Christmas Then, It Was Different

Growing up in 1950s and 1960s America -it was a different world. My sons don’t really believe that. Like many other young people, they think that things have always been like they are now – for instance, crime and deviancy and government control, selfishness and a lack of self control, victimology,etc.

Life was palpably different. It was simpler. It was harder. It was better. (Right here is where one always has to insert the politically correct caveat about the things which actually have improved. That has become tiresome and I’ll resist it this time.)

A common complaint/observation about modern life is the commercialism, greed and joylessness at Christmas, which I believe is pretty accurate.

How has it changed? Well, for starters, it was a joyous season.

Born in the mid-1950s and raised in Mingo, a working class neighborhood, my friends and I looked forward to Christmas for lots of reasons, presents being only one of the many elements. Among them were the art projects and the yearly religious Christmas program at our public school, a program at church, shared secrets about gifts, helping my mother stamp the Christmas cards, receiving cards in the mail and hearing from friends and relatives, the family gathering to open presents on Christmas Eve (we had to wait until the sun was down and it seemed like it took forever). The big dinner at noon on Christmas day and the drive around Tulsa looking at lights on Christmas night. Daddy and Mama enjoyed it all as much as the children did.

One of my fondest memories is of the time I made marshmallow snowmen with toothpicks. That was a really simple thing but I remember how much fun it was.

Christmas wish lists were only in the cartoons. I never wrote one and if my friends did, they never told me about it. It never even occured to me.

None of the children in my neighborhood demanded particular gifts. Certainly there were things we wanted and told our parents about, but our world wasn’t centered around what we didn’t have or didn’t get. Christmas and birthdays were about the only times during the year when we got new toys but even then it was with restraint. I never had my own hula hoop or twirling baton or baby buggy or dollhouse, but some of my friends did and they shared nicely. It seems that I was the only one with Tinker Toys and I shared. My friend, Joy, had her mother’s original Shirley Temple doll and wicker doll buggy; we were allowed to play with it together.

My mother made all the females new Christmas dresses every year – everything else came from the store or catalog but even so it wasn’t as commercial as it is now. Retailers are only partly to blame for what has happened; we have become a very greedy, demanding society. There are gift registries for brides and babies and probably every other occasion; goodness, someone wouldn’t want a gift that they haven’t chosen for themselves!

We were not princesses and we certainly weren’t treated as such.

As for the decorating, we always had a cut tree and the big lights and a star on top of the tree. Each year my parent sent out lots of cards. Mama decorated with the ones we received and we enjoyed looking at them on display during December. She had a few other decorations sitting around, but it wasn’t the overwhelming obsession with more and more. I enjoy beautifully decorated houses at Christmas, but honestly, it is a little tiring just to even look at them.

This year Christmas is simpler at our house. Fewer decorations and I’m enjoying that. The perfect gift is not my goal; I am considering what each member of my family would enjoy and I’m also complying with what we can afford.

It is absolutely no coincidence that Christmas has lost a lot of joy in modern times. Leftist leaders have stripped as much meaning out of everything as they can.

If we can’t acknowledge the birth of our Saviour, how can we celebrate? Silly, manufactured “holidays” like kwanzaa and winter solstice are empty and hollow pathetic attempts at counterfeit substitutions for Jesus.

What is there to celebrate? God’s gift of His Son to a lost and dying world.


Filed under 1950s, 1960's, America, Childhood pastimes, Christmas, Current Events, Faith, Family, Mingo, Oklahoma, Tulsa

7 responses to “Christmas Then, It Was Different

  1. You wrote: “Retailers are only partly to blame for what has happened; we have become a very greedy, demanding society. ”

    Oh how true this is! You know, when I was a girl, the only time that we got a new toy or anything like that was on our birthday or Christmas… we never got a toy on impulse when the family was out shopping or anything. Unlike today when it seems children (including my own, I am embarrassed to admit) often expect such small gifts. I remember too when Christmas cards and the notes within them were a really big deal… folks didn’t exchange presents like they do today. The notes and pretty pictures on the cards were enough of an excitement. My how times have changed….. 😦

    You know these last few years the Christmas season has seemed a bit overwhelming to me, and after reading your post I think I understand a bit more why. There are just so many obligations and “must do” kinds of things… but they are things that really don’t matter at all in the long run. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to those old days. ANd yes I really truly think they were the good old days☺

    • Very well put. Our sons had more toys than either my husband or I had, but not nearly as many as their friends. We never had a lot of money and we didn’t think it was right to buy them everything. Our older son is incredibly talented artistically and I hope that being poor helped him learn to be more creative. Our younger son’s interest is mathematics and you certainly don’t need money for that (except higher education; ouch!).

      We’re trying to teach our sweet young grandsons to wait until Christmas or their birthday for new toys, but their parents buy for them on a whim.

      I appreciate you stopping by and I really like your blog.

  2. fran m

    That old picture of us from the 50’s is great. I had forgotten the small tree too. Guess it was because with the couch and the corner table (which I had also forgotten) took up too much room for us to have a bigger tree.

    I bought a small tree this year. Guess we are just naturally scaling down too. Hope you are all going to have a great trip up here Sunday. See you then little sis.

  3. Donna Williams

    Hi Carla. Before my dad went “Home” he told me that when he was a boy, and his dad was a share cropper, he and his siblings, (there were 8 kids total, Dad being the oldest!) would recieve 1 piece of hard candy and 1 piece of fruit for Christmas. Dad made his own toys. He would make a vehicle out of an empty stick-match box and empty wooded thread spools. His mother made his Pants and overalls out of cotton sack. Cotton sacks were the long canvas bags they would drag down the rows of cotton, they would put the cotton out of the plants in the bags that had straps they hung over their shoulders. When the bags got holes in them, then Daddy or 1 of his brothers got a “new” pair of britches. Ha! Ha!
    The other day I was watching some talk show and a movie star was on it, I forget who it was , she said they only give their children 3 gifts each for Christmas…Baby Jesus only got 3 gifts!!!!That is the way we should be raising our children now.With Jesus as an example…God Bless!!

    • I’m so glad you shared this story. It’s really important for us to know about the lives of the ones who’ve gone before us and that life has not always been like it is now.

      Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  4. Amen, amen, amen, Carla! Even though you are almost 10 years younger than me, your memories are very similar to mine. I have always said we were happy because we didn’t have advertisers on TV to tell us we should NOT be happy unless we had certain things. And I hardly EVER received a gift at any time other than birthday or Christmas. And I HOPED I would get what a told Santa Claus I wanted, but I didn’t always — and was perfectly happy with whatever I got! People in the generations that have come after us will, I guess thankfully because it would make them envious, never know how great we had it. We were a very fortunate generation, and I don’t believe it will ever be that good in this life again — only in the next.

    • Christmas was such a wonderful time in our family. And the unspoken rule that gifts were for birthdays and Christmas is something that I’m trying to teach our grandsons. As young as they are, they seem to be accepting it okay that that’s how Grandpa and Grandma do it. It’s hard for me to restrain myself because I want to get things for them, and we occasionally do get something inexpensive for them, but I think that this is an important lesson for them to learn; and they are always appreciative. They are great boys!

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