This Month in Our History
December 2011 – Distinct Seasons of Christmas
"The Christmas season has passed in the case of this writer through three quite distinct seasons. First, the Christmas of childhood days. Many years have passed, years filled with duties, responsibilities, joys, griefs, all manner and all variety of human experiences. Nonetheless, those [childhood] days come back in memory with a clearness of detail almost startling."
"The scenes that are recalled were laid in a quiet and remote country section. They date in the middle 1860s, during a part of which Virginia was engulfed in the great war of ’61-65. Notwithstanding all the horrors of war and of the collapse which followed, the Christmas scene was joyous for the little ones.
"To be sure, its joys were simple. Expenditures for the celebration of the season were very limited, but the traditional stocking was hung at Christmas Eve. And the eager boy or girl was glad to find in it, bright and early Christmas morning, something like these: a big red apple, an orange, a bunch of raisins, a little striped peppermint candy, a few homemade cakes and in the war years a handful of chestnuts, which became a little later a handful of almonds, pecans and palm nuts. This would about conclude the list of presents for the youngsters…but the zest with which the children of that day enjoyed these simple things is fully equal to that with which the more sophisticated boy of [today] welcomes his more elaborate and costly gifts.
"The Christmas table was well-laden. The inevitable turkey was at hand, the country ham was on deck, oysters were in abundance… The tide of youthful blood ran high in our veins and the simple winter sports of the countryside were keenly relished. Alas, how far away and yet how near it all seems!
"A later stage of the Christmas season came when the boy had grown…and had his own children around him. Then the season brought a new pleasure…in seeing the little faces glow and in hearing the little voices cry out with delight. It is good to have one season in the year when we are thinking more of the comfort and happiness of others than our own.
"Now the third stage has come. The children are all grown and married. They come back for a brief season and their coming is in itself a Christmas joy beyond computation. They bring with them the third generation and everybody knows that the chief folk in that large family circle will be the little folk. And so the grandchildren take charge. Now they must have more costly, elaborate novelties. Yet the childish laugh will ring out and the joy of the childish hearts will be just as merry and just as contagious as ever.
"What a blessed Savior He was who brought into a world of gloom and darkness so much light and gladness. Nowhere, save where the spirit of the Lord Jesus reigns, is there a season of the year when the vast majority of our people are thinking of how to give pleasure to others rather than themselves. [Let’s] take the spirit of Christmastide into all the rest of the year."
The above inspirational memory of Christmastide was written by Robert Healy Pitt and published in the Religious Herald of December 23, 1926. Dr. Pitt was editor of the Virginia-based religious newspaper from 1906 until his death in 1937. He first came to the newspaper in 1888 as associate editor. In his Christmas remembrances he was calling upon childhood memories from Middlesex County, Virginia, where he grew up in the community around Harmony Grove Baptist Church. In adulthood, he made his home in Richmond.
The editor’s nostalgic remembrances of the three generations of Christmas still rings true in our time. The expectations for the gifts under the tree have enlarged since Dr. Pitt’s childhood; however, he is right that the third generation, the grandchildren, are "the chief folk" at Christmas. And he remains right that Christmastide is the season when people are thinking more about others and "how to give pleasure to others."
This columnist will be surrounded by the three generations this season. The grandmother is busy with her Christmas list. By their very presence, the grown children – my two sons and daughters-in-law – will bring "a Christmas joy" of which they likely are unaware. And the six grandchildren – three boys and three girls – will – as in Dr. Pitt’s day – "take charge."
Merry Christmas one and all!
Please Note: The Christmas editorial is included in a booklet which the Virginia Baptist Historical Society published entitled "Christmas Among the Baptists of Virginia." It includes poems, inspirational thoughts and stories associated with Virginia Baptists. A copy can be ordered for five dollars including shipping and handling from Virginia Baptist Historical Society, P.O. Box 34, University of Richmond, VA 23173.
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