Why is it that as you get older Christmas seems to come around earlier and earlier? I remember when I was a child it seemed like eons before Christmas rolled around every year.
Now, no sooner do we get our Christmas decorations safely stored away than it is time to start getting them out again. At least that’s what stores that sell them seem to be telling us.
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 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 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 fresher. 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 on in 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 last year’s lights and untangling them. This always meant a trip to Barrett’s Drug on Main Street to replace bulbs that had burned out or maybe buy a whole new string of them.
Once we got 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.
About the same time every year my allergies started acting up. We never suspected the cedar tree was 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 light bulb came on and a trip to the store 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 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.
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, most of the time for free.
We had more downtown stores to shop in too. We could go to Madden’s, Lilley’s or K. Wolen’s department stores and find almost anything we wanted. We could go to Weingarten or Label’s or Three Sisters 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, Dads and Lads, Sneed’s or Noel’s, and for the kids there was Wennie’s Youth Shop and Young Fashions. Drugstores also had gift items as well as whatever was needed for our health. Barrett Drug, Mile’s Variety, Kresses and Newberry’s all had a little of everything.
All of these stores were on Main Street and on Saturday the sidewalks were crowded with shoppers all year long.
As a child most of my shopping was done at the Kresses or J.J. Newberry’s where prices were more fitting to my $1 a week allowance. I recently found a picture of Woolsworths, probably in Sherman, with a sign over the jewelry counter on the west wall saying “nothing on this counter over 15 cents.” 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 popped popcorn that nearly drove me crazy.
Stores decorated their windows as well as the interiors beautifully for Christmas and for many years high schoolers were able to earn a little holiday spending money by wrapping gifts.
Christmas programs at church were and still are 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.
Austin College always has Christmas music for free for those who want to come listen to it. Other singing groups practice for days preparing for entertaining groups of people to get them in the Christmas spirit. The big Christmas parades in the area and now the ice skating rink on Main Street along with Holiday Lights at Loy Lake don’t fail to get us in the mood.
Whether it be a school Christmas program, a performance by the Sherman Symphony or Community Players or a church musical or nativity, this is what makes Christmas special. But wait, never forget the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger so many years ago.
Slow down and take time to savor the wonder of it all.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.