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Mary B. Young



           Some of my sweetest Christmas memories began with Thanksgiving.  Soon after our big Thanksgiving celebration we knew plans for Christmas were already in progress.  Making ready for Christmas was always fun because, for lack of money, we had to make everything.  While sitting by the fire at night we strung popcorn ropes and cranberries, and cut out paper rings to glue together for paper ropes to decorate the tree.  Mama would bring in pillow cases stuffed full of cotton we had saved from fall harvest.  After pulling the cotton from the seeds, we stuffed Mother's handmade rag dolls to give as presents to the grandchildren.  We also twisted some of the cotton into long, knotted ropes to use for decoration.  Mama would plan for Christmas all year.  In the spring she would buy two ducks.  Every week she would sell the eggs from the ducks to the peddler who came by our house in the rolling store.  This money was kept aside and known as egg money from which she bought her Christmas presents.
          We had a very large family.  When Mama died in 1982, she had at least 120 grandchildren (4 generations).  Mama wanted to be sure that everyone got a present at Christmas.  She would make aprons, dishtowels, potholders, and pillowcases from the floral material that she got from the cattle feed.
          Christmas was the only time I remember when we bought fruit, which was a big occasion.  We grew many fruits throughout the year; but, at Christmastime we bought those fruits we did not grow.  This fruit, along with other treats, was what we looked so forward to on Christmas morning.  A sample stocking consisted of one candy cane, an orange, an apple, a banana, one candy orange slice, three English walnuts, several pecans, and two chocolate covered cherries.
          Meat was plentiful at our house during Christmastime.  The first cold spell that came was commonly known as "hog killin' days."  Neighbors and relatives would pack up their big, black, wash pots along with their fattest hog and come to our home place.  There we all gathered in a large, open space to kill and prepare our hogs for winter meat.  The men had built wooden boxes to store the meat in.  The ladies would boil the fat taken from the hogs which rendered the lard that they cooked with for many months to come.  This, within itself, was a festive occasion.  My sisters and I all helped Mama in the kitchen preparing the sweets.  We baked cakes of all kinds and dozens of old fashioned tea cakes (Mama's own recipe), but my Mama's syrup candy was the greatest event!  She would cook the syrup until it would string and then pour the syrup on a buttered surface.  After it had cooled, we kids would begin pulling until it turned white.  She would braid the candy together and cut it into three-inch pieces.  These suckers would last for days.
          There was always a large crowd at our house including family, friends, neighbors, and, always, the Preacher.  We all shared our blessings together.
          Of all my Christmas memories, there is only one that is not a happy memory.  My Dad died on December 3rd, which brought a new appreciation for what Christmas had been in years past.  I'm sure he would have wanted us to go on being as happy as before, but somehow now it was different.  Now I have children and grandchildren of my own and there are always new joys and surprises.  We are still making Christmas memories which, I'm sure, will be as precious to my future generations.
                                                ~Mary Young


Me, Mama, and Rita


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