Byron News: Our many Christmas traditions are meaningful to me


Santa was escorted by the Sheriff’s Dept. to Byron Town Hall Saturday, Dec. 2. Kids anxious to sit on his lap and go through their wish lists ran out to give him a happy welcome. Cindy Lou Who was on hand to greet families and Santa had his elf helper alongside to hand out candy canes. A spread of a variety of donuts and drinks was on hand to start the day off with a sugar high. Thank you to all who helped make arrangements for another fun party.
I was recently involved in sharing some thoughts on some historical Christmas traditions from the past. Daughters of the Utah Pioneers meet once a month to learn about the pioneer period through journals and artifacts shared by the members. It is an opportunity to remember and honor those who sacrificed to make their way across the plains to begin a new life. Their adventures remind us of the tough stock the men, women and children were as they undertook the unknown journey ahead of them.
The lesson for December touched briefly on Christmas traditions which were few during the pioneer period, but it did give us a few hints on how some of the traditions began that are still being practiced. Martin Luther is credited with noticing how beautiful the stars sparkled through the trees as he walked home through the forest in Germany. He brought in a tree and lit it with candles, and we are still enjoying the twinkle of lights in our homes. In Puritan times, any decorations and traditions brought from England were banned as being rooted in paganism. In Europe, as winter brought the long, dark evenings, much of their Christmas celebrating was sitting around the fire and telling ghost stories.
A Christmas Carol is the most famous ghost story to come from Charles Dickens and be a part of our current culture. Several movies have been made, including a favorite with George C. Scott playing a great Scrooge. I am not sure with our current tech culture that our families would sit still for a reading of “A Christmas Carol,” but I hope they will get to see the classic and not the Disney version, Scrooge McDuck. (Although it is a condensed version.)
It seems as our families get older traditions change a bit. I no longer hang up eight stockings (one for the dog named Dasher) with an orange in the toe to begin the fill. As a young mom, I made felt stockings which I personalized with sequined soldiers for the boys and ballerinas for the girls as well as other Christmasy representations like bells, candles and holly.
Names were sequined at the top. A few years ago, those got passed on to each of the kids. They looked and were pretty dismal compared to what is available today. We trudged through the snow pulling kids on a sled to get a real tree one Christmas. It was memorable through a few pictures, but mostly hard because the kids were little and cold and did not care that we were trying to do what was supposed to be a special family Christmas activity. That tradition didn’t take hold.
But I love trees and that sparkle, and there were times in the past when every room had a tree. Now, I am content to get one tree up and in front of the window where my mom put our tree all of the years I was growing up. In the 60s, my brother (Chuck) purchased a seven-foot silver tree and sent it to us. He had seen it in a department store window in Louisiana where he was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was the first year those trees hit the market, and he knew Mom would love it, so he sent it home for Christmas. She decorated it with pink Christmas bulbs every year and turned on a rotating color light.
After Mom died, that silver tree was at the top of the wish list for many grandkids. Those silver trees made a comeback a few years ago. I have one, and I like the nostalgia of it, but I haven’t unboxed it for a few years. Unless the kids are coming home, things have gotten simpler around here. I now think ahead about taking down and putting away before I decide what to unpack and put up. I think that is a hint about traditions. It is the kids that decide what tradition is by what they carry on to their homes. I love to see what they do with their own families. We had no elf on the shelf, but we did have that song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” to remind us that he knows when we are good or bad.
My growing-up family tradition was opening all the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and then Santa came and left his loot under the tree unwrapped. I assumed that was how Christmas was done. When I got married, I found out not all families chose to do presents that way. I prevailed our first Christmas, and we opened our presents a few days before Christmas and then traveled from school in Provo up here to spend Christmas with the families. Having opened our gifts early, it wasn’t quite the same. So we compromised when the kids came along and allowed a gift opening on Christmas Eve (always PJs), which led to just one more and then another, but a few were left until morning.
Santa picked an area for each kid and put their stocking prominently on top of the other gifts he brought. Nothing was wrapped (didn’t want to overwork the elves). We worked with the kids on trying to think about the gift of giving more than the gift getting, and it was fun to see them try to decide on the perfect gift for their siblings. There were a lot of years that time was spent putting together coupon books of good deeds promised.
The Sears catalog was still a thing when my kids were young. Sears put out a special Christmas edition every year. My youngest, Holly, would spend hours going through that catalog and making her list. She would copy down the page number, the item number, the color, size and any other important information necessary to get to show Santa the right item to leave. I was reminded of that when I asked her daughter, Lily, what she wanted for Christmas. She said, “I will show you. It is on Amazon.” And so, tradition lives on.