12 December 2009

Happy Holidays!

Well, I was thinking about writing another entry in the closely-followed reality-blogging series 'Memoirs - Dad' and I thought I would write about my memories of family Christmases.

Then I realised that I (practically) haven't got any.

Not really true, I suppose. As I begin to write I seem to recall doing things like string alternate cranberries and bits of popcorn, to put on a tree - or was that something that Edna and I did?

I think I only distinctly recall one Christmas present. I suppose I was - what? - seven? eight? It was a pistol belt with two holsters and two cap pistols. What I cannot recall was whether I was the recipient or Peter, because I do seem to recall some strife between us about it. Did he receive it and was I jealous? Did I receive it and was I selfish?

I have not a clue - perhaps Peter can enlighten me. What I think it may tell me is that the importance of Christmas presents is, if not small, at least evanescent. And of course our family had no tradition of religious activities at Christmas - except there was that one fascinating memory of going to Mass with Kenny's kids, my cousins. I feel sure that was Christmas Eve Mass.

But I do recall vividly and with great pleasure two other sorts of holiday during the year: Easter and Hallowe'en.

Hallowe'en was "Trick or Treat." I have heard that things are a bit less innocent today. At the time, we dressed in conventionalised symbols of death - shirts with printed skeletons on them, masks - and went door to door, half a dozen or so of us together, knocking and crying "Trick or Treat!" I do not recall ever being disappointed, and I do not think any of us would have thought of 'tricking' had we not been 'treated.' If All Hallows' Eve is no longer innocent fun, I am sorry. In the early 1950s - we did not do it in Oroville, as we lived on the farm - it seemed harmless (except possibly to our teeth :-)).

Easter - again, am speaking of Bakersfield, in the early 1950s - was Easter eggs! My mother boiled eggs and we coloured them. I loved that process almost more than the hunt. On Easter morning we had our hunt, but the local council also put on an Easter egg hunt in a park. These were always hard-boiled eggs. Susan tells me she remembers chocolate eggs; that is as may be. I never heard of a chocolate Easter egg until we moved to New Zealand, in 1973.

When we lived in Oroville, there were no Easter egg hunts - at least I do not recall any - nor trick-or-treating (but my mother did host neighbour kids at a Hallowe'en party at our house, complete with rubber gloves filled with ice cubes to pass around, and grapes (as eyeballs, you see)). But I had my first introduction to Easter as a religious event. In high school I played my horn in the brass choir, at Easter sunrise service in the graveyard. That was the first inkling I had that Easter had anything to do with dying - and with rising again.

Christmas blessings to all of you! This year Susan is flying to Sydney on Christmas Eve, and I expect I will see Eddie and Eveline and the kids on Christmas Day. I will, I hope, write something again before then. Tomorrow is, after all, only the 3rd Sunday of Advent. But I thought of Christmas today, and wondered to think how little I remember of early Christmases.

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