Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Calendar - Day 6 Sis's Great Santa Caper

My sister is two years younger than me and has been a spitfire from the day she was born. She was always little for her age, so she made up for that in stubborness and determination. One day whe she was three or four years old, she decided that she was going to catch Santa in the act on Christmas Eve. So she came up with a fool proof plan.

That Christmas Eve, when everyone was tucked in and asleep, Sis started to sneak out of our shared bedroom. I awoke as she tried to pass me and she told me she was just going to the bathroom, so I went back to sleep.

Instead, Sis crept on tippytoes down the stairs and plopped herself in front of the Christmas Tree. And there she sat on the floor and waited for Santa to show up. And waited. And waited. When Mom & Dad came down in the wee hours of the morning to set out our gifts, there was Sis sound asleep, curled up on the floor under the tree! Dad wanted to carry her back up to bed without waking her, but Mom said to just leave her be. So they left her there, sound asleep, and got to work.

Christmas morning, there was Sis under the tree sound asleep, surrounded by our Christmas gifts from Santa!

When we woke her up, Sis was so mad that her big plan to catch Santa in the act had been foiled - because try as she might, she just couldn't win the struggle to stay awake.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 5 Outdoor Decorations

I loved Christmas lights as a kid and I still do. Today, living in an apartment, we really have no place to put outdoor lights. But when I was a kid, no matter where my family lived (we moved a lot), Dad would always hang outside lights around the porch and front window and doorway.

Dad would also pick a night and we would drive around the area looking at the lights at night. Penn Street, the main street of the city, would have all the shops decorated and lit. There was the city's Christmas Tree all lit up in the traffic circle that used to sit at 5th and Penn. You could see the animated displays in the windows of Pomeroy's Department Store at 6th and Penn Sts.  For several blocks on North 9th Street (off Penn St.) lit garlands crossed overhead from street lamp to street lamp. It was like driving under a canopy of lights.

We'd drive through the ritzy neighborhoods where the decorations were discrete, tasteful amd pretty. And we'd cruise through the working class neighborhoods where more is more and colors were bright and twinkling. Those were the homes with the lit figures on the lawns and 3 story row homes covered in lights and Santa with his reindeer and sleigh sitting on the rooftops. Some of the displays would leave Dad chuckling "I wouldn't want to have to pay THAT electric bill!".

But the climax of the drive was always driving past Christmas Village. Christmas Village is a local holiday tourist attraction. You drive along on a dark unlit country road. Finally you crest a hill and in the valley before you is a village decorated with over half a million lights! That view as you crest the hill is the most magical part. So we would never stop and actually park and pay to go in (Dad would have rather spent that money on more gifts for us), but we always wanted to see it lit up as we drove past. And yup, Dad would be chuckling "I wouldn't want to have to pay THAT electric bill!".

Go to and watch the intro to see what we saw as we crested the hill at Koziar's Christmas Village.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 4 Christmas Cards

We had a large extended family, so Mom was in charge of the Christmas cards. She'd buy a big boxed assortment in the after Christmas clearance sales the year before and would start writing out the cards long before Thansgiving so they would be all ready to mail. Some she would send "as is" with just the traditional signature, but in a select few she would include a handwritten letter. It wasn't a generic Christmas newsletter, it was a personal letter to the recipient. Back in those days, a long distance telephone call was very expensive and a stamp was just a few cents, so Mom was an avid letter writer all year long.

Because of Mom and Dad both coming from large families, we also received a great many cards. It was exciting getting the mail! Mom would hang a string or ribbon across the living room picture window curtain rod and we would use clothes pins to hang and display the cards. After the holidays, the cards would be dismantked and Mom would use them in crafts projects she would come up with to keep us occupied on rainy or sick days.

One family tradition we can count on is the first card of the season always arrives from Mom's brother Cody in Upstate NY. He prides himself on mailing them off the day before Thanksgiving each year, so his cards always arrive on Black Friday or the next day. He wants to be sure that his is the first card of the season we receive. Everyone else in the family holds off mailing until after Thanksgiving so that Uncle Cody can retain his place of honor in the Christmas Card stakes.

These days, my card sending goes in waves. When money isn't so tight, I'll send cards to everyone in my address book. Years like 2010, I will just restrict myself to immediate family and a very few others. Postage rates add up too fast to be casual with my card list in these current economic times. But I still love getting cards!

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 3 - Eclectic Tree Ornaments

Growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s our tree didn't look like something from a magazine or store display, all matchy-matchy and color coordinated. Thee was no overarching theme - it was truly eclectic. It had - personalty.

Lights: In my youngest years, we used the large bulb strings of light. As the years passed, we moved into the small twinkling lights; always multicolored and never the plain white strings of light. With our tree, the more colors, the better was the rule. But my favorites by far were the strings of bubble lights. I could watch them for hours. We even had a candelabra in the front window that was outfitted with bubble lights.

Most of our ornaments were a mish mash assortment of the old blown glass balls and figuruals. Many of the balls had indents with kaleidoscope patterns in the indents. There were glass balls that looked like berries and birds, Santas and bells. We had many glass ornaments that looked like Chinese lanterns. The tree lights would reflect upon all these ornaments and really make them sparkle and come alive.

The rest of the tree was outfitted with homemade ornaments and whatever caught our fancy. Of course, back then there weren't cartoon or TV character decorations. A favorite for many years were ornaments my sister and I made in Sunday School one year. They were stars made from wagon wheel pasta glued together, spray painted (mine was silver, Sis's was gold), sprinkled with glitter and had a mini Christmas ball glued to the center. How those lasted intact for so many years was a tribute Mom's packing abilities when everything was taken down and put back into storage for the next year.

When I was a kid, I wanted a "designer" matchy-matchy theme tree (what I imagined were rich peoples' trees). Now that I am older, those trees seem so sterile. So it is a hodge podge, eclectic, theme free tree for me. Long live Personality!