Heritage Lives: When Christmas Was About Family

By Terry Hughes

The illustrator Norman Rockwell created many vintage Christmas scenes. One shows a Christmas celebration of the 1940s with Grandma basting the turkey while Grandpa announces the arrival of family members in their 1940s Plymouth. Perhaps you remember it? The aromas from the other containers on the old- fashioned gas stove mixing with the turkey would be a welcome scent to the new arrivals as they enter the home. Add a real Christmas tree in the corner of the living room and this iconic scene says it all.


Whether your grandparents were known by the names Did i Baka, Ma Mere et Pere, Oma and Opa, or Nonna and Nonno, the spirit is the same. The joy and laughter could be heard in different tongues into the night. Tasty treats that took days and sometimes weeks to prepare are enjoyed by all. This setting would be repeated after celebrating whatever religious service your family attended early on in the day. While the grown-ups conversed, the children would share what present they got. After the stories about their gifts faded away, boys would talk about hockey or the latest adventures of the Lone Ranger while the girls may fuss about their doll, new dress or soap operas like Stella Dallas that they heard on the radio. Contrast the above with today where some families don’t develop close ties with each other and ignore the religious purpose of this time of the year. How many presents did they receive is what the children talk about IF they are not already engrossed in their electronic games. Sports are talked about and the new sweater that costs a hundred dollar or more will compliment the equipment required to play in a game. How about the girls getting a makeup package to make you look older and clothing that makes them look sexy. Oh yes and lets not forget about the artificial tree with trimmings that are politically correct and not reminding us about Christmas.
One of my relatives has a novel way to encourage interaction with members of the family. He has a huge bowl into which everyone must place their phones and electronic games. After a short period of shock wears off, people begin to talk to each other and the spirit of old time Christmases returns.

Have a very Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Next Column: What role did the public play in the development of the new governance model of the Recreational Waterway?

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

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