A Hoptown Chronicle advent story

Christmas was a time for wish catalogs, cedar trees, cotton stockings and a mother’s homemade desserts

The preparations began after Thanksgiving, and some of the first signs of the holiday were the decorations at Cayce-Yost Department Store.

My childhood memories of Christmas will never be forgotten. Preparation toward Christmas started after Thanksgiving in our household. One of many memories was of going to Cayce-Yost Department Store and admiring the pretty decorations and walking upstairs to the toy department. 

Bettye Shelton
Bettye Shelton

Christmas morning was full of anticipation, excitement and thrill as we woke to see what was under the tree for us. We didn’t get any sleep. Daylight couldn’t come quick enough. 

I remember the excitement my siblings and I had when my dad would go into the woods and bring that cedar tree into our home, and the joy we had decorating it. The tree ornaments stand out in my mind, and also the silver icicles we placed on the tree. The large colored lights were like bubbles with oil in them.

The joy of smelling cedar from the tree and of my mom baking cakes, pies and boiled custard will never be forgotten.

Our parents were just as excited as we were. I still remember how our parents had cotton stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel. The stockings were filled with apples, oranges, nuts, jelly-filled candy and Lifesavers in a rainbow of colors. Our parents were generally frugal, so we didn’t get a lot of toys throughout the year. But our parents made Christmas special and went out of their way for us. 

I still remember how my mom would place her homemade cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. 

Another fond memory as a child was when we saw the mailman bringing Christmas wish catalogs to the house and how my siblings and I gathered them on the floor and viewed different toys and imagined that those toys would be under the tree. 

We always enjoyed seeing the many Christmas cards from family and friends and how my mother would place every card around the door facing in our home and how she would send out as many cards as she received. 

Christmas is so special because of all of the family time we have at this time of the year with traditions old and new. I will always remember how my mom would fix a traditional breakfast that consisted of oyster stew, crackers, soft scrambled eggs, country ham and biscuits – and how she would slice some of her homemade cakes. 

I love to spend Christmas Day with my family, opening gifts for hours, having a big breakfast and then lounging around all day looking at our gifts and sleeping because of waking up so early in the morning. 

That was Christmas to me as a kid.

As we got older, we were taught the story of the virgin birth and baby Jesus, but it took some spiritual maturity to realize the importance of the day and what it meant to all of us.

(Bettye Shelton is a retired state government employee. She has spent most of her life in Hopkinsville, with the exception of three years when she lived in Germany. She is a food columnist for the Kentucky New Era.)