Signs of Christmas

circa the 19070’s


When I was little, pre-adolescent anyway, there were 3 ways I knew Christmas was on it’s way.

First, the Sears Wish Book arrived with it’s wonderful toy filled goodness. Oh sure, there were clothes in it, and even bedding if I recall correctly, but who wants new sheets for Christmas?  It was the toys, those exciting new toys, that fascinated me. I would spend hours pouring over the toy section. As soon as I could write I would make lists, with product name, item number & page number, so Santa would have no trouble knowing exactly where to find exactly what I wanted.

I still do this. I am as specific as I possibly can be because what I am interested in is that specific item, not something sort of like it or that is along the same lines as it. That item. Specifically. This is due to my parents not realizing rock music is not really interchangeable. Someone who asks for a Ted Nugent or Ozzy album probably isn’t interested in an a ABBA one. And yet that’s what I got because “you said you wanted some rock albums but you didn’t give us any titles”. I’d thought the artist name was enough. Never again. Rock music was Elvis, the Beatles and ‘everything else’ to my parents, who mostly listened to country.

Then I would spend a couple more hours going back through the catalog and amending my list with little stars next to the things I really wanted. Then I would do it again and circle the starred items that I really really wanted. Sometimes I’d do it one more time and add the number 1 to 5 next to the circled & starred items so it would be perfectly clear what I really really really wanted.

What I really really really wanted, year after year was something called a Monslor Double Door Safe (yes, 35 years later I still remember the brand name). It was kid sized probably metal double door combination safe about the size of a toaster. I have no idea now what I intended to keep in it, what was so secret I felt I needed a safe for it, but I asked for it throughout the mid to late 70s.

I never got it. I did get a lot of Barbie clothes made by my Grandmothers though. My Barbie had the biggest wardrobe in the neighborhood! I could safely say “Barbie clothes” secure in the knowledge Grandma & Nan would know what I meant.

The second sign of Christmas was the town Christmas parade. This occurred on the first Saturday of December. My dad had an office building on Main Street that was right on the parade route & we would go and sit on the second or third floor, in the warmth, drinking hot cocoa or beer, and watch the parade go by. Santa was at the end of the parade and once you saw him you knew it was time to knuckle down and behave. Everything that had been done in the past 11 months didn’t count. No one ever threatened your Christmas presents for bad behavior in June. But now it was December & Santa was watching, so shape up or else!

The last was the start of Advent. We didn’t do Advent calendars in my house. I think one year we had one with chocolates in it, but it’s a vague memory of something hanging on the fridge with doors to open. I think had it been a regular thing I would remember it better. We had an Advent wreath more often & I remember it mostly because of the purple candles. Purple is my favorite color. And I was allowed to light the candles at home. A rare treat. The priest wore his purple vestments for Mass during Advent, so when he showed up wearing them you knew the Christmas countdown had really begun.

Now of course the holiday season begins sometime around Thanksgiving, with Christmas décor up in early November in some stores and Black Friday sales happening on Thanksgiving Day. In our house Elvin arrives with the new Lego Advent calendar on December 1, and that is the start of the Christmas season here.

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5 comments to Signs of Christmas

  • We were super poor growing up so my first clue that it was almost Christmas is my mom would get the super thick Fingerhut catalog. My brother and I picked out beds and recliners that we would like but we also never got them. And then we’d make cookies with our mom and she didn’t have a rolling pin, so we’d use glass cups. Does not work as well but every once in awhile, I’ll pull out a cup while making cookies just because. :)

  • To me, Christmas begins with the tree. I remember the Toys’R’Us wish book!

  • Are they really called “wish books” with you? I think that’s magical!

  • Oh, I did love the Sears Wishbook. With four of us the pages got awfully dogeared :)

  • My next sister down did the same thing with the stars, circles, numbers and lists with everything you could possibly need to know EXACTLY what she wanted. These days tho her kids want ‘cash’ :sigh:

    We don’t get many catalogs here – so instead the kids send me urls… not quite the same is it? ;)