May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” “Ghosts of Christmases Past”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Ghosts of Christmases Past” Chapter 77
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

As Christmas rolls around this year (faster than ever it seems), I got to thinking about all the lost arts that went with the holiday during my childhood that have fallen off of late—many for good reason.  Let’s have a look at a few of these bygone traditions as Christ’s birthday swiftly approaches…

Fruitcake.  For good reason this monstrosity has disappeared—an ungodly mix of fruit and nuts baked into a hard cake and “gifted” in a decorative tin.  It always seemed like some aunt with a huge mole on her lip had ruined a perfectly good box of Jujyfruits by baking them into a loaf of bread with walnuts.  If you were really lucky, you might get one of her silver hairs in there as a bonus.  I remember my sisters and I discovering one of these candied turds a full year later up in the cupboard above the stove and booting it around the house in its tightly wrapped Saran like Satan’s football until Mom yelled at us to stop.

Caroling.  When’s the last time you answered the door to carolers?  The really self-pleased ones would dress up—top hats with holly adornments on the gents, large Santa brooches, plaid shawls and velvet bows for the ladies.  There was an understanding that there’d be cocoa extorted at the end of their full-throated “Deck the Halls(!)” or “Away in a Manger.”  Those in no mood for painting on false smiles for two or more tunes, or whose house might’ve been in unkempt disarray might dim or douse the interior lights to avoid such an unsolicited blessing.

Sleigh Rides.  “…to grandmother’s house we go…” This wouldn’t be such a bad one to bring back, though in this part of the country we almost never have snow on Christmas, nor do most of us have Clydesdales or horse-drawn carriages that’ll accommodate the entire family, the gifts and the food over to granny’s.  Now, we just load up the SUV and argue at the tailgate about who’s making us late, the impossible relative we got in the gift exchange, or which of the in-laws we find least appealing.

Christmas cards.  So far we have just three of these up on our fridge.  We used to get a lot more just a decade ago when the kids were small, but since we don’t send out any ourselves I’d imagine we’re slowly being removed from others’ lists.  Either that or the idea is simply dying off from just being too much trouble.  I miss the brag letters that used to be sent from distant relations and nearly forgotten friends in my youth.  Sally’s straight A’s and Clint’s making of the varsity team.  Mother’s good works with the church and Father’s promotion at the firm.  Even Duke the dog had a great year—cornering several unwitting chihuahua’s with his amorous deliberations.  Hurray for the Smithfields!  Blecch.

Advent calendars.  These were a fun thing to open each morning before school to see which one of the Magi or shepherds would appear under the folds on the countdown to the baby Jesus in his swaddlings.  That is, until I found out that other kids were getting a daily dose of chocolate in their calendars that the Williams kids were not—then the advent just became another rip off (and why don’t we have cable tv yet?!) for the three of us to grind about.  My clueless kids don’t even know what these things are anymore.

Mistletoe.  The delightful happenstance of finding yourself magically under this parasitic plant with your one true love on Christmas Eve was tragically hijacked by the hovering office perv or the horny fraternity brother who attached it to his waistband.  Now only appearing in ghastly Hallmark movies featuring dimpled chins and unrealistic expectations, mistletoe, too, has fallen to the wayside.

So there’s just a few of the old remembrances that don’t get much air anymore.  There are a dozen others I omitted—the Yule log, coal in the stocking, stringing popcorn for the tree—I could go on for quite awhile, but the wife says we have gifts to wrap and some more shopping to do.  Merry Christmas, everybody…enjoy the holiday—slow down, be nice, offer hugs and be grateful—it does only comes once a year.