Monday, December 19, 2011


Each year we went to the Christmas Bazaar held in the high school gymnasium. Mom dressed us up for photos with Santa. When we got too old for Santa, we dressed ourselves in our holiday best. One year I wore a deep green velvet dress my mother made for me. It was the prettiest dress I'd ever had. It was long, to the tops of my shoes with white buttons and a high neckline.

Years later, I found the dress in the bottom of my mother's cedar chest. My brother, bless his teenage heart, had cut squares out of it to use for cleaning his guns.

The grade school kids sang Christmas songs. Frosty the Snow Man, Silent Night, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Up on the Housetop, one of our favorites.  A couple years in a row, David S. would put on the reindeer suit his mother sewed for him and entertain the crowd while we squirmed on the wooden bleachers and sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

In high school, I dated David S. for two years. I rarely teased him about his days as Rudolph, but if I could have gotten him to put that suit on just once....well......

The gym's wooden floor was protected by canvas tarps stretched across them and taped down. You had to be careful as you walked in your dress shoes. Many a kid caught their toe in a fold and went down, scattering candy canes and other collected loot when they tumbled.

There were tables set up in large squares and moms stood behind them. I can't quite remember what was on the tables. Crafts, I think. We kids walked around in clumps, chattering about the upcoming school break and wishes for snow. We shared our hopes about we hoped we'd find under the tree. We told on ourselves about snooping for gifts.

My favorite part was the Cake Walk. Folded metal chairs were set in a circle and you walked around it music played. When the parent who manned the record player lifted the arm and stopped the music, you looked at the number on the chair in front of you. If your number was called, you won a cake that somebody's mom had baked and brought wrapped in a box or in a Tupperware carrier. At the beginning of the night, I liked to look at the tables holding all the baked goods. My sweet tooth has always been one of my downfalls.

At the end of the evening, we'd gather near the lobby. Our mother would stuff us into our coats reminding us to make sure we hadn't lost a mitten or a dreaded knit cap. We'd go outside making smoke with our warm breath in the cold air. Stars flickered overhead in the winter sky. We'd climb into the car clutching our loot with our mittens and watch as Christmas lights made smudged kaleidoscope shapes on the fogged car windows as we made our way home.

Your turn.


  1. Beautiful: watch as Christmas lights made smudged kaleidoscope shapes on the fogged car windows

  2. I spent my last years in grammar school at a 3 room school in southern Ontario. It was set in a field surrounded by woods and farmland so was very isolated and pretty in the snow. An extension had been built on the old school so 1st and 2nd grades were in one room, 3rd to 5th in the second and the rest of us in what had been the original school building. It was barn sized old brick and had a large basement play area with a stage. Although the teachers seemed old to us they were actually quite young and about as excited about Christmas as we were.

    In the weeks leading up to the holidays we had almost no classes at all as we spent the school day rehearsing songs, rehearsing plays, decorating the theater, and making costumes for the big Christmas Pageant that we'd put on the last evening before the winter break. It seems as though the shows lasted for ages but that's probably just the way it seemed. At the end of the show we all gathered as a choir after changing into our Christmas finery, helping the little ones button and tie and putting on the gold tinsel halo crowns we all wore. My fondest memory is of just how beautiful it was to be one of those children singing Silent Night to our parents, teachers and all the others who came to share the best part of Christmas.

    Thanks for asking. I hadn't thought about those particular memories in a long time.

  3. I remember sneaking downstairs a few nights before Christmas Eve and sitting on the living room couch in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, munching on a handful of swiped Christmas cookies, looking at the tree lights and listening to Jim Neighbors' Christmas album on the turntable.

    My Dad discovered me there, but instead of telling me to go back to bed, he sat down, too, took one of my cookies, and listened with me until the album ended.

    That, to me, is Christmas.

  4. We celebrated Christmas and although I loved every single part of it, deep down I was always ashamed that we didn't observe Hanukkah. Needless to say, we were not very good Jews. Now things have turned around 180 degrees. We light our candles and spin our dreidels and eat our chocolate gelt religiously and it's absolutely how I imagined it but wanna know a little secret? I miss Christmas. It really is the perfect holiday.

  5. Honest to God I wish I could remember stuff like that. I wish I could write about the stuff I do remember even a quarter as well as you do.

    Merry Holidays, Happy Festivus, May You Have Eight Days of Snow For Hannukah (and if you smoke your marijuanikah without sharing I'll get mad!). And, of course, to a new year filled with hope and promise.

    But no more Rick Rolling with the promise of Nancy Pelosi's cleavage.

  6. Denise the Older SisterDecember 19, 2011 at 6:49 PM captured the Christmas Bazaar just how I remember it! After the elementary school kids performed, it was time for our beloved Mr. "D" to "pink panther" walk to the podium, call the high school band members to attention and begin the RSHS band's performance of rehashed Christmas songs.

    The Secret Santa Shoppe that was set up in the girl's locker room was one of my favorite stops during the Bazaar. Just the right size/height for an elementary aged child to enter, spend less than $5.00 to buy a gift for everyone in the family, and wait for Christmas morning to see the gift recipient's smiling faces when they opened their gifts of dainty hankies, keychains, or flashlights. Always the place to buy that gift for people who have/had everything (mother and dad, Grandma and Grandpa Hewitt, perhaps?)

