A look at our holidays

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My sister remembers Thanksgiving as being the time of the year that our maternal Grandmother would visit us from Anniston where she lived with and kept house for another of her daughters. Our Grandmother would, in the early years, catch a train and get off at the Big Ridge whistle stop which was located near the place we caught the school bus each day. She never learned to drive as was customary for women at that time, and in later years she rode a bus to visit us or her son-in-law would transport her to our house.

Thanksgiving was also the time of the year that Dad considered to be hog killing time, as the weather was getting cold enough that the meat would not spoil before he could get it salted and in the smoke house to preserve it for the months ahead. Hog killing was usually a community affair when neighbors would come over to help with the butchering, and in turn they would take home a portion of the meat. There was always sausage to be ground and lard to be extracted from the fat. Mother would trim the fat from the meat and place it in an iron wash tub and cook until the lard was rendered out leaving the pork cracklings, which we kids always gobbled up. We ate high off the hog on Thanksgiving as we had that fresh meat to enjoy. We always kept two or three hogs which supplied pork that kept our smokehouse well stocked. 

On Thanksgiving, we also had chicken to eat. One of us boys would catch the big rooster we had fattened up for Thanksgiving, give it to Mother who would wring its neck, and then dress it for the Thanksgiving meal. We never raised turkeys, and Dad would certainly not buy one when we had roosters. There would always be brown gravy and cornbread dressing. Sweet potatoes were always on the menu as well as vegetables which had been canned during the summer. Sometimes Dad would get some bananas and vanilla wafers, and Mother would make a banana pudding for dessert.

NOW

It’s a bad time of the year for turkeys.  

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is a yearly celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is observed on December 25 although it is not known the exact date that Christ was born. In the third century, Clement of Alexandria wrote that it had been determined that the date of his birth was on May 20. Others at that time put the dates April 20 or 21, while others have put the dates as April 18 or 19, March 25, Jan. 2, Nov. 17, and Nov. 20. So why has the date been set for December 25? This is the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar which has prompted some to maintain that Jesus chose to be born on the shortest day of the year, but one where light begins to increase.

Daddy said that there was a 1 in 365 chance that Christ was born on December 25th, but he seriously doubted that it was in mid-winter. He maintained that it was set on that date to compete with a pagan holiday, and he did not consider Christmas Day to be more than any other day, so it was never celebrated in our family as it was with the majority of others. Nevertheless, he said that it was appropriate to remember Christ’s birth, but he never put much stock in doing all the plays and manger scenes prevalent during the Christmas holidays.

Even though dad was not high on celebrating Christmas, we nevertheless considered it our favorite holiday. One main reason for me was that we got a break from school. I welcomed any opportunity to get away from my desk and be able to do things of my liking. We did not expect to get any gifts of great value as with six children, it was a struggle for dad, making $200.00 a month to keep food on the table, clothes on our back and food on the table.

As a child I do not recall that I ever believed in a Santa Clause and one never visited our house. We did not go to public places which might have had a Santa for pictures which is now popular in Malls and businesses. I can remember that when I was told, by the believers in Santa, that on Christmas Eve he would come down the chimney and leave toys that it was nonsense. Coming in December we would have a fire in our fireplace to keep the house warm and there was no way that a person could squeeze down our chimney. Not only that but he would be covered with suet if he was even able to pull it off.