ACCM 2015: The Meaning of Christmas

Today is the twenty-third day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – the Meaning of Christmas – and the focus is on . . .
If someone dropped out of the sky and was unfamiliar with the concept of Christmas, how would you explain it to them? Can you put the meaning of Christmas into words? What does Christmas represent to you and is it different than when you grew up or from the meaning it had for your ancestors? Tell us what Christmas means to you and your memories of Christmases past.

When I thought about this featured topic and the possibility of meeting someone who was unfamiliar with the concept of Christmas, Charlie Brown’s question – “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”- to his friend Linus in the movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, immediately popped in my head! Why did I think of Charlie Brown, and this movie? Well, everything I learned about Christmas and the birth of Christ in my early childhood Sunday School classes were summed up nicely by Linus when he responded to Charlie Brown’s question with this speech from the movie below –

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not:”
[Linus drops his security blanket on purpose]
Linus Van Pelt: “for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”[Luke 2:8-14 KJV]
Linus Van Pelt: [Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. [1]

Yes, Linus’ speech above is an excellent start, but the meaning of Christmas I believe is so much more than this. While surfing the Internet lately I came upon Pastor John MacArthur’s ‘Grace to You‘ website where he sums up the meaning of Christmas beautifully below –

For many, Christmas is the time to think of Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. While the birth of Christ is a special and miraculous event, it isn’t the primary focus. The central truth of the Christmas story is this: the Child of Christmas is God . . . The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to conceal the reality that God was being born into the world.” [2]

The deity of God is clear in n John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Then verse 14 of that same chapter of John continues , “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Source Citation –

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas Quotes. (1990, October 17). Retrieved December 25, 2015, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/quotes

2. MacArthur, J. (2006, October 23). What is the real meaning of Christmas? Retrieved December 25, 2015, from http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA70/what-is-the-real-meaning-of-christmas

ACCM 2015: Christmas Shopping

Today is the eighth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Shopping – and the focus is on . . .
For many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors? Tell us about how you do Christmas shopping and your memories of Christmases past.

I recently asked my older brothers what was Christmas shopping like for them growing up, and both said their trips to the downtown Foley’s Department Store was more like Christmas “window” shopping than buying gifts. There wasn’t a lot of money to spend on gifts back then. So right after their visit with Santa, they would spend hours with my mom browsing and enjoying all the elaborate holiday displays throughout the store. My brother Jon said it was the 100 ft wide window display at the store’s Main Street entrance that captured his attention and imagination the most!

Foley’s Department Store Christmas Displays during the 1950’s

According to Houston Lost and Unbuilt by Steven R. Strom, the elaborate Christmas displays my brothers enjoyed so much above “. . . made downtown Foley’s Department Store a tourist attraction in its own right each holiday season for many years after the store opened in 1947.” [1]

As I think about this feature topic, I don’t remember Christmas shopping trips with my mom. Sure I visited Santa at the downtown Foley’s Department Store just like my brothers. The store was always beautifully decorated, but nothing really stands out in my mind about those shopping trips. Basically, once I told Santa what I wanted for Christmas, some of those items would magically appear under the tree Christmas Day. Once I learned there was no Santa, all shopping for me was done by my parents and older brothers while I was away from home at school or church. The excitement at this point was seeing the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree for me grow each day until I could unwrap them on Christmas Day.

I am not a shopper. I didn’t really get into the groove of Christmas shopping until I had my son, Marcus. When he believed in Santa, I spent a lot of time standing in lines purchasing those beloved Tonka trucks, Legos, and Voltrons in Toys R Us and Kay-Bee Toys. But when he no longer believed in Santa a lot of my Christmas shopping for him and others on my gift list were by catalog. Remember those JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears thick Christmas Catalogs below that came in the mail?

My favorite Christmas Catalogs from the 1980s

Because I’m not a shopper and hate long check-out lines of any kind (which is why I have not shopped in a local Wal-Mart store in 5 years), getting those thick store catalogs in the mail quickly became my preferred way of shopping for the holidays from 1980s through the early 2000s. Thankfully, the Internet has replaced those thick catalogs and 95% of all my Christmas shopping today (or shopping in general) is online. Shopping online has made it possible for me to tap into those great Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales early, as well as, make shopping anytime of the year stress free!

Source Citation –

1. Strom, S. (2010). Foley’s Department Store. In Houston Lost and Unbuilt(pp. 120-122). Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more athttp://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Television and Movies

Today is the seventh day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Television and Movies – and the focus is on . . .
Whether it is the movie It’s A Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas on the telly, what is your favorite television program or movie? What are your memories of first seeing it as a child and did your family have certain traditions related to the show or movie? Are there different versions (such as The Christmas Carol) and have you found modern favorites? Tell us about your favorite Christmas television program or movie and your memories of Christmases past.

When I think back to all the Christmas television shows and movies I’ve seen through the years, I cannot deny my personal favorites today are still those films and shows I watched as a child.

