Bill Eggert

It’s hard to believe that it’s Christmas time once again.

Christmas may be a bit more somber this year, given the events of the past half year. I’m still in the Arbutus Park Manor, recovering from my stroke.

Once again, radio stations are playing Christmas music – time-honored classics that we’ve heard before. And a lot of Christmas specials are once again filling the airways, including on TV “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and others. And let’s not forget the holiday movies of days gone by: “A Christmas Carol” (1938), “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945), and everybody’s favorite, “A Christmas Story” (1983). Even the weather has cooperated, laying down a fresh blanket of snow the weekend after Thanksgiving.

My Christmases go back a long long way – before I remember. I know this because Mom saved many old Christmas photos from when I was a small child.

I remember a lot of the decorations that Mom and Dad used to put up. For instance, we had a red cellophane wreath we’d hang in the window of our back door.

Another decoration I remember is the large wreath that encompassed the head of Santa Claus that we put in the front door in the living room. A single light bulb was put inside the decoration that lit up Santa Claus and the wreath.

I remember the old manger that we used to put on the mantlepiece growing up. I also remember the red electric Christmas candles we put in the window.

In the old days, Dad used to go out and get a real Christmas tree. Some of the Christmas tree balls still survive and are still part of the Christmas tree decorations that we have today.

The inside of the house was Mom’s domain for decorating. Dad’s domain remained outside. He would put up the Christmas lights on the front of the house.

I remember Dad would always wear his old army jacket when he would put up the decorations.

One memorable year, Dad used his table saw to make Santa Claus, his sleigh and four reindeer out of plywood. Dad was a wizard with the table saw back then, and I was amazed how well he would put together those pieces. And then after cutting them out, he was able to draw the face of Santa Claus and the reindeer and sleigh and have them look very professional. After Dad had Santa Claus and the reindeer painted, the final piece was Dad put one of those large outdoor lights to shine on the display.

Christmas Eve was a magical, mystical night for us kids in Richland. After supper, we would watch TV and Dad and Mom would say they’d seen Santa Claus, “He’s up on the roof two houses from us.” 

Then it was time for us to go to bed. We didn’t want Santa Claus to find out we were still awake. We would scamper up the steps to our bedrooms and promptly fall asleep. After we were fast asleep, Santa Claus would come down the chimney and put the presents for us under the tree – all in the blink of an eye.

As the years and decades pass, we continued to keep up the traditions and the decorations. But of course, a lot of the mysticism had faded as some of the magic rubbed off and no longer kept its allure for us.

Even after I moved to Atlanta, I still made it back home for Christmas. Much of the old traditions faded and changed in Johnstown over the ensuing years. But many of them still stayed the same.

I started going to Christmas Eve Mass with my parents over the years. Our dogs, Inky and Holly, got caught in the excitement of unwrapping Christmas presents as well, even presents that weren’t for them.

I want to wish all my readers a very merry and joyous Christmas this year.

May all your days be merry and bright. 

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ He can be reached at WDE1928@gmail.com.

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