We lived on a farm of about fifty acres when I was growing up. The farm was in Jefferson Center in western Pennsylvania and situated so that no other house could be seen from our house, even though the farm where our grandparents lived – and later aunts and uncles – as well as a house belonging to a cousin on my father’s side, were both about a quarter mile away.
The materials we used to decorate for the Christmas season were found either on our farm or very close by. My sister Emily and I would go over to the Fisher family’s woods at the end of my grandparent’s farm to pick Ground Pine – a clubmoss that resembles a miniature pine tree – to make Christmas wreaths. As we searched, we knew we had to leave enough to allow for the next year’s growth so we picked with care. When we felt we had enough, we took the Ground Pine home, took two coat hangers out of the closet, bent them into a circle and then wrapped it with the Ground Pine. The Ground Pine stayed green and fresh looking for a long time so we made the wreaths early in December. We usually made one wreath for our back door, the door everyone used, and another wreath for Grandma Keck’s front door. We put a red bow on the wreaths but no other decorations. I always loved to see our wreath hung on Grandma’s door.
We always had a live tree for Christmas. Daddy would dig up the tree out of the yard and place it in a metal tub, bringing it into the house a few days before Christmas. We decorated the tree with great glee. Sometimes the tinsel was placed carefully but at other times it was tossed on. Several days after Christmas, Daddy would take the tree back out and replace it in its spot in the ground. If any didn’t survive, I don’t remember them. Over the years, some trees came in more than once. Occasionally the tree would be small so it was placed on a wooden spool table. That tree could reappear a few years later when it was larger.
Just before the farm was sold, Daddy donated one of our former Christmas trees to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church to be used for the church tree that year. He was quite upset because the men who came to cut the tree took the wrong one! He had planned to give the church a Spruce, but the men cut the Blue Spruce growing beside the ordinary Spruce. When Daddy saw how beautiful his Blue Spruce looked at the church, he forgave the mistake. He thought the Blue Spruce was the finest Christmas tree he had ever seen at church.
The other decorations at the house were simple. We clipped Pine from the Pine windbreak that went around the orchard. The pine was used to decorate the mantle as well as any other place we felt needed some greens. We did have red chenille wreaths with candles when I was young. In later years my mother replaced them with lighted red plastic bells that had big red bows. Those hung every holiday for years in our four front windows. There was also a plastic angel with a light inside that sat in the center of the mantle with other angels standing on both sides. Other than a few candles, there wasn’t any other decorating.
We thought our house was the prettiest one in the neighborhood but I suppose every child thought that about their home. Going out to select the materials for decorating was a part of the build up to Christmas that I miss. The fifties were a simpler time but no less happy.
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People written about in this post: Martha Bachman, Emily Bachman, Elmer Bachman, Alberta Claire Keck