December has come upon us and the images of our Christmas past flood into our memories. It is all around us –the visual barrage of lights, television commercials, the Santa on every corner, music in every store, party after party, present after present. Sometimes it is just too much.
So I ask myself, why do we do it? I don’t remember this as a kid. In recent years, I have begun to slow my pace in hopes to create a much calmer atmosphere for my family to enjoy and to nurture the wonder of the season. Traditionally - we take in the sights – the family drives with hot chocolates to look at the lights. We inhale the scents – the first crack of a Christmas clementine- those July clementines are not as good! The sounds of Christmas carols as we bake the best sugar cookies, yes I have said it – my sugar cookies are the best!
While sipping hot cider and nibbling baked brie, we put up our freshly chopped tree in mid- December –we sit as a family and watch our favourite holiday movies- I still love Holiday Inn and White Christmas the best. We attend church services and visit in person our family and friends. It is really through these interactions that my family traditions were created and memories imprinted into the minds of my children. Isn’t this the way for all traditions? An activity repeated year after year so much that it just becomes a part of who you are.
As a community museum curator, I am vividly aware that it is my job to capture and hold onto the traditions and stories of our community, so that I may speak of holiday pasts through the exhibits and programs created. I am the community “story keeper”.
Christmas Book, 1911
This time of year is magical and reflective, I find myself gazing at the few Christmas artifacts we have and I imagine the memories created while they were enjoyed in homes. The things left behind have the power to make you wonder…and that is what I love about this job.
Recently we received a strand of 1940’s Christmas lights. There isn’t a significant story of great County history attached to it, no, the story is simple – the lights were used at Christmas for years. These baubles made of celluloid, glass, and tin once wrapped around a family’s Christmas tree, illuminating it- children with saucer-sized eyes gazing upon it with wonder, delight and so much anticipation for Christmas morning. These lights played an important part in adding to their magic of the season.
Christmas tree lights, c1940
I continue my deluge into the collection and spy a Christmas card. A note of seasonal greetings – traditionally sent to loved ones far away. Today much of this reduced to greetings through emails and text messages. I open this lovely card - included is a special message of joy and love. Before the days of instant mail – you would have to wait patiently for the letters to arrive. Oh- the palpable excitement of finding out what was new in the lives of your family and friends. I still get bubbly happy when I open my mailbox to find a Christmas card. I realize that while the card was prepared, for those 2-3 minutes- I was present in the sender’s mind. This time of year is all about the warm and fuzzies, oh yes- the magic of Christmas.
Christmas Card, 1911
How about those games and toys? SO wonderful and powerful – these precious items that put a smile on our child’s face. While the construction of toys has vastly changed, the happiness and frivolity has not. Whether it was a wind up tin train, board game, dress up doll, or if it is today’s Lego and Nerf guns, the excitement of discovering your Christmas toy under the tree has not dampened.
Shirley Temple doll, c1934
Yes, as a curator – I often reflect at the what if’s and can you imagines, but this time of year has me thinking even more. The excitement of the season hasn’t really changed, it transcends time and as I explore the collection of our Christmas past, the truth in this thought is revealed.