Memories of Christmas past

Shyanne Belzer/MDN Sarah Bradshaw, Eileen Skowronek, Joanne Farden, Garnetta Wanner, Jillie Kuntz and Vivian Keyes.

Christmas seems to change a little every year with new ideas, new themes, and new traditions forming. Christmas today is vastly different than it was just 60 years ago, 30 years ago, and even just from how it was 10 years ago.

When asked about Christmas, a group of seniors dining at the Parker Center’s coffee shop all agreed that it’s changed drastically from when they were children, going from a simple celebration to something extremely commercialized.

Vivian Keyes, Jillie Kuntz and Joanne Farden all talked about how, growing up on farms in North Dakota when they were young, Christmas was a much smaller celebration but a bigger family ordeal. They would host more family for a big meal, but presents were small.

For Christmas today, many families might decorate any fir or pine trees they have in their yard, but almost everyone decorates a tree indoors, whether real or fake depends on each families preference. All recalled their trees being small and scraggly, some even being outside, not inside. If they did have a tree indoors, it was always a real one, not the many kinds of fake Christmas trees that many own today.

“Christmas was always so much fun,” said Kuntz. “Someone would dress up as Santa in the neighborhood and talk to all the kids, giving them a gift. The gifts were obviously from the parents, but getting it from Santa made it more of a treat.”

They all recall decorating their trees with paper loops chained together and popcorn on thread. Some even used real candles in their trees, clipping them on and lighting them for some of their Christmas festivities.

“Everything was handmade and not plastic like decorations are today,” Keyes said.

A specific memory that was shared by Keyes was that no presents were allowed to be opened until dinner was done and everything was cleaned up. Keyes said it was so that her mom wasn’t stuck doing all the cleaning and everyone could enjoy their time together.

“If we didn’t have a rule like that, we all would have just been everywhere doing whatever,” she said.

Kuntz even recalled, once she was teaching, putting on Christmas shows with her students and how everything was handmade.

“Any decorations, props, or backgrounds we did ourselves. Then we would light as many candles and lanterns for the show. It would light it up as good as any lights today,” she said.

Despite growing up poor, they all said they never knew they were poor because that was how everyone was. They emphasized that living like that and looking back makes them appreciate how they live now and how much nicer things are, even if the Christmas holiday is commercialized more now.