Robert Tristan Coffin, Maine Pulitzer Prize winning poet, looked back on his boyhood Christmases around 1900 when every aunt, uncle, cousin, his brothers and sisters celebrated Christmas at his family’s saltwater Harpswell farm.
They cut their Christmas tree from their own woods, decorated it with fans and strings of popcorn and cranberries. Back then most of the gifts were homemade and they were the best ones too.
A roast and geese including the prize goose he had raised and if a certain uncle was there, a raccoon cooked just for him, with mince pies and the Christmas cake made for their Christmas feast.
Coffin remembers just a few store bought presents – dolls for the girls and pop guns for the boys, maybe a music box for someone. But no Smart Watches, phones, IPads or laptops with their boxes; no factory made toys or wrapping paper,
And those homemade gifts? Christmas candies – rock candy, candied lemon peel, molasses taffy and molasses popcorn balls – the inevitable warm winter socks. The best presents? The sleds his dad made for each kid with their names and a beautiful Cardinal or Blue Bird painted on each.
But the heart of Christmas was the stories his father told by the roaring fire of far off lands and the Civil War – the night before a battle – the dew on sleeping soldiers’ faces, rifles stacked neatly, the camp fires like Milky Way stars.
To hear those stories told by our parents and grandparents once more, firing our imagination, instead of our endless television specials, sports and the constant hypnosis of our cell phones would be a blessing.
Think how it would be if all your aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids came together with your family for Christmas! And think if you had to make gifts for all, not just buy gifts from Amazon, how different and fun it might be, with stories told by your parents and grandparents by the fire – the heart of Christmas!