Amid all the frenzy and chaos of todayís commercial Christmas atmosphere, many Lakeway Area residents still hold fond memories of Christmases of their youth. In decades past, presents were far from the most important part of Christmas.
More than anything, Christmas was a time for family gatherings. There was usually a special meal, lots of talking and storytelling, often some music, and the true meaning of the day was remembered in various ways.
An entire house could be filled with the scents of a motherís or, more likely, a grandmotherís cooking. Aunts pitched in, of course. Every cook had a special dish that would be on the table at dinner, to be followed by a variety of pies and cakes.
In rural areas, the food was mostly homegrown. Vegetables had been canned months before and the meat was usually pork, freshly butchered. Wild blackberries, apples and peaches went into the pies and cobblers.
If children got presents, it was often only one. That one was more than likely something a child needed, like new clothes. Chances were good the presents came from a catalog order.
For many kids, the big Christmas treats came at church, usually the Sunday before Christmas. Even small country churches managed to put together bags that contained some candy, a few nuts, and either an orange or an apple. It was a very big deal to have all those goodies. Once home, they were shared with adults, at least a little.
Town families followed the same basic patterns as their county kin. The only differences were where the food came from and there might be a few more presents. In towns, groups would go out to sing carols in neighborhoods, stopping at every house. Homeowners would reward the singers with hot chocolate and sometimes a snack.
In those long ago days, schools considered Christmas programs part of the season. There were always school plays or programs with parents, other relatives and neighbors invited. There would be a reading of the Christmas story from the Bible by an older student, while the younger ones recited poems or sang. Of course, the highlight of the program was acting out the arrival of Christ by students.
It was a special honor to be chosen to play the parts of Mary or Joseph, while the rest of the student body became shepherds or the wise men. The dialogue in those plays came straight out of the Bible. The King James Version, of course.
Youngsters often took part in two Christmas plays. Besides the one at school, a nearly identical one would be held at church. The participants would have different roles in each. In both, the baby Jesus was a doll provided by one of the girls.
Was Christmas better back then? Those who can remember will usually say yes, it was. People were not bombarded with holiday advertising for two months or more ahead of time. Kids didnít expect tons of gifts but deeply appreciated those they did get. It was a relaxed time, not the frantic scenes we see today.
People remembered Christmas existed to celebrate the birth of Christ, first and foremost. They also enjoyed family time for the simple sake of being together.