We’ve entered the holiday season, that magical time of the year that causes a child’s eyes to light up with wonder as they spy houses decorated with Christmas lights, trees with boughs hung with baubles galore and of course the sight of that old jolly elf – Santa.
A slew of community Light Up nights have taken place across the region bringing Santa to our communities to listen as children whisper their secret wishes for the holiday in his attentive ear.
For many a year as a child, I would visit the Falls Creek fire hall and patiently stand in line for my turn to talk to the legendary jolly man. Every child would be given a stocking filled with treats. Some of the treats were edible as in candy and fresh fruit others were little items such as pencils, note pads, keychains and whistles.
By today’s standards it doesn’t sound like much but it meant the world to us kids. The fire hall would be bustling with activity on those Saturday mornings as the children filed through to get a chance to talk with Santa and receive their treat. Today, of course, there are breakfasts and even brunches planned for area children to have time with Santa Claus.
There always comes a time when as a child we think we’re too old to visit Santa and sit on his knee as we tell him what we want for Christmas. Even so, I can still remember as a young teenager asking my younger brother to bring me home a stocking filled with treats when he went to see Santa at the fire hall that December. As an adult I’m surprised that he actually did bring me home a treat-filled stocking and that someone didn’t tell him it was only for those in attendence.
The treats in those stockings often mimicked what we would receive at home on Christmas morning. We’d lay our stockings on the back of the couch or a chair and by morning they’d be bulging with goodies. A very large apple and an orange of a similar size. They were so large I often wondered how Mom was able to get them in the stockings, which by the way were homemade. Mom had sewn one for my older brother and one for me with our names on them. When I see them today, they look so small, especially the opening. I wonder even more how she was able to get the apple and orange into them. Must have been one of those Mothers Defying the Laws of Gravity thing or something. You know those seemingly impossible things that mothers always seem able to accomplish.
Now that I’m in Brookville and getting ready for Victorian Christmas I discovered that getting apples or oranges at Christmas was something done in England. While the wealthy could afford handmade toys, the poorer people could not and so apples, organges and nuts were given as gifts at Christmas.
Getting back to Santa’s arrival, it was always something I looked forward to and once I was an adult and had a niece and nephews I wanted them to experience that same amazement and joy.
One year my parents and I took my oldest nephew to Brookville during Victorian Christmas so he could see Santa. He was just a little tyke at the time and so the trip went well. As he got older, he began asking questions about the different Santas.
You know the one.
“How come there is a Santa at this store and also at the next one we go to?”
The answer, of course, is that Santa has many helpers that he sends out dressed like him to hear all the Christmas wishes of every child. He needs the help because there are so many children and only one of him. They all report back to him, but you never know when it will be the real Santa.
When the next two youngsters came along – a nephew and a niece (cousins who were less than a month apart in age), meeting Santa didn’t go as well.
This time my brothers and their familes were visiting my parents. A friend of the family dressed up as Santa Claus came to visit the children. My niece and nephew must have been about 3 or 4 years old at the time.
The visit caused mixed reactions. My nephew went to Santa with no problem. Pulled his snowy white beard and was given a small candy cane. But my niece was having none of that. She wasn’t going anywhere near this strange man with the white hair and beard, wearing a red suit. No matter how we coaxed her or demonstrated that Santa was OK, she wasn’t getting close.
Even now as I think about that night, I have to smile.
That happens a lot at this time of year. Old memories are found in watching a child talk to Santa, in looking at the houses decorated for the holidays, and in the aromas of Christmas that can be found in a variety of candles and goodies at this time of year. And each memory brings a smile as I look back, waiting to feel that childlike wonder once more.
I think my Christmas wish this year would be that we all have a chance to feel that sense of wonder once more this holiday season, if even for a moment. To let go of the hustle and bustle of filling shopping lists and gift lists, of baking a multitude of cookies to share, and planning holiday parties – all the things we do as adults in the weeks prior to Christmas. If everyone would just stop for a moment, remember what it felt like when we were children and the holiday season was just beginning and recapture that sense of wonder and anticipation that was such a part of the fun. Wouldn’t that be absolutely wonderful!