Christmas at Our House

Oconee County 1935

Excitement about Christmas started to grow for us four kids about the first of December, although we knew that Mama and Papa had been preparing for Christmas for at least three months. Mama was sewing and making jams, jellies, fruitcakes and other good things to eat for our family and to give as presents to friends and relatives or to take to church that gave them to those who needed something extra for Christmas. Any spare time he had Papa was in the workshop doing something and he wouldn't let us kids in to see what he was going on.

A few days before Christmas three things of importance happened that I remember. Papa would go out in the woods to shoot a wild turkey and cut down a Christmas tree, then several families would load up in the farm wagon and ride around the area of Oconee County where we lived, singing Christmas carols. Papa played the harmonica and several of the other adults played the guitar or violin. We had a good time laughing and singing. This lasted until after dark. Someone said, "It's a good thing the mules knew the way home, even in the dark." I think some of the adults had sampled some of Mama's homemade blackberry wine.

On Christmas Eve Papa would put up the Christmas tree and we all decorated it with popcorn strung together to make a garland and with ornaments that had been made by our ancestors and Mama had a story about each one of the ornaments and who made it. Each year Mama would make an ornament to hang on the tree and then after Christmas she would give it to a relative for their tree and each year and we would usually get one or two from our relatives.

On Christmas morning, a special day at our house, Mama let us kids know why it was special. Not because there was a Christmas tree with some presents, but because it was a celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.

No matter what day of the week Christmas fell on, the routine was like Sunday morning except we didn't have to take a bath unless Christmas fell on Sunday. Before anything else we had breakfast and went to church. Church seemed to be special also; there was Christmas carols and the preacher read from the Bible about the birth of Chris, the three wise men, the shepherds and the bright star that guided them.

Of course us kids were anxious to return home because before we had left for church we had seen the presents under the Christmas tree. Toys were ones made by Papa, a wooden whistle, a scooter, wagon, other fun wooden toys and a metal hoop from a barrel that we could roll with a stick. Mama made dolls for the girls; she also sewed clothes for us. We would receive fruits, candy, and nuts in out stockings. I especially liked the sun dried grapes that Mama made into raisins, they were sweet and tasty. Christmas dinner was Turkey, with stuffing and gravy, sweet potatoes ( Papa had kept these buried under cornstalks so they didn't freeze) and fruitcake for desert.

After a full day of playing, eating and singing we were ready for bed. Mama would tuck us in, sing one last Christmas carol and say prayers with us. We didn't have much money during the depression but we were filled with love for each other and the friends and family who lived near us on McNutt creek.

From the memoirs of Charles W. Brown. Born Nov, 1931 Son of Louise Elizabeth Autry and Joseph A. Brown