Senior Scene December 16, 2016

Only six more sleeps until Christmas! If my readers are like most of the people I know, they are out and about frantically searching for the last few gifts for the youngsters on their list.  For some of the older folks, this last minute hustle and bustle is simply too much to handle due to weather conditions, health concerns, and the stress of consumerism.

Perhaps they can avoid some of this seasonal distress by giving something that cannot be purchased. Perhaps you can gather your family around with mugs of steaming hot chocolate and share of yourself.  Share stories from the past that are meaningful and revealing of your upbringing and the true spirit of the season.  Reminisce about Christmas “in the old days” when you were happy to get an orange and a few candies in your stocking as opposed to a new iPhone or tablet.

Do you remember getting oranges in your stockings for Christmas? As it turns out, there is history behind that memory. A child during the Great Depression was happy to get a single orange in a Christmas stocking. Receiving an orange was a big deal because oranges were not affordable during the rest of the year.

The Great Depression lasted over 10 years (from 1929-1939) with nearly 25 percent of the Canadian labor force without jobs. When the economy collapsed, so did the banks and many factories were forced to shut down. The “middle class” became “poor” by the calamity and the “poor” became desperate. Needless to say, practically no one had any real money, so Christmas gifts became gifts of necessity rather than gifts of whimsy.

Almost everything that was received as gifts was either homemade or homegrown. Mothers and grandmothers made dresses and aprons for girls from flour sacks. Boys got socks and maybe gloves; perhaps a really lucky boy got a scarf that was hand knitted. Gifts were made by hand and great thought was given to the making of a gift. Decorations for the tree, if the family had one, were handcrafted as well. They might be paper ornaments; hand carved wood ornaments, berries and perhaps candles.

The routine for the day of Christmas may have gone something like this. You would have gotten up and then checked to see what presents there were and opened them. Then everyone would have gotten dressed and went to church, either walking or going in a mule or horse-drawn wagon.

After church, you would either go home or to a relative’s house for Christmas dinner. The women combined all the food everyone brought and cooked – usually chicken was the main course. Christmas was about family and friends and what you did have; and being grateful for it, not complaining about what you did not have.

So, if you insist in joining the ranks of the last minute shoppers, save yourself some more time and take your gifts to our Gift Wrap booth at the Quinte Mall. You can take a relaxing coffee break while the volunteers wrap and decorate your gifts in exchange for a nominal donation. All proceeds from this seasonal service help subsidize the cost of services provided to seniors in your community.  Merry Christmas everyone!