Just wondering if there are others who would like to share their memories of Christmas past. As for bargains and toys: I remember times in my childhood when crayons and a coloring book was all I got for Christmas.... and I was happy. My doll baby was made of rubber and the arms, legs, and head could pop off and be reattached. I had to share toys with my younger sisters, who were ages 2 and 1 when I was 7, so my dolly lost her clothes and baby bottle. I learned how to take brown bags and bread wrappers and dress her. Snuff tins, saved by kinfolk, and tobacco bags (for pipe tobacco) and baby jars where the stuff of tea-sets and playing house. A slop jar was under the bed for night time potty runs.... and a out house was used by day even on the coldest day..... in Johston County NC. Dailly morning task was pumping a fresh bucket of water from the hand pump out front... from which we'd take turns at a enamel basin to wash hands and face and dress for school. We had electricity... which was a help for boiling water for a tub bath in the kitchen... and for cooking. We had a radio and that was our only entertainment/media. I had cousins all around... one lived in Raleigh and she had fur coats, and sweaters, and bought the latest rock magazines and 45 lps and had a record player and a bonnet type hairdryer, and took ballet lessons. I was grateful for the clothes she passed on to me to wear, and also for the clothes my mother and grandmother sewed for me and my siblings. She (my first cousin..2 years older than me) loved to visit us in the country..... though it upset her parents if she got dirty.... because we didn't have much grass.... and the yard was swept..... can anyone imagine that! I enjoyed my visits with her.... but I was bored as all she could talk about was rock stars and actresses which she had papered her walls with their pictures, and boys and makeup..... Back home, I was used to talk about homework and school and home work, and adult conversation which took place between mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and adult visitors: this was more interesting to me, when I wasn't shooed out to play with brothers and sisters. Christmas was an occassion for lots of cooking and cookies and yummy homemade fruit cakes and eggnog... sometimes with a little touch of 'nog'....lol...not exactly Baptist-kosher: Oh yes.... the wassail with oranges and juices and spices was served, even to the children, in tea cups. A Christmas treat included oyster dressing...yummy with lots of giblet gravy. I'm glad children can have more today.... but the pressures are against them and their parents to find ways to do with what they have and be happy with it when so many around them have more.... and the difference of being included in the events and social activities of others often means having some material things incommon with them. The sweetest Christmas of all was not the year we lived in Norfolk and my brothers and I got bikes: It was the next year when my Dad had retired from the service and was back home with us. Mother confided in me, a girl of 12, that we had nothing for Christmas that year... that it might be just the younger ones remembered: They'd sold the house in Norfolk, Dad had cashed in his life insurance... and we were trying to out bid others on a farm which we would have to pay off.... with most of the land unbroken and no tractor, and an old farm house with fire places for heat, no plumbing, and no closets. Mercy! I think of those times and how much work.... but joy we had together.... and it is hard to realize now..... but we really did live well..... but, by the standards of today.... we might have been removed from our parents by social services and placed in foster care..... simply 'cause we had no indoor plumbing or cause my brothers had to help chop fire wood and we all helped to bring it in. Anyway, that Christmas, I was resolved that I would be happy and make the most of what I got... expecting nothing: My uncle had a drug store, and, unbeknowst to me, invited my parents to look through broken packages and scattered merchandise which was no longer fit to sale: Out of the loot they salvaged..... I got a paddle ball.....the kind with a rubber band attaching it to the wooden paddle, two pairs of nylon pajamas, a brush and a comb. My brothers and sisters got things too..... but I don't remember what they got..... I was so surprised and taken back by having gotten something unexpected. By this time I had known that 'santa' really wasn't and my parents were the givers for 2 years..... but continued to keep this secret for years later, until one day.... with the others well into their teens, one let it slip that they knew 'the secret' and the folks found out. Still, the charade of Christmas gifts continued past the time I left home. The celebration of our LORD's birth and his sacrifice, and the humbleness of his life wasn't lost in these circumstances of my experiences as a youth. Actually, I thought of myself and my family as being as rich as any: As people will compare themselves among themselves.... though it isn't wise.... as a youth I knew there were children at school that got help and free lunches at school. I knew there were some families that got 'commodities' of cheese, peanut butter, oatmeal, grains, and powdered milk for their families. Sometimes when we picked vegetables for a family that stopped by....... they might bring us a portion of cheese or a box of powdered milk as a 'gift' in exchange for what we'd given them. Once a week, I could get a hot lunch in the cafeteria for washing dishes and wiping tables.... which broke the monnotony of bagged lunches. The hardship of these times didn't last as long as it might seem in this self report because the LORD bless my Dad and his efforts.... we paid off the farm, daddy got a second job...working at a fibers plant. Still, I remember the difficulty of that first and subsequent Christmas season (after Dad's retirement from the Navy) with some of its expectation when at school we had a name exchange for gift giving.... and the same was duplicated at Sunday School and in some other organizations which we participated in. Knowing that 'a $5 dollar gift limit was being duplicated by 5 children in one home, where none of us saw that much money for lunches or pens, pencils, and paper and we hadn't the money to spend on each other or our folks..... or even to give at church.... has soured me on the material aspects which this season has taken on. I can actually remember wishing I could skip Sunday School and some club meetings at that time of the year..... because the money we took in on the farm went for family necessities.... but it was like other people expectations made a drain on us.... and I knew if it was difficult for my family.... it was also difficult for some other families. It was sad to see some children come to school in patched clothes and barefooted in warm weather and realize their families were struggling to let them participate in the expectations of the season to give gifts. I remember the hospital where I used to work. When I first started there it seemed many of the local churches and organizations remembered the mentally ill and gave baskets of oranges, apples, and nuts and the patients enjoyed the treats and felt remembered. Gradually, they got forgotten: Even staff seemed to get caught up in staff celebrations with lots of homemade and store bought treats... but the patients got remembered by their families... if they had any left...or by the local mental health organizations. Some of us contributed to include the patients at Christmas.... but it was just a few staff that did this. As far as the churches are concerned.... I think the increase in nursing homes and assisted living absorbed some of their ministries and outreach...including the Angel Tree Ministry. Now, several of the churches, including the one which I attend, also have ministries to the shut-ins and sick, and struggling families in the community and homeless. As for the staff where I used to work.... I can't say that all were encouraging of the values within the community, and some, frankly, were a bit critical if not repulsed by Christian ministries. Institutions can do so much to bar the civility and outreach of others... to the point of discouragement....... why cast pearls before swine. When I lost my husband, I switched to night shift. We were almost totally forgotten by the staff working days and evenings...who got special meals, and treats served by administration. But one thing we did get to participate in was the distribution of the patients Christmas presents. One year, our shift did an outreach to a family we learned had lost their dad after Thanksgiving. We found out about them through a teacher at one of the schools and got a list of the things the children were hoping to get for Christmas. We wrapped their gifts and delivered them to the teacher at school to see to it that they got them. We never heard a word... but I think, I hope, it added some joy into the sadness of their season and that they felt hope and that someone cared. I hope others will share their memories or impressions from Christmas past.