The highlight of the Christmases of my childhood featured the Christmas Eve Program at our little country church. We children all recited little poems, called “pieces” (from which comes the term “saying your piece”), and we sang the traditional songs such as “Up on the Housetop”, “Here Come Santa Claus”, and “Jingle Bells”, and joined the rest of the little congregation in singing the traditional old hymns. The Christmas story was read from the Bible; and, in the background, the old clock ticked away the evening. Shortly thereafter, we’d hear the sound of sleigh bells, and Jolly Old Santa himself would burst through the door with his pack on his back. He brought “treats” for everyone,--brown paper bags filled with hard candies, peppermint canes, chocolate drops, nuts, a shiny red apple and an orange. He enlisted “helpers” to help him pass out the small gifts beneath the tree. Each Sunday School teacher brought small gifts for the children of her class. There was usually one gift for each child from Santa himself, somehow smuggled under the tree by our parents. When the evening ended, shouts of “Merry Christmas” filled the cold night air as everyone stomped through the snow to head for home, filled with Christmas cheer and love for all mankind.
I shamelessly admit to placing one of my vintage Santas in this photo of the little church.