“Deck the halls with boughs of holly. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Follow me in merry measure while I tell of yuletide treasure.”
When I was growing up, school closed about a week before Christmas. My brothers would hook up the mules to the wagons and would go out to the woods on the farm to find the perfect tree. In addition to the tree, they would bring back holly loaded with berries. They brought down boxes of decorations from the third floor attic, and Nelia, an older sister, organized the decorating. Every window curtain was adorned with a round holly wreath. Holly boughs and berries were draped across the mantles in each room and on the tops of picture frames. Among my favorite decorations were the accordion-pleated paper bells that were hung from light fixtures and on the tree.
On Christmas Eve, Mama read the Christmas story from the Bible to us. In the dining room, we would put our plate on the table instead of stockings, and that is where Santa left a surprise like raisins, an orange, and sticks of peppermint candy.
The married children would bring their families home on Christmas Day. One year, my sister, Ruth, brought me a porcelain Bye Lo baby doll with dresses she had made for it, but Mama made me keep it in the parlor so that I wouldn’t break it.
We had a big Christmas breakfast with country ham, grits, eggs, biscuits, and homemade jelly. Mama would start baking the turkey right after breakfast. (She continued using live turkeys until I brought a live turkey home in the car from Laurens, where I taught, and its bumping around in the car almost made me have a wreck.)
There would be turkey, dressing, gravy, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, and green beans for dinner, and she always made a banana pudding for dessert. There was also fresh, homemade coconut cake and fruitcake made weeks ahead of time, which was sprinkled with wine, covered in cheesecloth, and stored in a tin.
After dinner, we went into the parlor and opened gifts. Then the boys would go out and practice shooting their guns, and the women would socialize indoors. Supper consisted of leftovers from the day’s meals. The halls were decorated, and the season was jolly.
In the words of Jimmy Stewart, “it was a wonderful life.”