Christmas day was coming. Helen, William, Woodrow and Virginia, the children, were full of excitement and anticipation. They were all going to the church doin’s, and then for a five-mile ride from home along Drake Creek Rd. to deliver gifts to Aunt Valeria, Aunt Annie and Uncle Pierce Richards, cousin Eunice, her husband Wrightman and their son, cousin Darrell. The gifts were simple, homemade and inexpensive. There were brown paper bags of fudge, tied with festive red ribbon bows, Pies and a cake, some canned blackberries, and a jar of canned peaches for each person. The lids were covered with colorful cloth, also tied with ribbon bows. Papa had whittled and finished a hickory shaft for Pierce Richard’s hay fork, broken during the third cutting of hay. For Eunice and Aunt Annie he made inlayed picture frames, and for Aunt Valeria, he selected a special tree bent by God in the perfect shape to fashion her a cane. He had noticed she was often carrying a broom or mop to support herself, she was being cagey thinking no one noticed. These things were either necessary or simple luxuries to be given to loved ones at Christmas time. No more was expected, and the gifts received were similar, and very much more appreciated, because the thought and effort were really the gifts.
The church doin’s began with the song leader leading the flock in the singing of carols. The preacher read the gospel of Luke and Matthew, as a children’s play illustrated the nativity. Afterward, the children were admonished to be very quiet and hide their eyes. Sounds were heard and when they were told to open their eyes, a tree that was hidden behind a sheet totally decorated with unheard of ornaments of glass and metal tinsel were radiant for all to see. Seated in a chair, that looked suspiciously like the Reverend’s, but covered with a red throw, sat Santy Claus. He was a fat jolly, old elf who, “like the poem states,” laughed, in-spite of himself. In a large sack at his feet he pulled out packages and called the names of those on the present. Each child came forth timidly to receive their Christmas gift, a commemoration of the three Magi Kings of the east, Melchor, Gaspar and Beltasar. From their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh given to the infant Jesus at his birth in the manger, became part of the Christmas celebration. The gifts were simple things wrapped in pretty paper, often utilitarian or edible in nature, like the ones at the school party the Friday before. There the Coca Cola representative gave each student pencils and a 12-inch wooden ruler with Coca Cola embossed on them. Sometimes he would bring a camera and take a picture of the class with the teacher, to be sent to the school at a later-date. The School Board would supply the teachers of the one-room schools with an orange mesh bag of hard candy like suckers with a twisted rope handle, peppermint and butterscotch discs, all store bought. This was the most exciting time in school, always accompanied with great delight, laughter, and at the end of the day, the singing of “Silent Night.”
After the church doin’s were over, everyone departed the White Chapel Church for the drive home. The next day, Monday, was Christmas Eve, and the most important day on every child’s calendar. Christmas was celebrated differently according to the custom of each family, but there was almost always a Christmas tree. It was usually a Red Cedar or Loblolly Pine, cut on the farm and stood in a bucket of sand or rock, or a cross was nailed to the underside of the stump as a stand. William cut the tree and stood it in the parlor, what we now call a living room.
(Read Part 2, next week and find out about Christmas morning.)