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MEMORIES FROM CHRISTMASES PAST
December 24, 1981


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Christmas is a very special and beautiful time which we have the privilege of celebrating each year. It is a season for joy and merriment, family gatherings, preparation of special foods, singing carols and listening to seasonal music, exchanging gifts, sharing with others less fortunate and remembering old friends.

There's something in the Christmas season to satisfy each individual who participates in it.

As for me, looking back more than 70 years, I recall many Christmases and the days that led up to that special event. As I review a few of them, nostalgically, readers will recall their own experiences.

The first Christmas I remember must have been when I was about three or four. Santa came to our house at 122 Taft Blvd. with his sack of gifts. After passing out gifts, he went upstairs and that was the last I saw him. I was engrossed in opening the packages. Sometime later a much older cousin, Earl Adams, came downstairs. Later I thought about that a lot. It puzzeled me greatly.

I GOT STAGE FRIGHT

One Christmas season, mother took me to a children's program at the Methodist Church. We were there more or less as guests. Many of the children sang sons or recited poems. I don't know why, but on the spur of the moment, someone suggested to mother that I recite a poem, and she agreed. I knew a Christmas poem, but when they got me on the platform, stage fright seized me. Somehow, by prompting, they got me started, but I never finished it. What a terrible thing to do to a kid at Christmas.

In later years, when I was attending the Presbyterian Church, I remember a very beautiful Christmas program. I was still a youth. Children as well as adults took part in portraying the Bethlehem story.

Mrs. John Mahony, mother of Lucille, Harold and Lloyd, portrayed Mary, mother of Jesus. Properly made up and with special lighting effects, she was beautiful with a little babe in her arms.

THE CHARITABLE ELKS

Our family of five was poor, from the standpoint of worldly goods. There was grandmother Babcock, mother and my two sisters: Ruth, the eldest, and Virginia, younger than me. Father had died when I was about three. He belonged to the Elks Lodge. A few days before Christmas, Strauch from the Elks would take me to Peter Clothing Co. and outfit me for winter - fleeced lined underwear, stockings, pants, shirts, heavy coat and high topped shoes.

The Elks always had a Christmas tree loaded with candy and goodies at their lodge rooms in the Alcott Block, and we were invited there too. I suppose their philanthrophy included the rest of the family too, but I don't recall that part.

OUR FAMILY CHRISTMAS

From about 1911 or 1912 until 1922, Christmas was a time for our family to gather at our house at 341 McDougal St. There was Uncle George and Aunt Ida Hayden, Aunt Allie Adams and son Earl, Uncle Frank and Aunt Lillie Babcock, plus our family of five.

The big oak table in our dining room was fitted with the extra leafs to accommodate the gathering. The hardcoal stove had the house "toasty" warm. Each part of the family contributed their special dish for a gala affair. Part of the dessert was Jello and Uncle Frank always reminded us that one of the indredients of that delicious, shimmery stuff was horse hoofs. It never diminished me zest for it.

On those Christmas occasions, if there were a few extra guests and the total reached 13, there was always a deadly calm when the superstitious number became known. The belief was that someone present would not be among the living when we gathered next.

CHILDHOOD GIFTS KEPT

I'll never forget those Christmas gatherings with the most sumptious menu of the years for us. The gifts were not expensive, because money was scarce. I still have some gifts from back then, a doll, and books stowed away in the attic. Somehow, I managed to save a little from selling papers and odd jobs to buy simple gifts for others too - perhaps a hankerchief, a needed cooking utensil, a towel, hand lotion, or items that could be crafted from paper, calendars and cutout pictures.

They were gifts given with love, I realize now, as I look back. When grandmother passed away in 1923, that ended the family Christmas gatherings at our house; grandmother was the influence that held us together.

One Christmas, a part of our family which I never knew much about, came from Blackstone, Va., to say merry Christmas and bring us a home-cured ham. We were getting along. He was Mylan Cracey, whose family had once lived in Fostoria. My grandmother was his mother's aunt, all part of the Conner family who settled in Hancock County in the early part of the 18th century.

In later years, when Mylan and I had both married, we came to know each other better. Since then he has been like a brother, which I never had. He is the only one left in his family, and my sister Virginia and I are the only ones in ours. All the others are gone, but I have some wonderful memories of faces, houses, and events related to all of them.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS

As I sat musing about past Christmases, I realized that all of the things related to that very important event - gifts, family gatherings, beautiful music and all the rest - really relate to that first Christmas 2,000 years ago, when God sent to earth his great gift, Jesus, in the form of a babe, humanly born, but endowed with His spirit. That first Christmas was foretold by prophets of old through God's spirit and recorded for us in the Bible. That event was planned to draw us back to God, save man from worldly sin and prepare him for life after death.

It seems like that first Christmas, when the star shown so brilliantly in the heavens should have been sufficient to convince all mankind of God's great love and His great gift.

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