Christmas was a great deal simpler, in my childhood;

There were not many presents and most

were much needed clothing

Like socks and underwear.

I remember being thrilled one year

With days-of-the-week panties in

Different colors.

I was beyond ecstatic the year

My brother Jim gave me

Five – count them FIVE – brand new

Nancy Drew mysteries.

We children went downtown by ourselves

And bought gifts for our parents,

Grandparents, and siblings.

How we accomplished this feat

Remains a mystery to me, when you consider

we received no allowances and what money

we could save was generally

obtained from cashing in pop bottles (2 cents

each) Or running errands for neighbors.

You also needed bus fare to go to and from

Downtown Cincinnati –

And we would find little handkerchiefs

For our mother

Or a man’s handkerchief

For our father,

Hairnets or bobby pins

Were the least expensive gifts

We could find at the 5&10 cent stores.

My mother saved all old gift wrap

So we ironed it, and the ribbons as well,

To reuse.

It remains a mystery

How we manage to shop for everyone;

It was something like the loaves and fishes

Out of the bible.

We eagerly anticipated Christmas

And being old enough to attend

Midnight mass;

Church services were an everyday part of

our lives and going to Catholic schools meant

attending mass Every day.

In the 8th grade, I missed singing at mass on

one  Saturday due to illness – and it cost me

being the one to crown the statue of Mary

At the May procession in the Virgin’s honor.

In school, in the lower grades,

I remember sometimes making presents

For our parents; I remember

A tie-rack made from the cardboard tube

From a roll of paper towels, to give to my


We made ornaments out of walnut shells

and uncooked macaroni.

We listened to Santa Claus on the radio

Coming all the way to you from the North

Pole  and we could hardly wait for the first

snowfall despite it meaning we would be

trudging Through the snow, to and from


In my family, Christmas was celebrated

On Christmas Eve and back in the early days

My grandmothers and often, my godmother

(who was my father’s favorite cousin)

would also be there.

Christmas morning was a time to go to

church and sit up close to the front

Where you could admire the nativity,

large statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

I loved Christmas morning mass

Where all the hymns sung were in

celebration  of the birth of the Christ child.

We might have dinner that day at my

grandmother’s (if not there, then at our

house) – where, afterwards, my Uncle Al

herded together all the children

and dropped us off at the local movie theatre

giving us each a quarter

for admission, popcorn or candy.

We thought Uncle Al was rich.

At grandma’s or at our house,

The adults would clear the table

And begin to play cards.

They loved a game called Skit Skat

And another called Michigan Poker.

We didn’t care to be a part of it.

Left to sit in a movie theatre,

We could easily sit and watch

Everything twice.

That is what Christmas was like

Back then.




Children today have only to ask for

And receive

Everything their little hearts’ desire

And parents stand in long lines

To find the most popular toy or


But now it’s all electronics;

Newer and fancier cell phones

That take photographs and

Send text-messages,

Every child has some electronic game,

Expensive electronic devices that

Require expensive games to play

Where every child can play

Entirely alone and by themselves

Even when sitting in a room with

Siblings or the children of friends.

There is no need to interact

As you would with Monopoly

Or the game of Sorry.

Children have so many toys and games

That there is no place to keep them

And their rooms remain in shambles;

I remember telling my granddaughter how

much simpler it was to keep my own room

clean as there were only 4 or 5 games and

they were stored in a small cupboard above

my clothes closet.

We didn’t have a lot of clothing –

A good dress, a pair of good shoes to be worn

Only on Sundays and holidays.

Children today live in a surplus of ‘things’

And no one seems happy or satisfied.

The childhood of my children were

much simpler, also, as we had so little to

spend- But I’d buy them many small gifts

throughout the year, and we’d bake cookies

and make fudge.  Something has been lost

along the way; Soon those in power will

completely eliminate Christ from Christmas

And then, will it all become just

A day to shower your children

With expensive electronic devices?

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written December 2009

Updated November, 2018












–Sandra Lee Smith


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