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In the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” the composer laments that although he knows it’s a long road back, he promises to be home for Christmas. Reminiscing about the memories of home, he ends with the line: if only in my dreams.
Whether near or far, whether returning home for Christmas or not, Owen countians cherish their memories of that special time of year by sharing traditions with their families, thus preserving their history and heritage.
Heart-warming stories of Christmas abounded at the historical society Christmas party Thursday. When asked to share their fondest Christmas memory, there were a variety of stories, evoking many different emotions. Some of us remember being raised in a house with no central heat, the only warmth radiated by a wood or coal stove in the kitchen.
In cold winter months, a warm breath produced clouds of smoke in the frigid bedrooms.
Carlene Dunavent remembered being told by her parents that it would be a sparse Christmas and she would receive only one gift. They were surprised when Carlene asked for a nice, warm robe to ward off the chill of the cold bedroom.
Teresa Swigert recalled the smell of the cedar trees that were cut and brought into the house to decorate. Today she still displays boughs of cedar in her home in order to capture the aroma of years gone by.
Stella Gibson’s parents hid her gifts, previously telling her that no gifts would be forthcoming if her behavior didn’t improve. Christmas day brought a bundle of switches and a lump of coal under the tree. Imagine her surprise. Eventually, though, she did receive her gifts, but perhaps the following year she was better behaved, at least around Christmas.
President Jeannie Baker remembered the concern of her parents when it was discovered that she had a spot on her lung. She was given a daily dose of cod liver oil (heaven knows what for); and on Christmas the following year, her doctor told her he had a wonderful present for her. Envisioning a huge box wrapped in a red ribbon, imagine her surprise when her mother pulled the upset Jeannie from the doctor’s office, explaining that the present was her healing, not the expected package wrapped in ribbons.
Berta Gayle remembered the whole family bundling up for a ride in the sleigh. She still recalls the snow flying from the horses’ hoofs like fairy dust. Most remembered hanging stockings that held nuts, candy, and fruit; including the orange or tangerine, which was a special addition to Christmas.
Betty Sue Craigmyle and her five brothers and sisters didn’t hang stockings, but every Christmas morning each received a small brown bag, which held fruit, nuts, and a small gift.
Larry Dale Perry’s mother would set aside small change and buy the candy, nuts, and fruit ahead of time, storing it in boxes under her bed. Once in a while, Larry Dale would sneak in, peeking to take stock of the supply of goodies.
Church and religion have always been the main focus in the lives of the people of Owen county, with Christmas centering around the birth of Christ. Listening to these stories of past Christmases brought me to the realization that we need to return to the times when gifts were few but love abounded in families who focused on Christ and His gift. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.