For many people, Christmas was just one more day on which to struggle to put food on the table, to keep warm, perhaps to pay the rent that kept a roof over their heads. Anything more than that was extra. But many did manage to celebrate, in whatever way they could manage—and during those times when people had so little, even the smallest gift was special. Children of families who could afford it woke to a stocking filled with nuts, candy, and fruit such as oranges, a treat that many stores only stocked around the holiday season. Those fortunate enough to have a family member with a paying job might receive a store-bought gift of clothing or a toy. Some families came up with creative schemes of exchanging things they already owned—the term “re-gifting” had not yet been coined, but its meaning was certainly known! Others gave homemade gifts, such as a wooden sled or other wooden toys built by a father; or sweaters, mittens, and scarves knitted by a mother.
However paltry and makeshift some of these celebrations may sound today, Depression-era children didn’t see them that way. As many put it, everyone was poor, so they didn’t see themselves as more unfortunate than others; they were simply happy with what they did have. Those practical gifts of coats and clothing were hailed almost as eagerly as toys, for they meant warmth during winter days of sledding, snowballing, and other games in the snow—amusements which, then as now, provided hours of enjoyment for no cost at all.
POSTED BY: Elisabeth Grace Foley
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The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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