White Christmas

Posted on 09 December 2011

“We are products of our environment.”  This maxim accounts for the way that we relate to the world around us.  As a child growing up in the Great Depression, and as a young man serving his country during the Second World War, these events have colored the way that I view the world as well as how I look back upon it, particularly now, as the holidays approach.

Fraught with hope, the phrase, “Peace on Earth, good will toward men” held special significance for me.  With our nation’s economic resources depleted, I wished these things for everyone, including my own family.  Although our circumstances were reduced, my family still managed to make the holidays special for my brothers and me.

Our holiday season began on Thanksgiving Day with a gathering at my maternal grandfather’s Barber Shop, where we feasted on soup to nuts to a rare treat, ice cream.  After Thanksgiving, my parents took my brothers and me to Center City in Philadelphia.  There, we pressed our noses against the gaily-decorated windows of department stores and consulted with Santa Claus, who we clued in as to what toys we’d hoped to find under our Christmas tree that year.  We were sure to tell Santa that we had been good all year, for our parents had warned us that if we were naughty, old St. Nick would leave us lumps of coal in our stockings!

After visiting with Santa, my parents would treat us to a meal at Horn & Hardart’s Automat.  For those of you who have never visited the Automat, this was a cafeteria-type chain of restaurants that served good, inexpensive American fare, but not by humans.  The food was displayed behind glass panels.  You selected what you wished to eat and lifted the panels to retrieve your food.  A cashier rang up your purchase and you settled in for a quick and tasty meal.

Black Friday was non-existent.  Department stores extended their closing times for the Christmas season, but the average family was more concerned about putting food on their table than they were with buying gifts. They were also concerned with honoring the holiday in the way that it was intended: as a religious celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Most Christians displayed nativity scenes in their homes along with fir trees and decorations.

When World War II erupted, it forever changed our lives, especially during the holiday season.  Many families had a loved one in uniform serving far away in strange parts of the world.  Songs like, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” still remind me of the time when I was serving overseas, thinking of home.  Unfortunately, 400,000 American soldiers never lived to keep the promise of the song title.

Today, Christmas is under attack.  God suddenly has been usurped by political correctness and the phrase, “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the bland, ‘Happy Holidays.”  The peace and harmony of Christmas is only demonstrated by the faithful.  With them lie the hopes of the world for peace on earth and good will toward men, women, and children.

God willing, I will spend this coming Christmas with my family, celebrating the birth of the newborn King of the World.  I’ll be wishing our readers a very Merry Christmas and dreaming of the White Christmases I used to know, just like the old song says:

Where the tree tops glisten,

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells

In the snow.

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,

With every Christmas card I write.

May your days be merry and bright.

And may all your Christmases be white!




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2 Responses to “White Christmas”

  1. Callie says:

    We were just having this Happy Holiday discussion earlier this week.
    If you are not Christian and if someone says have a Merry Christmas just say you too. This whole situation has been blown so out of proportion. As kids I remember we so used to look forward to putting on our annual christmas concert at school and singing all the wonderful songs.
    I remember as a child when we visted Santa we got some hard candy, an orange and peanuts in the shell.
    Christians should not be prohibited from enjoying their special day with restrictions.

  2. Karen says:

    What a wonderful recollection. I can see, smell and feel lots of it from my own childhood. Horn & Hardart, what a treat.
    You were so fortunate to have a complete, loving family with grandparents.
    We had just Mom and Dad and they went to great extents to make our Christmases wonderful in years that were very lean.

    Thank you for the real meaning of Christmas and how grateful we should all be.

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