Christmas in the 1950s was an era never to be repeated; it was something special because of its simplicity and emphasis on Christ’s birth, on family, and of course, some presents under the Christmas tree.
Prior to Christmas Day, the tree was selected and decorated. The tinsel was heavy back then and would bend the branches of the tree; too much tinsel could even collapse the tree. The Christmas tree bulbs, collected over past decades, were displayed every year. Each was individually wrapped in newspaper to prevent breakage in storage.
Once the tree was decorated, some of my past Christmas presents were displayed around the tree. At its base, there were oval tracks with a heavy Lionel train engine pulling four other cars. Small pellets inserted into the engine’s smokestack produced a stream of smoke similar to real steam engines still used in the early 1950s. You could also blow the train’s whistle. If not for the heat of that engine, I would have run it all day.
The Lincoln Log Cabin set was erected. It looked the same every year, but being absent for 50 weeks made it seem like a new toy. My Father set out the erector set; it was too heavy for me to carry. Often I tried to make a windmill using the diagram instructions; Dad always showed me how to complete it.
Upon waking on Christmas Day, a few small presents would be opened but more importantly it was time to dress for church. My shoes (and hands) were polished the night before and I wore my simple brown suit with a brown tie.
Nine o’clock Mass was mandatory but I didn’t care, as I liked to go and hear the Christmas music. My sister, Maureen, was on one side of the church and I was on the other side; girls and boys did not sit together at the children’s Mass. Everyone received communion on this special day.
Going home from church I wondered what remained under the Christmas tree. Every year I would always get one special present and the remainder would be mostly clothes and books. One year I received an English racer. I felt like the king of the world; no more three-wheeler for the Ed-ster.
Maureen also received a piano one Christmas. We realized then and now that Mom and Dad sacrificed to provide such presents. Beginning at age 10, I always had one square box every Christmas; it contained a new basketball. Dad had already a new net. I would wear both out by the next Christmas.
During the morning, the smell of the turkey began permeating the house. Mom was and still is a superb cook. Grandma and Grandpa came for dinner served around 1 or 2 and I would always receive that special card containing money. This present went directly into my bank account.
After dinner and with the dishes cleaned and put away, it was time to visit my other Grandmother and a host of cousins. With all of these people, Grandma Chiefie, she had a large family, would make loaves of bread and we would again eat turkey with vegetables. The kids were served first because there were so many people. Once dismissed from the table, all hell broke out. The house was enormous and kids would be running and hiding everywhere. Playing kid’s games was fun.
Looking back at Grandma’s furniture and home, it seemed like a museum to me. Stained glass was imbedded into the lamps and cabinet windows. Added to this museum atmosphere, there would be a big Christmas tree, really big, because the ceiling in that old house was so high.
Once the parents finished eating, they would join the kids. Until around 1952, Grandpa Schneider would steal the show with his pipe. He would sit in his special parlor chair (the ceiling had a smoke ring above it), smoke his pipe and blew rings for the kids to wave at or hold their arms inside until the smoke disappeared.
I can remember Christmas music, but no TV in those early years. This era was absent of computer games. Times were simple then and I dearly remember those Christmas Days of past. When I think of them now, my eyes become misty. Many members of those years are gone, yet the good memories remain and that’s what is most important. Presents come and go, but memories and faith continue. Would I live those years over again? Of course, but only if they were as simple.
With the above in mind, I extend my Christmas greetings to you. I hope that your enjoyment will be recounted many times in the future just as mine. I also extend my wishes for a Happy New Year.
(this post written by my friend, Eddie Smith)
Have you started any of your Christmas baking? Here are two of our absolute favourites here!
This Dutch Boeterkoek (Almond Butter Cake) is sure to be a hit. Bring it along for a hostess gift and have a few ready to go for when friends drop by for a visit!
My oldest son’s must-have every single year. He loves this Fantasy Fudge! Wow is it ever good and very quick to make! We make this only at Christmas time.