"Not a Creature Was Stirring"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, December 24, 2011

There is no shopping time left – so let the feasting begin!

Memories of past holidays slip through our minds this time of year. We recall favorite gatherings when we all traveled and enjoyed getting together. My family assembled in Port Austin for Christmas. After a hectic morning (beginning with blueberry muffins) of gift opening, we would load up and head out on the trails for a day of snowmobiling. It took nine snow machines and a big sled full of provisions to carry Pat and I, our four daughters and my three sisters with their spouses and children. We could ride out right from our yard and head west to Caseville, or east to Huron City, along groomed trails. We would usually stop and have a cookout along the trail, but if we rode Christmas day we held off, and upon our return the great dinner that had been cooking all day was devoured by our hungry bunch.

Those were the good old days when carolers went door to door entertaining those unable to get out and about. Sometimes old-timers would invite the group in, offering hot chocolate and cookies and a chance to warm up. Everyone decorated their homes and real trees could be seen in most of the windows.

I recall the toys we got our kids in the past, dolls cried and some wet their pants, but none were robotic and carried their own laptop like those you find offered in stores now. A watch with Mickey Mouse hands was perhaps the most expensive gift under the tree – now a $ 200 do-it-all electronic is on every kids list. The cost of what is referred to as toys today is staggering. Cell phones, Androids, IPods, Nooks — and the list goes on and on. The cost of service for some of them is an on-going expense, plus what happens when they lose them, drop them in the water or want the next, latest edition? We used to be able to buy our kids clothes for Christmas and they were OK with that as long as it wasn’t underwear. Now parents have to be certain the items have the right label and come from the right store or risk rejection.

Speaking of trees – the Christmas tree used to be part of the big holiday celebration. First was the trip to the tree farm to select the perfect specimen. Shove it in the vehicle, or load it on top, then drag it in the house. When you tried to put it in the treestand the discovery was made that it was not the perfect tree after all. The trunk had to be cut down and branches sawed off to set it in the stand – and what a mess that became. Next was perhaps the most frustrating part of the event — putting the lights on. You wound the strings around the tree and had to remember to leave a light at the top for the angel. After finding an extension cord and plugging the lights in, it was time to replace, change and switch bulbs around to get just the right look.

At this point, Dad usually stepped aside and let the girls take over because much gushing took place as the ornaments were carefully unwrapped and placed on the tree.

Many of them were handmade by the kids, grandma and aunties, and very delicate. When it was time for the tinsel we often noted it had all been tossed with last year’s tree so a mad dash was made to the store. I should say “stores” because the tinsel was always sold out so several stores had to be visited where other last minute items were also purchased.

Speaking of shopping – when it was time to shop for Mom, I always had a daughter or two along to help pick out just the right item of clothing and we always picked up a new gadget for use in the kitchen. Christmas morning was the best because the tree was a work of art, especially after all the gifts were placed under it.

As I see it, times have sure changed. Customs vary as cultures blend. We still have Rudolph and Frosty as well as Alvin and the Chipmunks, but tree farms have disappeared because few people visit them. It’s more economical and efficient to buy an artificial tree, many of which come with lights and ornaments already on them. You don’t have to water it and there is no big mess with fallen needles. Just take it apart and shove it in a box till next year. I do see the advantage of being able to put the tree up sooner, and to be able to enjoy it right through New Years, but doesn’t everyone miss that great smell of live pine?

One of the most entertaining things to do in the past was load everyone in a vehicle and drive around viewing the light displays. Out west and in the south, palm trees look great all lit up swaying in the breeze. As I remarked earlier, times sure have changed, anyone who places a manger in their yard may be subject to public ridicule. If a person wishes to place a Star of David or a Menorah on display, I’m fine with that as I’m sure many others are.

It is also a sad state of the times that we have to be wary of what greeting we use during the holiday season.

I have heard many people exchange Happy Hanukkah as a greeting during the eight day celebration of their faith and I accept that greeting as a gift. Citizens living in our country who do not believe in Jesus should not complain because many of us do and wish to express that fact during the celebration of His birth. They should accept the greeting as it is intended, good wishes.

I want to wish all my readers on this Christmas Eve and all the Tribune staff a MERRY CHRISTMAS.




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