A Brief Memoir of 1970s Christmas
A Guest Post from Mughi via Reddit
Reposted With Permission From the Writer
Christmas always seemed to take a thousand years to actually get here. As it got closer and closer, and time off school commensurately so, more and more excitement would set in, until Christmas week, when there was no school and we got to play around the house and decorate.
My mom was very craft-oriented back in the day, and she (with “help” from my brother and me) would decorate the entire house with handmade gimcrackery that would put Martha Stewart to shame. Angels made from Styrofoam cones, wreaths constructed of fir and pine cones, putting up the tree (a real one, until she finally gave in and bought a top-tier fake tree, which we still use) and covering it with lights and balls, often based around a color theme she’d come up with. Mom singing carols around the house (she was always singing; usually show tunes, but lots of carols at Christmastime).
The Christmas angel on top of the tree, which was a store-bought doll that Mom handmade a dress for, the traditional macaroni/clay/salt dough decorations we’d made in school, with badly-spelled exhortations engraved on them (“COME HOLY SPRITE” and “MERRY CHRITSMESS”).
I remember one year Mom papered our front door to look like a giant gift box, complete with bow. Then there was her Christmas cake, made weeks in advance, covered with marzipan and royal icing, peeking out from its covered cake dish, and taunting us, accompanied as it was by a maternal warning of dire consequences should we dare to so much as look askance at it until Christmas.
Mince pies. Egg nog, and that feeling when Dad would splash a tiny dollop of brandy in (“Don’t tell your mother”). Pretend books full of Lifesavers rolls, that we traded at school. Santa exchanges in class.
The time our Doberman pinched an entire Christmas ham off the counter and ate it, bone and all.
Watching the 1951 Alistair Sim Scrooge on TV, and my Mom explaining who Sim and Mervyn Johns, Peter Bull, Hattie Jacques, and all the other old-time British actors, were, and who Dickens was. I watch it every year in her memory. Still the finest Christmas film ever. Watching all those Christmas specials that used to only come on once a year (no VCRs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, or streaming back then). A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and so on and on…
Being finally old enough to go to Christmas parties at the homes of my Dad’s coworkers, playing with their kids and all of us feeling very grown-up while listening to the adults roaring with laughter at jokes we didn’t really understand, but never mind; we were there and that was all that mattered.
The time we got home from midnight mass to find that Dad had forgotten his house key and we had to break a window to get into our own home; and the distinctly unseasonal bluing of the air that ensued (learned a couple of new words that evening).
The year I got a wind-up wooden train set, which I long after learned that my Dad had, at Mom’s behest, spent the better part of three weeks driving to every toy shop in the city looking for. He got the last one that Lionel Playworld had, not three nights before Christmas (to be honest, I don’t actually remember this, but I have been told the story so often that I feel as if I do).
We always got to open one present when we got home from midnight mass. In 1977, it was a Han Solo blaster. I slept with it that night.
The next year (or possibly the one after), my parents presented my brother and me with two enormous sacks made of white cotton, printed with poinsettias, that between the two of us contained the entire first-run collection of Micronauts toys.
The Radio Shack Walkie Talkie Space Ranger helmets we got one year. It was freezing outside, but my brother and I were determined to play with them anyway, so out we went. Froze my ass off, but hey, Walkie Talkie Space Ranger helmet, right?
The time we were living in Texas and it snowed all of three-quarters of an inch (actually, now that I think about it, that might have happened later in the new year, but I choose to remember it as Christmas, so there. All I know is that we lost our damn minds at all that snow).
I need to stop now or I am going to become (as Tom Lehrer put it) “soggy with nostalgia.” I’m going to go and have an egg nog with a dollop of brandy in it. Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, every one.
Mughi was born in November 1968, just before the great avocado-mustard yellow-fire orange kitchen decor outbreak of the early 70s. He saw Star Wars in its original theatrical run (several times), owned a Space:1999 Eagle One playset, dressed up as Ben Franklin for Bicentennial celebrations at school, wore Garanimals, ate Koogle and Freakies cereal when he could convince my mother — scourge of sugary cereals that she was– to buy it.
A redditor for five years, he is the moderator of the Goonshow Subreddit and has more than 37,000 comment karma and more than 6,000 post karma.
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