Wednesday, December 23, 2015
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS: JERKY, GROG & REINDEER DROPPINGS BY SHAYNA MATTHEWS
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS: JERKY, GROG & REINDEER DROPPINGS,
BY SHAYNA MATTHEWS
There's nothing like the anticipation of Christmas morning to torment a child. I should know, my parents certainly got their jollies from dragging out Christmas morning. Up before dawn in my flannel nightgown, I was bouncing, eager to rip into that tree. Of course, I had to wait. Dad had to make his coffee, then drink a few cups, slowly, while Mom made iced cinnamon rolls. Now, any other day of the year cinnamon rolls are fine and dandy with me. Christmas morning, however, was a different story. Fifteen minutes for them to bake, then cool enough to eat? Come on, Mom! I amused myself by looking outside, anywhere but at the stack of presents under that twinkling tree! - Santa's reindeer made their presence known in our driveway every year. Having left a bag of corn for the reindeer, I found empty cobs with deer tracks, a few missed kernels, and reindeer poop (yes...reindeer poop!) in the gravel driveway. I suppose when reindeer eat that much corn, it's only natural to let nature take over before they fly to the next house!
My Dad explained to me that Santa gets mighty tired of milk and cookies all the time, he appreciates an especially festive offering on Christmas Eve. I always left smoked bologna and cheese, and a hefty jug of grog. Funny, Santa left me letters, but by the end of the letter, his spelling was practically unlegible! I don't know why he always told me that I was a good girl, but to eat my vegetables. Does Santa really care that much about vegetables? (The Easter Bunny always told me the same thing, but he eats carrots, not cheese, grog and bologna).
When my father had enjoyed two or three cups of steaming procrastination, and the cinnamon rolls were eaten (gobbled may be a more appropriate term) - it was finally time. First on the list was always the stocking. I don't know what it is about a sock stuffed with goodies, but it's among my favorite Christmas memories. (Aside from Santa's grog-induced letters).
There are many legends that arise from the tradition of the Christmas stocking. My favorite tells the tale of a once-wealthy merchant down on his luck, with three daughters of age to wed. Too poor to offer a dowry, but too proud to accept charity, the merchant despaired over his daughters' happiness. One Christmas Eve, the daughters, having come in cold and wet from their chores, hung their socks by the fire to dry. Little did they know, St. Nicholas heard about the merchant's predictament. That night he rode into town on a magnificent white steed, and tossed three golden balls down the chimney. Inexplicably, the golden orbs fell into each girl's sock. Christmas morning was met with much rejoicing. Each daughter married happily, and as the story spread, children began hanging their socks by the fireplace in hopes St. Nicholas and his white horse would ride by and bless them with gifts, too. The gold balls in the story were quickly replaced with traditional oranges. No one could replicate a golden ball for a gift, but the round fruit of the same color was always a welcome treat.
Our tree was always decorated with handmade ornaments, baked from a mixture of either clay or a type of cookie-like dough, rolled into shapes, painted and laquered. I still have the few surviving ornaments on my tree to this day. One year, I specifically recall our choice in garland. Barring the tinsel, we chose to string popcorn and cranberries, following another old tradition in decorating with what you had. Now, bear in mind, the tree was always standing in the corner of the main room, opposite my bedroom door. Awake that night, counting each dragging minute and listening for the sound of tinkling reindeer bells, I heard something unexpected. I could not figure what it could be, for I had not heard the sound before. It was, for lack of a better term, rather like a soft "chewing" coming from the corner of the next room. By morning, since I could not leave my room to investigate (everyone knows Santa won't leave the good stuff behind if you try to peek) my nerves were gnawed raw. Come to find out, my nerves weren't the only thing gnawed raw that Christmas Morning. There, perched in a branch of the tree, sat a fat mouse, feasting on popcorn and berries. That was the last time we tried that particular Christmas tradition.
Written by Shayna Matthews, author of "The Legend of Venture Canyon" and "A Spot in the Woods" from the anthology "Memories from Maple Street, U.S.A, Leaving Childhood Behind".
What of you? What are your favorite traditions? Or, perhaps you make your own family traditions to follow?