By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sights, sounds, smells of Christmas
Liberty lore
Placeholder Image
The news has been filled with the many toy recalls with lead paint on them that were made in China.
I told someone the other day we never had to worry about that when we were growing up as the pine ones we used for baseballs and the limbs we used for the bats were not painted. Daddy’s good plow lines were used for jumping rope and they had no paint on them either.
Another Christmas is upon us and as I look back over the many years, I remember when things were so much simpler and the gift of an orange, tangerine and apple was very much appreciated. Today, children would probably not even accept it.
I was racking my brain trying to come up with a Christmas article and thought of some of the sights, sounds and smells I remember from my childhood Christmases at home.
When I think of a Christmas sight, I recall the beautiful tree we had decorated in the corner of the room. This was not a store bought artificial tree that was shaped perfectly. Many times I walked all over our woods and old fields, and other people’s that surrounded our farm trying to find the best little pine tree to chop down and use for our Christmas tree. There were not any cedar trees in our area. Finding one with a lot of limbs on it was the goal. There was not much of a problem stringing the long strand of pretty lights around the tree. After all, it only had 14 large bulbs on it and when one went out, all of them did. They did not twinkle, chase, sing or blink but just shined brightly.  
Two strings of red and green roping and a strand of aluminum foil roping encircled the tree. A dozen large glass balls were hung from the limbs. Icicles finished the decorations on the tree. This was a simple but beautiful tree when it was finished.
I recalled these kinds of Christmas trees the other day when I tried to put together my artificial tree that had lights on it. Gene helped me and finally, frustrated, he snatched it up and took it outside to unload at the dump. I told him I would go out and saw down one of our Leyland cypress trees to use. He knew I was kidding because I simply could not bear to chop down a pretty tree to decorate for a few days.
Sounds of Christmas remind me of the huge peppermint sticks Mama used to buy for us for the holidays. It was as big around as a small teacup. She took the large butcher knife and put the candy stick on the table with the newspaper under it and whacked it into a dozen pieces as equal as she could. We loved that peppermint candy and each of us tried to get the biggest piece. Also, the sound of the rattling of the parchment paper in the big boxes of bonbon candy ordered from Sears and Roebuck cannot be overlooked. What delicious candy that was!
Another sound was the hammer pounding down on the Brazil nuts on the fireplace hearth on Christmas Eve. Every year, Daddy somehow managed to buy a large paper bag full of Brazil nuts. We always looked forward to him bringing these nuts home. If we didn’t share the hammer, we found a half brick and cracked the shells.
Cracking the coconuts my aunt brought us from Miami was another sound I enjoyed. First, the coconuts had to have the thick outer shells chopped off with the ax. Mama did this and then used the ice pick to punch through the little holes that made the face on the coconut. It was turned up over a glass and the clear coconut milk slowly ran out until the glass was about half full. We seven kids passed that glass around and drank a sip each. We were not scared of catching each other’s germs. Finally, she took the hammer and busted the coconut into many pieces and we used a case knife to pry the coconut meat loose from the hull. This was chewy and delicious.
It was not against the law in Georgia to have firecrackers when I was young. Daddy brought home a selection of cherry bombs, sparklers and bottle rockets. We all gathered around in the front yard to watch Daddy as he lit them and threw them up in the air or across the yard. We really enjoyed the one that was called a boomerang firecracker. It would race across the yard, turn around and come back toward you. I was always too scared to light one but did enjoy standing behind Daddy and watching.  
Now, for my favorite sense of Christmas — smell. The smell of a decorated pine tree was nice in the living room. But, the real smells of Christmas came from the kitchen that was connected to the rest of the house by a breezeway. We had a large cast iron stove that used wood for fuel. The stove-wood pile had to be piled high for all the cooking to be done for Christmas. Mama mixed the batter for the “fruitcake” in the old large beige with pink stripe crockery bowl by holding the bowl in the crook of her arm and beating the batter with a big spoon.
The ingredients were not the same ones we use in a fruitcake today. She used fresh oranges, tangerines, bananas and apple slices chopped, plenty of raisins and shredded coconut. There were no pecans to add to the batter. Seven thin layers were baked in a thin iron skillet one at the time and stacked on top of each other without any frosting in between. This was a wonderful cake!
She also baked a chocolate, coconut and apple jelly cake. The chocolate cake was the one we liked best. We all stood around watching with our mouths watering as she dipped the hot chocolate from the iron skillet onto each hot layer as she got it baked.
While the cake layers were baking, there was a large fresh ham in a big pot on top of the stove boiling. When the cake baking was finished the ham was put in a pan and baked until brown and crispy on the outside. Sweet potatoes were baked along with the ham. Fresh pork backbone and rice was always cooked for Christmas dinner. And of course fruit salad was an absolute must.
Recalling these sights, sounds and smells of long ago Christmases have made me hungry for the simple times. I see no reason that Mama, who was 88 years young Dec. 4, cannot get started right now and prepare us a nice Christmas dinner like she used to. Heck, she would not even have to keep putting wood in the stove as hers is electric now. How ‘bout it, Ma?
These are all precious memories I would not trade for all the fine festive things that are available today.
I wish for each of you a very glorious Christmas holiday filled with good health, joy, happiness and peace within your families. Slow down. Never forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas!
Sign up for our e-newsletters