October 17, 2018

Christmas Past, Present and Future

The View from My Hill


Shortly before Halloween this year, I was in one of the local big box stores to check out snow blowers. Last year, mine bit the dust and I knew it was just a matter of time before I would need to clear the snow from my driveway. I am not quite ready to hand over the snow removal duties to a plow guy since I really love being out in the snow. I still feel able to do the job physically, so why not?

So, I was looking around and comparing prices. What caught my eye however was not the shiny red and orange of the snow blowers lined up and ready for inspection, but rather the shiny green and red of Christmas decorations ready to be loaded into shopping carts. It was still October!

This early display of holiday glitter got me thinking about ‘how it used to be’. Cue the groans from the younger generation of readers here.

When I was a kid back in the 50’s and 60’s, it was very unusual to see much of anything related to the December holiday in the stores before Thanksgiving. Many families didn’t even put Christmas trees up until the week before Christmas or even Christmas eve.

Certainly, we never had the opulent displays of holiday lights that we see now either. Back then, Christmas seemed more subdued. We did have Christmas lights, but you would never find an inflatable ten-foot reindeer gracing someone’s front lawn. I am not saying it is a bad thing, it is just different and it reminds me how much changes over the years.

I read an article recently about how many early New Englanders resisted, for the most part, celebrating Christmas. Believing that it was a pagan holiday, the Puritans refused, and even rebuked, those who celebrated. In fact, well into the 18th century, there was little fanfare over Christmas.

Back in the early 1800’s, children were often in school on the holiday and shopkeepers opened their doors. By mid-century, 1856 to be exact, Massachusetts declared Christmas to be a legal holiday. Today, one would be hard-pressed to find a store that is open on Christmas, and certainly there aren’t many schools that are in session.

Following the Civil War, Massachusetts and the rest of New England, finally embraced Christmas the way the rest of the country did. Even then though, Christmas trees were usually table top size. Perhaps to outdo their neighbors, trees slowly became larger in size and had to be set up on the floor. By then, newspapers were commercializing Christmas by advertising decorations for purchase.

By the turn of the 20th century, Christmas was becoming less of a religious holiday and more of a secular one. Some of us still embrace many of the traditions from that era because, at least among the older generation, our grandparents and even our parents were alive then and they passed down many of their ways to us. Not all have embraced the traditions, but many remember them from their own childhood.

In another hundred years, how will Christmas be celebrated? I imagine my future great grandchildren will be around to see it. But how, or even will they, observe it?

Will their grandchildren still write letters to Santa? I bet that kids today would rather text Santa or Facetime him instead of writing a hand-written letter. What will it be like in a hundred years?

Will cookies and milk be left out for the old bearded fellow? Will stockings be hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there? Or will everyone’s security system discourage the visit?

Will the parcels that Santa brings have to go through a security scan like luggage now does at airports before being brought into a house? Or will gifts be delivered by something that evolves from drones?

How will people decorate in a hundred years? I shudder to think how people might decorate. Yet maybe, the trend that bigger is better will be reversed and people will begin to minimize the lights and glitter of the holiday.

In the meantime, instead of thinking about Christmas future, I am thinking I will hold onto my family’s traditions a little tighter for as long as I can. I may read about Christmas past, but I will celebrate Christmas present, and not think too hard about Christmas future.


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