Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, the excitement of Christmas was so much different than it is today. Christmas was more of a feeling than of "things." The stores and homes were never decorated until after Thanksgiving. I can remember not putting up a tree until maybe three or four days before Christmas. (My mom waited until then, because the local tree lots reduced them to maybe $2 each, which is all our family could afford). There were four children in our family. My dad worked and mom stayed home. She was the one who "made" Christmas at our house. Homemade cookies and date and nut bread were gifts we gave to family and friends. On Christmas we each got one gift - usually pajamas, a new pair of mittens (of course, a toy, doll or game when we were younger).
Back then, Christmas was fun and exciting. The school play was practiced for weeks before the big performance. Christmas carols were sung during practice for Christmas Day. You weren't bombarded with songs and TV commercials telling you what you needed to make it a wonderful Christmas. We knew it would be wonderful, just because it was a special day. Going to church in the morning and hearing all those glorious Christmas songs being sung, the smell of the real Christmas trees in church, and seeing everyone all dressed up and wishing you a "Merry Christmas."
We would have a Sunday-type dinner at noon, then it was off to grandma's (just two streets away - a short walk) to deliver her the poinsettia. In turn she treated us to some cookies and candy and a dime or a nickel to take home for our piggy banks.
Bernice Sedlmayer’s eighth-grade class at St. Hedwig’s School performing the Christmas play. Sedlmayer is shown portraying Mary in the manger scene, along with her classmates.
When we got a little older (maybe 10 or 11) we were allowed to go shopping "downtown." With probably two or three dollars in our purses, we were able to buy gifts for the whole family. Ludlum's, Kresge's, Sidey's, West Drug Store, the House of Charm, the Hat Box, etc., all lined Fourth Street, Main Street and Central Avenue. It was a shopper's paradise. After all our money was spent, we would come trudging home just as it started to get dark, and everyone would be turning on their Christmas lights. Our paper bags (no plastic back then) would start to get a little soggy as we walked home in the snow. But it was quiet and peaceful and we were so excited at all the treasures we found.
Then it was time to wrap those treasures going down to the basement to find wrapping paper (left from previous Christmases). We saved the paper from year to year and had to be careful not to rip our gifts open, knowing that paper would be used again and again.
That was Christmas at our house. It was fun, exciting and we had everything - each other. I'll never forget what my little sister once said to my dad.
"How come you never buy us any presents?" (He didn't do the shopping).
Dad replied, "You kids have Christmas every day."
Now we know what he meant. There wasn't a day that we went to bed hungry, didn't have clean clothes to wear or a mom and dad to come home to every day. And to this day we are still lucky to have each other.
Bernice (Lanski) Sedlmayer