Below are childhood Christmas memories from friends of mine.
Tom Hildreth grew up in Holyoke, Mass. Tom’s father was a Merchant Marine and was often at sea and therefore Tom didn’t see a lot of his father growing up. Here Tom remembers one Christmas when his father was home for the holiday.
“My Christmas recollection goes back to when I was very young, around 4 or 5 years of age. It was Christmas Eve, and my family was walking up the sidewalk to our grandparent’s apartment. There was about an inch of snow on the ground, and more snow was coming down. My brother and sister and I crunched along behind our mother. This Christmas was a bit different than most, as my father was home briefly from his job aboard freighters of the Merchant Marine. He walked along with her, a large man I saw intermittently during my young life. I’m sure my mother was delighted with his presence. This was our family, and we were happy. I’m sure my dad departed once again soon after the holidays.”
Lee Decatur grew up in Exeter, N.H.
“I must have been about 6 years old when the Santa Clause thing was getting a little old and I had to still believe, although I was beginning to have my doubts. On Christmas morning in 1947 after the tree and unwrapping the presents to see what Santa had brought, which included new steel runner sleds, my older brother and I ventured outside to try the new sleds on the new five to six inches of snow that had fallen during the night. Snow in the seacoast area of New Hampshire is usually heavy and wet this time of year. We gazed up to the peak of the rather large barn and up near the top we saw where ‘Santa’s sleigh’ left tracks (Actually where the snow had slid a little due to its weight and left parallel cuts).
“You know there were two little boys who were made believers right on the spot. It must have made an impression on me because this memory came back after 70 years.”
Peter’s memory from 1958
“I must have grasped the gift getting part of Christmas at a tender age. I knew Christmas came after the leaves fell, and being precociously logical, I remember going along the road by our house pulling leaves off branches I could reach to hasten the holiday….
“We could open our stockings before breakfast, and along with the orange in the toe, there was candy including foil wrapped chocolate coins (ask Dan about those) and (now unimaginable) chocolate cigarettes… Don’t forget the animal crackers and small toys including snowmen made out of seemingly miles of tightly wrapped paper ribbon that concealed trinkets and left the house looking like 5th Avenue after a Macy’s parade, and wind-up robots that marched along table tops and stopped or turned at the edge and did not fall off….
“Many years we had an extended family ‘tree’ and dinner at Windy Hill with the traditional roast beef and (my favorite) Yorkshire pudding – along with Mom’s special rolls, and springerle, and braided Christmas bread – yes, good memories.”
Little Ronnie Patch
I remember helping my mother making pies for Christmas. I intently watched as she threw the ingredients together. She hardly had to measure anything. She knew how much she needed.
Anyway, this time I watched her sprinkle the counter with flour and remove the dough from the bowl and start rolling it out. It was fun to watch her roll out the dough. Every now and then she would sprinkle more flour on the dough and roll it out more. She would roll the dough till she had the thickness she wanted.
When the dough was rolled out to her satisfaction, she placed a pie plate upside down on the rolled dough. Using a dull knife she cut around the outside of the pie plate. Presto she had the bottom crust. Sometimes she would use a top crust but not always.
Either way there were always scraps of pie dough left over. This is where I came in. I would gather up the dough scraps and roll them into a ball and then I started rolling out the dough with the rolling pin. Once I had rolled the crust out thin enough it was my turn to cut the pie dough. I cut strips of dough about an inch wide. Then, in a small bowl I mixed up some sugar and cinnamon, maybe two teaspoons of each.
Next I spooned the cinnamon mixture onto the strips of pie dough. Then I carefully rolled the strips to make cinnamon rolls. Placed on a cookie sheet and baked for maybe ten minutes.
“Here Dad, try one of these.” He made as big a deal out of it as was possible for him.
My mother made excellent pies and bread but her doughnuts were to die for. I remember one of my mother’s pie making secrets. Using her fingertips dipped in milk and just before the pie went in the oven she would lightly sprinkle the top crust with a little milk. Try it.
Ken Barrett also remembers making cinnamon rolls. But Ken best remembers eating the pie dough raw.