Trappings of Christmas

By Clif Knight

The glow and glitter of the Christmas season will again be displayed in Hartselle Thursday evening when the Kiwanis Club’s annual Christmas parade works its way through the downtown business district.

Thousands of viewers, wrapped in heavy clothes and warm blankets to ward off the cold air, will stand in awe as the trappings of the holiday season pass in review. They will witness the sights and sounds of colorful amateur floats, high school marching bands, decorated antique cars and tractors, emergency response vehicles and the arrival of Santa Claus. He will greet onlookers from atop the city’s No. 1 fire engine and will be followed by helpers carrying bags of candy for distribution to the kids.

Those missing the parade still have plenty of time and many ways to rekindle their holiday spirit: help decorate the family Christmas tree, drive around town and check out the outdoor decorations, shop for gift items from local storeowners or purchase gifts for children of needy families.

I am reminded the Christmas season was not nearly as big on decorations and gift buying when I was a farm boy more than three-quarters of a century ago.

Adults gave little or no thought or conversation to Christmas, outside of the church I attended, before Thanksgiving. Us kids knew Christmas was coming soon when the Sears & Roebuck catalog arrived. It was the hottest item in our house, and its toy pages were worn thin by the time we settled on our gift lists. Of course, we were told not to set our expectations too high because there would not be much money for Christmas.

We cut and decorated our Christmas tree on the last Saturday before Christmas. It was a 5- or 6-foot cedar tree that grew on a fence row or ditch bank on our farm. Decorations were handmade. Garland was made from colored strips of paper that were held together with paste and made into a chain. We also used strings of popcorn, and dried sweet gum burs were wrapped in tinfoil liners of cigarette packages and hung as ornaments.

The only store-bought item used was a package of icicles, purchased at the 5&10 store for 10 cents. The star at the top was made from tinfoil wrap.

Despite its lack of lights, us siblings always ranked the tree as the prettiest we’d ever seen.

The highlight of our Christmas season was the birth of Christ, which was recreated from the words of the four gospels and produced by the leaders and youth of our church.

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