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  7. Beautiful! Thanks for this lovely snapshot of the gym of Christmas past!

  8. I tried to choose one specific Christmas memory but there is just too much, too much. And most of it involves my mother. I have this picture of her, from before I was born, standing in front on the Christmas tree with one arm around each of my older brothers. Her mouth is wide open in a smile, a laugh. She is so incredibly happy. Even though I wasn't alive when that photo was taken, that is what Christmas has always been about for me. It's how I wish it could be now and I how I hope it can one day be again in the future.

  9. I love these stories, and I love them because I don't have these kinds of stories to share. I dreaded the holidays so much as a kid (the whole divorced parents scenario) that I believe I've shut out anything good that could have been happening.

  10. i can see this entire scene. so perfect.

    here's mine:
    (we just had ours last night. same santa for 40 years.)

  11. My brother, bless his teenage heart, had cut squares out of it to use for cleaning his guns.

    OHH! Of course, the siblings cut deep.

    I remember our cats loved the Christmas tree, and those exquisite ornaments that were hung on it just for them to smack into little bits.

  12. Lovely.

    I detest that there are no more homemade baked goods...the cookies, the cakes, all of it.
    Everything has become so sterile, so sanitary.

  13. have never been big on xmas per se Lisa h - but glad for you that you have such beautiful and precious memories of past xmas holidays. happy season/xmas/hanukah/kwanza/festivus/noo yeer et al. continue...

  14. I loved that - the parent lifting the record player arm. Gosh do you remember? Our kids have no idea.

    I'm Australian so we had very Aussie Christmases, year after year: prawns on the barbie, spectacular Indonesian food from my aunt, water-skiing, red noses and jumping off the jetty. All of us are upside down, we are.

    Merry Christmas Lisa!

  15. Midnight Mass in one of the most beautuful churches I've ever been in. Christmas hymns started at 11:30 and mass at midnight. The huge church was packed and the singing was angelic. Then the ride home so we could get to sleep so Santa could come. I miss that church so much. The arch-diocese has closed it. I couldn't even go to the last mass, it was too sad.

  16. Midnight Mass in one of the most beautuful churches I've ever been in. Christmas hymns started at 11:30 and mass at midnight. The huge church was packed and the singing was angelic. Then the ride home so we could get to sleep so Santa could come. I miss that church so much. The arch-diocese has closed it. I couldn't even go to the last mass, it was too sad.

  17. So the cake walk actually existed, and wasn't some acid trip in the That 70s Show writers' room?

  18. Christmas happens on Cookie Day for me. It's far more fun and involving than Christmas Day, and costs a hell of a lot less. The only other tradition we really have is seeing a movie Christmas afternoon. We do it every year, and it's always a blast.

    (Church? No can do. We're heathens, borrowing the holidays for our own greedy purposes.)

  19. I have been baking because I don't have the money to buy gifts. I like giving stuff I've cooked myself, especially sweets, and giving handmade crocheted scarves and such.

    As a child I loved the time off from school, the snow, and the food best. Happy Holidays!

  20. Oh man - I can't believe your brother cut up that green velvet dress to clean his guns! FOR SHAME!

  21. Old Christmas's? Lots of TV and of course semi frozen TV dinners served on TV trays. The parents getting boozed up and someone knocking over the aluminum christmas tree ... an over cooked turkey with burnt potatoes ... and presents ... the stuff from the year before - rewrapped.

    Ah, the holidays, good times!

  22. Great story. As for me, I remember my mom taking me to see Santa at Sears (didn't have malls in the 60's) and we waited in line what seemed for hours. I think I still have pics of me. Will have to dig them up and see what kind of memories will come back to me.

  23. You guys never disappoint in your willingness to share of yourselves. I love that about you. Thank you for telling us your memories.

  24. We didn't do xmas bazaars in my town. I grew up in one of the few towns in this country where a majority of the population was jewish--about 55% jewish to 45% other, mostly catholic. At my elementary school, it was more like 75% jewish, 25% catholic. So, at this time of year, we were all given a candy cane and a dreidel, sang the usual xmas songs and the dreidel song, and lit the xmas tree and menorah at the same time. A pretty nice way of growing up.

  25. Oh, almost forgot: Happy Hanukah.

  26. For me, I always loved the snow. I hoped we'd get enough of the white stuff to yield some no school days. A white Christmas was the best. I somehow became the official shoveler of snow- probably because I loved to get out in it & savor it's wintery goodness.
    My Mom used to nag at me to "bundle up, because it's cold out there"-- seriously? Hefting shovels full of wet snow is frickin' aerobic- I could easily work up a sweat, so no, not bundling up!
    I remember the silver metallic X mas tree, and Mom had a cool collection of ginger bread people & gingerbread house ornaments.
    The ornaments were like old friends we'd revisit every year.
    One year is snowed, then thawed, then froze up the next day- mother nature delivered an ice staking rink right in my own back yard. Yep, I put on my ice skates & had a blast skating on the backyard lawn!

    Do you remember her:

  27. What a beautiful memory. That dress must have been so pretty :0)

  28. So sweet, but even I want to kill your brother over the green velvet dress.

  29. The cake walk game sounds like my kind of game.

    Happy Festivities Lisa!


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