Only at Christmas

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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With the onset of the Christmas holidays, I sit around and think about Christmases more than half a century ago. More particularly, I think about the things we got as opposed to the things we didn’t get. This blog, however, is about the things we got.

When I tell the younger ones in my family that we didn’t eat apples – at least not the red, store-bought ones – until Christmas, they shake their heads in disbelief and looks of awe and pity come on their faces. But, it is true. If grocers had the big, shiny, red, Washington state apples, we never ate those. The store-bought apples we ate were the average size, red ones that were sold individually, by the pound – the common man’s fare.

Regardless to how hard it is to believe, there are foodstuffs that we only ate as a part of our Christmas celebration. For instance, if we ate apples any other time, they were not store bought. We scavenged them from somebody’s orchard, and they were the small, scrawny, green, tart ones. Not exactly fit for a king nor for any fancy Christmas eating.

Oranges may have been in grocery stores the year round, but we only ate this fruit at Christmastime, as part of our holiday tradition, and they were not the large, dark color, thick-skinned, imported, California Navel oranges. We ate the regular-sized oranges that came in a small, orange croker sack … the cheaper kind.

Throughout the year, we ate black walnuts and hickory nuts from the trees in our yard. Peanuts, we bought raw and roasted, and pecans were gathered from the orchard. Only at Christmas did we eat exotic nuts like English walnuts, Brazil nuts and coconuts.

I’m not sure when or why this family tradition of eating raw coconuts started, but this nut was always a part of our holiday eating. We’d bore a hole in the shell (where the depressions looked like eyes), pour the “milk” into a glass and drink it. Then, we’d shatter the shell open with a hammer, pry the coconut out with a sharp knife and eat the sweet, white “meat.” When our holiday stock was gone of whatever we had, then, that was it … for a whole, entire year.

My daddy liked a variety of sweets, including bananas and candy. At Christmas we had our share of the beautifully, brightly-colored, “twisted” ribbon candy; soft, sugar-coated, orange slices; straight-peppermint sticks; deliciously flavored, assorted hard candies; chocolate covered crème cherries; and chocolate-covered cream drops (only my dad’s favorite).

We never ate frosted cakes, at least not at our house, until Christmas. My mother made her cakes from scratch with white flour, organic cow butter, yard-raised, chicken-hatched eggs and glazed them with her own homemade frosting – a mixture of country-butter, flavor and confectioner’s sugar. The batter was always white with chocolate frosting … my favorite. So, after Christmas was over, it was goodbye to the cakes too – see you next year.

During this wonderful and joyous season, my family celebrated with the rest of the world our version of a Charles Dickens’ Bob Cratchit Christmas.

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