As a child in a large city, I remember some very lovely Christmas’s. I recall going to get my picture taken with Santa at May Co. and Higbee’s Department Stores. I remember looking at all of the mechanical Christmas scenes in the department store windows and the pure excitement of everything in downtown Cleveland at that time of year back in the 1950s.
I have many fond memories of the season…my aunts and uncles coming to visit close to the holidays and my one aunt always brought me a package of LiveSavers….eight rolls in that box and I loved each one and I remember ButterRum being the first eaten each year, sharing with my cousins.
My maternal grandparents came from Europe so we also celebrated the “old” Christmas on Jan 7th according to the Julian (Orthodox) Calendar and Jan 6th was always celebrated at my grandparents home. Grandma always let me decorate the mantel in the living room. She rarely had a tree because the rooms were small, but just having some decorations up made that house special. I still have, after all these years, the little 6″ red wreaths that she used to hang in her living room windows. I also have an old piece of a door decoration that she used to hang on her door. The foil covered decorations have fallen off long ago, but the suction cup and little bell still are attached to the spring-like frame and I sometimes hang it on my own living room door. I know both wreath and door decor have to be at least 80 years old, if not more.
When my maternal grandparents retired, it became difficult for them to purchase presents for everyone in the family, so at Thanksgiving we would draw names and buy only for that one person. So on Jan. 6th, we would go to Grandma’s house (3 blocks away) around 7 a.m. and my mother and aunt would help my grandmother make pierogi’s for dinner that night.
Making these little pillows of cheesy potatoes smothered in buttered onions was always a lovely, happy experience. I always had the privilege of sitting there, watching and playing with scrap pieces of dough.
Grandma also made some with sauerkraut, prunes or dry cottage cheese. My favorite has always been the cheesy-potato filled ones and to this day I make them once a year before Christmas. I freeze half of them to save for Springtime, too.
After dinner at Grandma’s we’d exchange gifts and that really extended the holidays for me. Of course, we (my parents and my dad’s side of the family) always celebrated our own Christmas on Dec 25th like most. I remember one year, I guess I was about 3 or 4 years old, when Cleveland had a horrible snow storm on Thanksgiving day. It was so bad, my father tried to get out of the front yard and it took him almost an hour just to shovel to the car! My mom kept saying “there’s no way we will get our tree up and decorated in this weather” and so we did not have a tree like we usually did on the weekend following Thanksgiving. As Christmas crept closer, still no tree. My dad was teasing that Santa won’t come when the tree isn’t here because the deer wanted to nibble on it and all sorts of funny stories and tales. Then on Christmas morning my mom told me to open the door to my “play room”…and there was the widest, fattest tree I ever saw…all decorated with lots of gifts underneath! Back then we had bubble lights, waxed snowmen and santas hanging on the tree, lots of tinsel and garland and of course, larger (nightlight size) colored bulbs, too. It was magical!
And those are the fond memories of Christmas as a child. Of course, mom always complained years later because as a little girl of 5 or 6 I would ask her for a “jointed doll” (one where I could bend the arms and legs how I wanted) because I was interested in designing dresses and clothes for my dolls….BUT in the early 1950s there were no dolls like that. That one Christmas it was the only thing I wanted and my mom swore that she walked up and down all the streets in downtown Cleveland looking for such a doll at more than 40 stores. I wound up getting a complete art set instead, including my first set of colored chalks and LOTS of paper!
Christmas was truly magical as a kid. And it got better with my own children when they were little, and then again with the grandchildren. Now it’s just fun to sit back and reminisce. I love this season!