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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Reflections on Christmas Past

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By Dr. Curtis Varnell

Few people today realize that Christmases of the past had little similarity to the ones we celebrate today. The combination of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, carols, presents, and cards are recent additions to our society.  The great national division caused by the Civil War created and intensified many of our feelings and traditions about Christmas.  Everyone needed a time of peace, a time to reflect on God’s blessings, and a time to be with and enjoy the families that they were so often separated from during the great war.

Many of our customs were derived from other countries, especially some of the German traditions such as decorating a tree and enjoying feasts of fruit, nuts, and candy.  Commercialism and consumerism soon lead to the expansion of Christmas to include our other traditions.

The Christmas’s of my youth were much simpler.  Our trees looked more like that acquired by Charlie Brown than those tinseled or well-groomed trees of today.  We simply went out into the pasture as a group and picked out a cedar tree that looked like it would fit within our home.  Often the limbs were unbalanced, the bottom boughs brown and dry, and the tree tilted sharply on the wooden base we constructed.  We had great fun using red and green construction paper to make strands that encircled the tree.  Adding more fun, although not necessary appealing to the eye, we added strands of popcorn we strung together with thread and then threw silver icicles randomly about the tree.  I mentioned icicles to my children this year and received blank looks. Noticing they were busy texting their friends on personal telephones, I decided not to suggest making the popcorn strands.

My grandmother would cook for days before, preparing cakes, pies, and dessert for the huge but scattered Varnell clan.  These would include my favorite jam cake, made from an entire pint of blackberry jam and cups of black walnuts, to huge bowls of banana or pineapple pudding.  She would hit Sterlings, Ben Franklin, and other stores.  Although she was limited on money, she would purchase some small gift for each of her ten boys and the forty-three grandchildren. 

Everyone in the community where I was raised attended the same church and many of the holiday functions was centered around church Christmas parties and gatherings which culminated with the annual Christmas play.  We had preschoolers singing three different carols, all at the same time.  Sheep, cows, and shepherds running everywhere across the stage and cousins playing the angels that were anything but.  Once the entire manger backdrop fell to the floor right in the middle of the production.  What a great and memorable time!

As you rush around this year buying those last minute gifts of hand sanitizer, face masks, and toilet tissue, take time to remember the original reasons for the things we celebrate; peace, family, and most of all, God’s gift of his son to the us.

Merry Christmas!

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Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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