Salisbury Elementary, where I attended school, had a Christmas party with two one act plays, poems, and songs. A Christmas tree would be found and chopped down a few days before Christmas by the older boys. It would be hauled into the building and decorated with hand me down ornaments from the teachers and a few parents. There would be a few lights, tinsel, and other seasonal decorations. But, to us, it looked like a first class job. Usually, a few parents, family, and friends of students would come to the show. It is difficult at best to turn a two room school into a theater and we did not really try. Students would practice briefly each day after Thanksgiving to prepare for the show. The one act plays would usually have only 4 or 5 parts and older students along with those with the best memories would usually be selected for the plays. Older students would recite longer poems since they were harder to remember. The school would be minimally decorated by the teachers. On the day of the show, the last day of school before Christmas break, the front room, which housed the first through fourth grades, would be rearranged with a clothesline strung across the room a few feet from the dividing wall. Sheets would be donated by mothers temporarily and they became the curtains. Two of the oldest and tallest boys would be selected to draw the curtains. As many chairs as necessary would be jammed into the remaining space with a respectful clearing left for the pot bellied stove and water bucket.
A few classic Christmas songs would be sung in faltering but lusty voices. Children would recite several poems and "Twas The Night Before Christmas" was always a big hit. Then the plays would be produced with the typical poor quality amateur acting, few if any costumes, and universal approval no matter how bad the overall production might be. When the plays were over, gifts would be passed out. We would have drawn names for gifts a week or two before the date. There would always be a few children whose parents were too poor to allow their children to draw names. A few others would allow their children to draw names but the gift would be a box of chocolate covered cherries which could be bought for less than fifty cents in those days. Nearly every child hoped that their name was not drawn by a giver of chocolate covered cherries. There were also always small gifts for every child from the Caney Creek Community Center at Pippa Passes, KY. The Community Center was a non-profit organization which had been founded by Alice Lloyd of the college of the the same name. These gifts would generally be age and gender appropriate but minimal and had been donated by people hundreds of miles away. Then the Christmas vacation would begin.
|Chocolate Covered Cherries|
|Bagged Mixed Nuts|
Even if we had not been able to kill a hog at Thanksgiving, we usually had weather cold enough by Christmas and fresh pork was usually a staple at Christmas dinner. Turkeys might or might not be served and were usually commercial products if they were. Very few people in my area grew their own turkeys. Much of the Christmas dinner might be home grown and local recipes prevailed.
Christmas was also a time when many of the relatives who had migrated to the industrial north would come home for visits. But the numbers at Christmas were usually lower than at Thanksgiving due to weather concerns. Also, many of them who had children of their own preferred to stay in their own homes for Christmas. Gifts were always opened in our house on Christmas morning. A few people opened theirs on Christmas Eve. But I was generally told that waiting till Christmas morning was better since it taught some impulse control and also allowed time for Santa Claus to come. We usually left out some milk and cake or cookies for Santa until I was old enough to know that he was a fictional character. In the store, there would always be new Coca Cola Santa advertising each year. It would usually contain at least one stand up cardboard Santa. I often wonder how much antique value we burned in the garbage each year by destroying the Coca Cola Santas at the end of the holidays.
|Coca Cola Santa Claus|