Every year I wonder why it is that, the older I get, the quicker Christmas rolls around. When I was a child it seemed like it would never arrive. Now I no sooner get our Christmas decorations safely stored away than it’s time to start getting them out again.

Every year I wonder why it is that, the older I get, the quicker Christmas rolls around. When I was a child it seemed like it would never arrive. Now I no sooner get our Christmas decorations safely stored away than it’s time to start getting them out again.


When I was young, traditions were such a strong part of Christmas. I miss the routine of getting ready for the holiday. One thing that has remained is the Christmas music available at almost every church. This year the weather hasn’t cooperated with cantata practice, Christmas parties and, to some extent, shopping. Even most of the churches closed on Dec. 8 because it just wasn’t safe for worshippers to get out on the ice.


But, everything moved right along despite the ice and freezing weather. Those of us who preferred to stay in our houses and keep warm rather than venture out with the thought of a fall on the ice and breaking a bone, got either a little stir crazy or accomplished a multitude of things around the house. I was among the cautious ones who stayed put until the roads were cleared — at least my driveway was passable.


As a child traditions were such a strong part of Christmas. Selecting a Christmas tree was a part of that tradition, whether it was going down to the lot on the trade grounds on Woodard Street or maybe at the west end of the old high school grounds at Main Street and Armstrong Avenue to pick one out.


Maybe on a Sunday afternoon before Christmas — my dad thought we shouldn’t start until after Dec. 10 for some reason — we would go out in the country to my grandfather’s farm or on property owned by someone we knew and walk for what seemed like forever to pick out the perfect cedar tree. Daddy, who never was a handyman with a saw and nails, would laboriously cut down the tree and load it into the trunk of the car.


Once we got it home, he would begin building a crosstie of wood and nail the tree to the base. This was before the days of tree holders that would hold water to keep the trees fresh. It usually took a lot of sawing to get the trunk of the tree straight so that it would attach to the base and not lean in an awkward direction. I even remember it being attached to the wall a time or two to keep it from tipping over.


When we finally got it stabilized and felt pretty certain that it would stand up, we hid the base with cotton batting and began checking out and untangling the previous years’ lights. This always meant a trip to Barrett’s Drug to get bulbs that had burned out or maybe a whole new string of them.


Once we had the lights on the tree, it was easy going as we attached the ornaments and liberally sprinkled the tree with tinsel and maybe a little artificial snow. I still have some of those ornaments, but they are so old and fragile that I don’t hang them on the tree, but display them in a basket or a large bowl.


Every year about the same time, my allergies would start acting up. We never suspected the cedar tree as the reason, so every Christmas I sneezed and snorted from Dec. 10 to Dec. 26 when the tree came down.


In later life that realization’s light bulb came on and a trip to Barrett’s produced a tinsel tree the next year, complete with a revolving red, white and green spotlight that made the tree sparkle. The tree was never the same though, because we couldn’t put lights on it for fear of a fire. So, as soon as artificial trees that looked almost real came along, we had a green tree from then on. Those tinsel trees are now collector’s items, and I wish I had kept mine.


Christmas shopping in those days was a pleasant experience. As I remember it, we were not so rushed and most stores were much more helpful in suggesting gifts and even gift wrapping them for free.


I had done a little shopping, mostly in downtown Denison before the ice flew in this year, so I was far behind that little chore once I was able to get out of my driveway under my own power in my own car. I certainly picked the wrong day to head to the mall where stores were packed and the parking lot, which still had a little ice on it, was full of vehicles.


We had more downtown stores to shop in, as I remember in my childhood days. We could go to Madden’s Lilley’s or K. Wolen’s department stores and find almost anything we wanted. At K. Wolen’s we even got gold stamps to exchange for merchandise. We could go to Weingarten’s or Label’s or Three Sister’s or Newsom’s or Franklin’s or Freel’s and find anything a woman might like to have.


For the men there were U.S. Clothing, Dad and Lad’s, Sneed’s or Noel’s, as well as the top three listed above. For the kids there were Wennie’s Youth Shop and Young Fashions. Drug stores also had gift items, as well as whatever was needed for our health. All these stores were on Main Street and on Saturday the sidewalks were crowded with shoppers all year long. A favorite pastime of the older generation was to park on Main Street and watch the people go by. Some had favorite parking places and got there early in the day to stay all day.


As a child most of my shopping was done at the S.H. Kress or J.J. Newberry stores where prices were more fitting to my $1 a week allowance. I have a picture of Kresses with a sign over the jewelry counter on the west wall saying "all items 15 cents each." That was more my speed.


Of course the candy counter on the east wall was just about as inviting with the different bins of all kinds of candy and the aroma of fresh popcorn that nearly drove me crazy.


Stores decorated their windows, as well as the interiors, beautifully for Christmas and for many years gift wrapping was done almost everywhere free of charge. High schoolers were able to earn a little holiday spending money by wrapping gifts during Christmas.


My dad owned a drug store, Loi-Mac Pharmacy at 200 West Main, and every Christmas after I was old enough to reach the cash register, I helped out during the holidays and was the chief gift wrapper. I cannot remember if I got paid or if it was just insurance that Santa Claus would bring me what I wished for.


Christmas programs at the church were and still are a special at Christmastime. The music and pageantry are part of what the holiday is all about. Cantatas and nativity scenes have always been beautiful and no Christmas should be without them.


Hope you have had an opportunity to attend the Christmas parade, a party, or church Christmas presentation. Christmas traditions may have changed, but the spirit of the season remains the same.


Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.