Remembering the true meaning of Christmas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Wednesday, I read the column Harold Keller wrote about Christmas and the birth of Jesus. He was so right about the way Christmas is celebrated today and how the true meaning of Christmas has been lost. Today, everyone is “celebrating” Christmas with parties, buying gifts that no one really needs and getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the moment instead of the spirit of the season.

Today the child’s Christmas wish list consists of cars, motor bikes, televisions, cellphones, computers and any other electronic device that is in. Have you ever stopped to think about what was on the wish list of children in the late 1800s or even in the 1940s?

Well, let me tell you what my friends and I received for Christmas when we were growing up. The churches would have the children line up, and they would give them a stocking with an apple, an orange, a banana and some nuts. At our home, we would get a new shirt and a new pair of pants, and we were very thankful for our new clothes. Very few children would get a new bicycle because they cost about $30, and that was a lot of money during these hard times.

My Aunt Ollie, who is in her 90s, said she and her siblings might get one small toy, some fruit and maybe a new dress if her mom could find a piece of material. Back in this time, a lot of the children’s clothes were made from flour and feed sacks. She recalls that she and her family would visit other families, and they would sing Christmas carols, pray and just visit with family and friends. She also recalled that sometime the government would give them commodities.

Around the 1900s in the small towns of Ruddock, Napton and Frenier, the children were usually given toys made from the cypress trees. Cypress was the main type of tree that grew in the swamps, and it had soft wood that was just right for carving. Children would receive many hand-carved toys for Christmas. Because the people that lived during this time didn’t have very much money, they would make gifts for the children. While hunting the swamps in these old towns, I have found some of the old toys that were made. I have several small hand-carved toys with pieces of wire for arms and legs. I bet they were special gifts for some little girl or boy.

So with these facts and thoughts of Christmas past and Christmas present, do you think we should stop and remember the true meaning of the Christmas season and teach our children to sing, pray and visit others and make special memories during this holiday season?

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has a collection of wooden toys, marbles, clay toys and other handmade toys that were enjoyed by the children that received them for Christmas. For more information or to schedule tours, call Wayne Norwood at 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.