I grew up during the 1960’s. The first Christmas film I remember was the animated TV musical of Charles Dickens’s, “A Christmas Carol” called – Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962).  Remember that TV movie? Yes, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo as Ebeneezer Scrooge visited by three spirits which help him learn the true meaning of Christmas is still my favorite! Other 1960 films I enjoyed were Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), The Little Drummer Boy (1968), and Frosty the Snowman (1969).

1960’s Christmas TV Movies

Besides those animated favorites I mention above, another film I probably watched more than any other holiday comedy classic growing up was Miracle on 34th Street (1947). I was 10 years old and just learned there was no Santa the year I saw this film. So I found the court case surrounding a man who was institutionalized as insane because he claimed to be Santa Claus fascinating. Other Christmas comedies I enjoyed as I grew older were Remember the Night (1940), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) and White Christmas (1954).

Holiday Comedy Christmas Classics

What are some of your favorite Christmas television and movies? Seen any of the films I mentioned? Let me know in the comment section if you care to share!

ACCM 2015: Santa Claus

Today is the sixth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Santa Claus – and the focus is on . . .
Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others? Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.

Santa Claus addresses parade goers atop a Foley’s canopy after the 1960 Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chuck Farmer, Houston Post

My earliest memories of ‘Santa Claus’ began Thanksgiving Day 1961. Dad took me and my brothers downtown and found a great place for us to watch Houston’s annual Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Either on top of dad’s shoulders or sitting on the curb at his feet, I saw for the very first time — giant caricature balloons, decorative floats, motorcades of all sizes, clowns, marching bands, singers, and much more. At the end of the parade Santa Claus appeared and announced to everyone he was coming soon!

After the parade, I would hear the song, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN everywhere.The idea that he kept a list and checked it twice to find out if I’ve been naughty (I was a little mischief-maker at times) or nice — was something I worried about all the time. Even though I saw everyone’s excitement about him coming to town after the parade, the concept of Santa for me at this young age was suspect — if you know what I mean!

Liv with Santa, 1961

I wasn’t comfortable telling him what I wanted for Christmas the first time we met.The look on my face in my 1961 keepsake photo tells it all! But with each passing year, I found sitting on his knee telling him what I wanted for Christmas got easier. I believed in the magic of Santa Claus until I was 10 years old and was a little disappointed when I learned he wasn’t real. Thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last very long because my parents did a great job making sure I grew up knowing “Santa Claus” wasn’t the real reason for the Advent Season!

Taylor Siblings and Santa, 1957-1963

Click to Enlarge Photo!

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more athttp://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Recipes

Today is the fifth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Recipes – and the focus is on . . .
The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it. Post your favorite Christmas recipe and your memories of Christmases past.

Mom’s 1950’s Mirro Cooky Press

Baking cookies was an expected tradition in my home for the holidays! So when we saw mom pull out her 1950’s Mirro cookie press and cookbook (remember this cooking gadget from back in the day?), it wouldn’t be long before the smell of baked sugar, caramel, and peanut butter cookies would fill the air and have us all heading for the kitchen to sample them!

There were 12 different cookie design disks that came with this cooky press. When I asked my brother, Elgin, which cookie design was his favorite, he said he didn’t have one. He didn’t care what the cookies looked like as long as he could eat them fresh and hot from the oven!

Eating freshly baked cookies was a must for my brother Jon, but what those cookies looked like was very important to him too! According to mom, he wanted all of our Christmas cookies to look like dogs. Dogs?! Yep, that certainly sounds like something my brother Jon would want – LOL! But, trust and believe, mom wasn’t having none of that! So as well as a dozen dog shaped cookies, there were Christmas trees, stars, and other festive shapes associated with the holidays baked too!

Mirro Cooky Cookbook, 1950

I don’t remember having a favorite cookie design growing up. What I do remember was hanging around the kitchen to eat any, and all, cookie dough left in the bowl and on the spoon. Mom’s cookie dough (and cake dough too) was so-o-o-o good! When I asked her about sharing some of those great cookie Christmas recipes with me a few years ago, that is when she informed me that the cookies we loved so much came right from the Mirro cookbook that came packaged with the cookie press (which she still has today) all those years ago!

Looking for a simple, yet fun, Christmas recipe to make with the kids for the holiday? Then check out this cookie recipe from the 1950’s Mirro Cooky Cookbook below.  Enjoy!

Caramel Cookies

Time: 10 – 12 mins
Temp: 375 F

1 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of soda

Directions:
Cream shortening; add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly

Add beaten eggs and vanilla extract

Sift flour, soda, and salt gradually, then add to creamed mixture

Fill your Mirro Cooky press and form fancy designs on an ungreased cookie sheet (if you don’t have a cookie press, spoon cookie mixture instead on the cookie sheet)

Bake until cookies are a light golden brown; yields 6 dozen

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.”