This Christmas memory piece was written by our family friend, Ivan Lancaster, and first appeared in print in the Nostalgia News II, Newsletter of the Johnson County Museum, Vol. 3, No. 2, December, 1993.
With Mr. Lancaster’s permission, we at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, have made it available to you in its entirety.
I have always spent Christmas on Pearl Street in Trafalgar, Indiana. The picture on the front page was taken on my first Christmas, in 1942. (Shows toddler Ivan lying on his side, eyes closed, beneath the branches of a Christmas tree.) I had to be asleep, because my mother took a time exposure without artificial light.
For many years, our Christmas dinner was at our home. As my uncles married and built their homes, we began to take turns. Today, the dinner is at our home every other year.
My immediate family gathers every Christmas at our home, about mid-morning, for the youngest generation to open their socks. Their socks are hung on the mantel every year, and Santa fills them, usually after midnight Christmas morning. Then we await the several members of our extended family and friends to arrive for dinner, or we prepare to journey about 2 miles to either an aunt or uncle’s home or one of our first cousins’ home. Being an old English family, we always conclude our gathering with the drinking of steaming Wassail. We have practiced this custom for many years.
Later in the afternoon, our immediate family goes to our farm, where my youngest brother lives, and we have our gift exchange.
The Christmas tree is a special part of our holiday decorations. Many of the ornaments have been on our tree during all of my time. Others are several years older. A few of the glass ornaments are about a hundred years old.
When I reflect on Christmas past, I am reminded of a doll bed and two tin-headed dolls made by my grandfather and grandmother, W.W. and Bessie Frances Taylor Hollandbeck, as Christmas gifts for my mother, when she was a young girl. She was given one doll one year and the second one the next Christmas. They became known as Old and New Daisey. They sleep peacefully in our attic, dreaming of Christmas past. They are now almost eighty years old. We also have a 2 1/2 foot tall feather tree, which belonged to my father when he was a boy, over eighty years ago.
When my brothers and I were children, we put on pageants on Christmas Eve for the members of the household. In 1957, Jerry was the baby Jesus in Mother’s doll bed, and John was Mary, the mother of Jesus. I was a clergyman. These were held on the stairway landing. One year, John gave a piece he had learned for Sunday School. I still remember it:
“It’s getting to be Christmas
The geese are getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you don’t have a penny a half penny would do,
If you don’t have a half penny,
God Bless You!”