|Someone asked what Christmas Day was like when I was growing up, so here is a quick run through of a typical Christmas day in the King household. I grew up in the 1950’s and am from a family of ten children. My father worked afternoon shift at the large downtown post office in Seattle, Washington, which, during the Christmas season, required its employees to work overtime. This meant that Mom did all the Chrisatmas shopping, cooking and decorating alone – not too unusual for the 1950’s. What was unusual was that our family didn’t own a car. That meant when it came time to find the ‘right’ Christmas tree, we walked to a corner gas station or Christmas tree lot somewhere in our neighborhood of Ballard, picked out a tree and dragged it several blocks to our house. Then Mom had to wrestle it in the door and try to set it in the Christmas tree stand so that it was fairly upright. (I can hardly imagine doing this alone, much less with several children underfoot!)
After the tree was decorated by us kids with lights and ornaments, Mom would put the tinsel on it. The tinsel was very narrow strands (1/16″ by 18″)of shiny silver material, numbering about 200 strands. Mom insisted on doing this herself – no help from us kids! She put each strand on individually, making the tinsel appear very balanced and uniformly even on the tree. At the end of the Christmas season, which for us was the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan 6th, Mom took the tinsel off the tree in the same manner as she put it on, saving as much as she could for next year’s tree.
Another Chistmas decoration that was put out by the whole family was the nativity set. Does anyone remember a product known as ‘angel hair’? Mom was very careful about using it because, she said, it contained finely spun glass, and could cut the person handling it. Angel hair was beautifully white with pink and blue highlights; it shined and shimmered, and was meant to look like a cloud. The creche was placed on this cloud-like substance,and all the rest of the characters of the nativity scene were put in place except the Christ child figurine. The youngest child who could safely handle the figurine was given the honor of putting baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning after we came home from early Mass. Then gifts were opened and there was absolute mayhem for about an hour.
Turkey was the featured food item at our dinner, which was served around noon on Christmas Day. Finally, eggnog made an appearance with the pumpkin pie and coffee; all the kids had a chance to taste a thimble full – of the eggnog, and then we were off to enjoy our presents.
Eventually we would have to do the dishes – a constant source of bickering and arguing in our big family – but as we washed the dishes we would sing – sing anything from Christmas carols to Broadway musicals, rounds to non-sense songs, classical to rock and roll (there were a LOT of dishes to be washed at a holiday family meal- no automatic dishwashers in those days).
We would then set up and play any new game that had been a Christmas present, or play cards or Monopoly for the rest of the day.