceed in line to meet Santa.  As we approached him, he would extend his white gloved hand and shake your hand. As he chatted with you, his Elf would appear with a brown paper sack, a lunch bag nearly filled with a variety of candies and always some type of fruit, orange or apple.  In later years, I learned about Santa's visit.  The Fox Theatre would provide the Free Movie, the merchants in town contributed all of the contents of the bag by either donating cash or product.  Following the meet and greet of Santa, we would return to our seats and a choir would come in and sing a variety of carols, with Santa leading them.  At the conclusion, he would depart the theatre, step up onto the City Fire Truck, wait for all of us to clear the building and with sirens blaring head down the street from our sight.  Years later, as an adult, do I believe in Santa?  I do because I saw him through the eyes of a child, I touched his hand, and he spoke to me.
Walking home, the majority of the homes were decorated for Christmas, City Hall and every church would have a naivety scene, some them even having live animals at the manger.  The homes would decorate with lights, but they did not keep time with blaring music, but every home would have an outside tree decorated.  It always intrigued me, but some of these homes would have lights in the shape of a star in their front window.  The stars would always be solid blue or gold.  It was later that I learned that those stars indicated that they had a member on active duty if it was Blue.  If the family had lost a member of the family on active duty, the star would be Gold. 
A family of seven, my farther made a living of buying and selling horses to supplement his guiding and dude ranch business in the summer and fall.  My mother would work in the local restaurants as a cook to provide additional income.  She would start in early November and start preparing for Christmas, making candies, cookies, fruit cake, and reviewing or lists to Santa.  We never got everything on our list, but she always insured that we had at least one gift from our list, two if there was a surplus of cash, and of course school clothes for the remainder of the school year.  She made it possible and we never felt disappointed because we did not get everything we wanted.  We got much more than she realized she was giving us.  We established Christmas traditions that are still practiced in our home today. 
"Merry Christmas To All"