Christmas Traditions

Electronic mail message from Rod Metzler, Fresno, California

Sincere thanks to Jake Bergman for that informative article on Christmas Traditions. Thanks too for the source for the Glass Decorations.

Our Christmas Traditions in Fresno centered around family and Church... The two times you could actually see demonstrated the miracles of Christianity came at Christmas, when those dead since Easter were "reborn" and came back to church, and at Easter, when the dead since Christmas were resurrected... but enough of that...

Christmas in my family started with the Christmas Tree. Boy Howdy! My mom was the champion Christmas Tree person. Right after Thanksgiving dinner was cleared and we were still eating Turkey left-overs, she began shopping the Christmas Tree lots. We had to try them all and then go back to the place where the 'nearest to perfect' tree had been spotted, and if we were in luck and it was still there, bring it home. Tree shopping took the better part of a Saturday afternoon or even a Saturday evening depending on my dad's work schedule.

Then the decorations planned since the previous Christmas had to be executed.

My earliest recollections were of trees without lights on them... My mom liked the idea of flood lights with colored gels .... Even during the war years, she illuminated the tree through the living room window... (no enemy would dare attack on Christmas Eve!) We always had very formal trees... balls all one color or sometimes two... very coordinated. Gram-ma Metzler and Auntie Dunn always had more informal trees with all kinds of lights a different shaped ornaments. One of my earliest recollections was a tree with real candles on it and all lighted for one evening... It was spectacular. Gram-ma used to like to tell how her ornaments came from Czechoslovakia...

There were any number of fiascoes I could relate about spraying, flocking and all, but suffice it to say, once my mom actually learned how to use the 'reverse' on her Electrolux we had sprayed trees. Our garage more than once looked like there had been an explosion of snow or ice inside it... Never mind in all the years I lived in Fresno, I cannot ever remember snow falling there... Long before Der Bingle heard of a 'White Christmas' my mom made it happen... or else...

The tree usually got decorated and put in place by the first Sunday in Advent. Even though in those days our church didn't know much about Advent as a holy season, my mom learned about it and would get us Advent Calendars from some of her friends at work and with those little windows in the picture, we marked the days.

No presents were ever displayed under the tree until after Church on Christmas Eve. My family would drive the seven miles to our church in Fresno and we would have a 'program'... that meant we had a lot of kids stammering through 'pieces', reciting poems and singing strange new songs off key. There was always the reading of the lessons of Christmas as well as lots of carols the choir singing but the sermon usually was more like a talk the kids could understand. The Church was always packed. Every kid got a net stocking from under the 25' plus tree that stood right next to the elevated pulpit. That tree had lights and all kinds of different decorations on it... even some made by the Sunday School.

Each kid got a stocking. There was always a great big Washington Delicious Apple, a Navel Orange and walnuts and other kinds of more exotic nuts. You could count on that. Sometimes there were hard cookies and hard candy, the kind my grandmother would stash away wrapped in a handkerchief to bribe us to sit still and not wriggle during the sermon and stuff later in the year. I don't remember toys being part of the stocking... just edibles...

After the 'program' we all went home to our house where it was 'safe' because we lived out in the country... given Fresno's fog it could be a far more dangerous journey than any air attack, besides they'd never see us for the fog.

Eventually we'd get home and what to our wondering eyes did appear? You guessed it, Santa had come and left the tree laden with all kinds of presents. (We never seemed to time it right to catch him in the act.) One year, my dad did show my brother and me the skid marks of Santa's sleigh on our driveway though, so we'd obviously just missed him!

Then it all began. We opened our Christmas presents! The youngest first, through the oldest. (Poor Uncle Augie, always had to wait until last... he often fell asleep before he could even open one present.) So it went, until everyone had opened all his/her gifts. By this time it was often past midnight because there were often as many as 21 of us before my cousins went off to the war...

After the presents, we ate, and ate, and ate and... well you get the picture. Everyone brought something and each one brought enough to feed the whole group on just what they alone brought.

Christmas was the one time when the kids could stay up really late. Sleep was out of the question with all that loot.

Christmas Trees, Church, food and Mrs. See's Chocolates are my most vivid memories... Pretty much the same as now, in fact, except we have a lot harder time to get the Mrs. See's here in Texas... only in certain malls, and they you can't make your own box up, but that's a different

A blessed holiday season to you all, and keep in mind the 'reason for the season'.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller