Why I Love Christmas

One year during the depths of the Depression in the 1930s, a farm family in southern Idaho announced to their three children, two boys and a girl, that there was no extra money for anything special for Christmas that year. They had food for the table, and so were better off than many, and that would simply have to do. There may have been a homemade gift or two, but certainly nothing bought from a store. The children steeled themselves for a Christmas that would be less than what they had known in past years of their young lives.

On Christmas Eve, the little family went on a trip–how long or how far I do not know. When they arrived to their destination, they found much to their delight that there were presents for them, one per child. Apparently these were given by a kindly, perhaps relatively affluent couple without children of their own–whether an aunt and uncle, a couple from church or neighbors, I do not know.

One of those children was my father. And the sheer joy of receiving that gift during a dark time in his family’s life had a profound impact on his life, and indirectly on mine.

Like many children of the Depression, my father was tight with a buck. He threw nickels around like they were manhole covers, as Mike Ditka once famously said of George Halas. And yet he had the capacity for generosity, and this capacity always found expression at Christmas time. My father loved Christmas like Ebeneezer following the nightly spectres, and his enthusiasm for the holiday can be traced to that one act of charity. And it was an enthusiasm that he transmitted to me as a part of my inheritance from him.

I wish I knew the details of the story better; he died 26 years ago, so I can’t ask him. I don’t even know what the gift was. I have a toy that belonged to him–a 1930s vintage car, about the size of a shoe box, made of heavy metal, painted bright red, with some sort of ancient mechanism that hasn’t worked since before my own birth. I keep it on the hutch just as you enter my front door. I like to imagine this was the gift that sparked his love affair with Christmas, which in turn led to my own.

Comments

  1. I raise my glass of (Kinder) Punsch to your father, Kevin. Merry Christmas.

  2. Very nice Kevin. Happy Christmas.

  3. Now *this* is what I wanted to read when I checked the blogs this morning. Thanks, Kevin.

  4. Kevin – Thanks for reminding us of what Christmas is all about. My father also grew up in Southern Idaho in the 30’s. He often told us of “exchanging cards and handkerchiefs” with his brothers and sisters (8 of them) for Christmas but when I was a child I always assumed he was kidding. As I learned more about those times I began to think otherwise. I’m sorry you lost your father so long ago. My dad is still with us and his 87th birthday falls a few days after Christmas. His experience during the depression taught him to be fair with everyone and that has been the motto of his life. Where ever he can, he has tried to make things fair. I hope I have learned that much from him. He is a blessing in my life.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Merry Christmas Kevin and everyone.

  6. lovely. my mom grew up very poor. one of her favorite childhood memories is being invited to share thanksgiving dinner with the neighbors. he was some sort of navy higher-up and they ate aboard his ship. it was the first time my mom had most thanksgiving foods (immigrants) and the first time (and one of few times) that she’d been able to eat till her belly was full. her eyes still tear up when she recalls that story, telling about the enormous feast laid out before them and how the neighbor helped her with gravy, saying she could have as much as she wanted. i’d love to be able to get in touch with that man’s family and let them know how deeply that small gesture affected my family.

  7. Thanks for this story Kevin. I’ve been feeling a tiny bit grumpy lately because this is the first Christmas in a long time where money is really tight, and this story makes me grateful for what we have. Merry Christmas to all!

  8. Thank you for sharing such a tender part of your own story- Merry Christmas.

  9. Doug Evans says:

    My father also died many years ago, a man to whom Christmas meant a great deal. My dad repaired model trains, mainly for parents who couldn’t afford new ones to give to their children on Christmas morning. I remember him working almost through the night on Christmas eve to restore some model train engine or other equipment for just such a parent. He delivered it after dark when the children were asleep and because he had no vehicle he rode the street car to get it there on time. He gave me several trains at Christmas that he had built or restored. I have sold them all now that I am old, except for one set, which I am saving for my new grandson Pearson, when he is old enough to play with them and perhaps understand the joy of receiving a present built with tired and wrinkled hands and a loving heart by a man who really understood the joy of giving and watching the eyes of a youngster light up with delight. I miss my father deeply, but I will never forget his generosity and commitment to bringing joy to others at Christmas, especially children. God bless and a Merry Christmas to all.

  10. Merry Christmas on this Christmas day, to you Kevin, and all the rest of the posters.

    Your story touched me as I have come to realize that the one thing my parents never let happen was to have a missed Christmas. This didn’t mean there were always lots of presents, but we never missed.

    One of my friends when I was 7 years old didn’t get one present one year because his mom literally told him Santa found him on the naughty list! I will never forget his crushed demeanor. I had proudly gone over there to see what he had got, and showed off my new pair of football cleats I had gotten.
    I can’t remember what I gave him, but I had gone home and told my parents, and they suggested it would be a wondrful gift of me to give him one of my gifts. And I did. The gift giving is what matters, the giving of self……….

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