When we reminisce about the "good old days," we often glamorize them. This is particularly true when we are visited by "the ghost of Christmas past."


When we reminisce about the "good old days," we often glamorize them. This is particularly true when we are visited by "the ghost of Christmas past."
Bearing this in mind, come with me back to my Christmases of the 1940's and 1950's.
It seems like Christmas was colder and snowier then. The other day a friend of mine pointed out that they used chains on their tires and cinders on the roads; no salt and chemicals to melt the snow within 24 hours. The back streets were for sleigh riding.
Christmas in our house started the day after Thanksgiving when Mother (God bless her) would take me by bus to Scranton. Our first stop was The Globe Store to see Santa, then across the street to Scranton Dry Goods and up the last (and rickety) wooden escalator to the sixth floor - Toyland, with its throng of kids, smelly pony rides, and hot dogs. By late afternoon, we would be watching the big train display in the Household window while waiting for the bus home.
On Sunday after Thanksgiving, Mother baked her fruit cakes from a family recipe of the late 1800's, with its 10 eggs and pound of butter (this was before we heard of cholesterol). After they cooled Mother would wrap them in linen napkins drenched in Dad's Old Grand-Dad 100 proof and store them in a tin in the attic until Christmas Eve. I still go through this ritual each year.
In the 1940's, you could do most of your Christmas shopping right in Jermyn. Leo Moskovitz or John Danyo at his Variety Store always had just what would please mom. Miller's 5 & 10 cent store sold ornaments and aluminum foil icicles to trim the tree. I remember as a child buying a large ornament there with my own money. It still hangs on my tre, the broken side toward the back. They also sold toys, books, candy canes, and candy clear toys. By mid December, LaRosa's food store stocked popcorn balls, coconut pink, white and brown bonbons, and fresh pomegranates. About two weeks before Christmas, Dad would play Christmas records of organ music and chimes through speakers from above his flower shop. In the crisp December air you could hear it a block away. And nobody yelled "noise pollution."
The scent of pine and balsam filled the air from the lots where Christmas trees were being sold. Most people didn't put their tree up until just a few days before Christmas. I never saw the tree until after Santa brought it Christmas Eve while I was asleep, and in my childhood Mother insisted that it be taken down on New Year’s Day. Often in the 1940's, children from the east side of town would knock at your door and ask if they could have it to use for their Christmas on January 7.  By the mid 1940's we were putting the tree up a few days before Christmas, and I got to help.
It was tradition in our family to have oyster stew for supper on Christmas Eve. I didn't like it, but it was a tradition, so I ate it. Years later, I wished we were Italian or Polish after I learned about their traditional feast with a banquet of sea food on Christmas Eve. I was delighted and felt grown up when I was able to go to the midnight church service with Mother and Dad. Having only oyster stew at 6 o’clock, by 11:30 our stomachs were rumbling just in time for communion. Once we were home, the fruit cake came out of the attic, ham and kielbasa were sliced, cookies and candy were put out and wine was poured. It was time to celebrate!
Although we got to bed in the wee hours of the morning, we were up early to see what Santa brought and open other gifts. Mother never allowed me to eat candy until the afternoon except on Christmas and Easter (I still have candy on Christmas mornings; it makes them special days). The aunts and uncles not joining us for Christmas dinner would stop in later that night. Tired as we were, Dad insisted that we stay up until after midnight to enjoy the entire Christmas.
In those days, Christmas week was spent visiting family and friends. In the 1950's, the Lions Club had a house decorating contest. People tried to out-do each other to win the prize. How beautiful it was walking (yes, walking!) to their homes. When I was in high school, after New Year’s Day I thought, ‘Why stop the celebration? Orthodox Christmas was six days away, then their New Year. We should party with them, too!’
 May these memories and traditions never die!