Christmas

My earliest Christmas memory is of a natural cedar tree in our main room.  The tree had been cut from our farm.  We had decorated it with popcorn, which we strung on a sewing thread with a needle.  Natural red peppers had also been sewn on a sewing thread in the same way.  In addition, using crayons we had made strings of colored (bright) paper, which were sewn together into intersecting circles.  With the popcorn strings running around the tree, the colorful red peppers and the colored paper all mixed together.  We thought the tree was quite handsome.

The idea of a Santa was never encouraged at our house.  We knew where the presents came from, and we knew what to expect.  Our Christmas morning treats were always placed in the seat of our cane bottom straight chairs.  The usual fare in each chair, with no discrimination, was one or two apples and oranges, about a half dozen pecans, a handful of raisins,and a piece of peppermint candy.  The gifts might be enhanced with a homemade doll for the girls and a sling shot for the boys.  Usually there were no purchased toys.  Although this may seem spartan to today's celebrants, it was a highly anticipated and enjoyed occasion.  The joy of Christmas is not in the abundance of gifts, but in the anticipation.

One of the major enjoyments of Christmas was our food.  Mother always prepared three cakes, coconut, peppermint, and black walnut.  Due to the cost of sugar, sweets other than homemade syrup were somewhat a rarity.  In addition, there was always something a little extra to eat, maybe chicken and dressing, or cold canned peaches to go with the cake.  Invariably, we also popcorn balls and homemade peanut candy, each made from our supply of homemade syrup.

I remember a special toy we received one Christmas.  Aunt Ozella had purchased some one-shot toy cap pistols.  I can still remember the joy we had playing cowboys and injuns in the sage patch and shooting the one-shot cap pistols.

One unusual Christmas practice that seems to have wholly disappeared is dumb setting.  The dumb setter would dress himself, or herself, in unusual clothing, and cover the face.  They would visit a neighbor.  When asked in, they would seat themselves without saying a word-hence, the term 'dumb setting.'  Perhaps 'mute setting' would be more appropriate.  The game was for the household to try and identify the visitor with no help from him.  Sometimes three or four people would go together with no one uttering a sound.  I don't know where this custom arose, but in today's frightening society you would be foolish to allow an unknown person to enter the house.  You can be a lot more trusting when you have little to tempt a thief.

One additional Christmas practice was to go serenading.  Usually a large group of revelers would all dress outlandishly and put covers on their faces.  They would go from house to house making noise and generally acting in a celebrating fashion.  Oddly, I never knew of any local singing of Christmas carols other than in church.

As mentioned in another chapter, the local Baptist church usually did not have Sunday School.  However, a Methodist Church called Wilson's Chapel did have Sunday School.  At Christmas they would offer a Christmas play, in which poorly prepared actors usually took part.

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