The holiday season is upon us and celebrations have begun! Though many people still have large family gatherings for the holidays, they are by no means, like the ones of yesteryear. Times are rapidly changing and the type of Christmas celebrations that most older southerners and Mississippians remember are almost a thing of the past. The changes in our lifestyles have very much changed the way we celebrate during the holidays .
“Back in the day”, Christmas was a much anticipated time because, for most families, it meant that ALL of the relatives came together in one place. Everyone looked forward to seeing loved ones that they might not have seen in a long while. Car loads of “kinfolk ” would pour in from out of town and “from up north”.
These days, we live in a much more fast paced, hustle and bustle society. Many people are working during the holidays. Many have started taking destination vacations or cruises during the holiday season, which keep them from extended family gatherings. Many stores are now open on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, which was unheard of years ago. Some have become more interested in scheduling their time around catching all of the bargains offered on those days. So,for many reasons, it is not always expected for everyone to be together for the holidays.
Another thing that everyone looked forward to during the holidays was the unbelievable “spread” of food that was always a given during this time. All types of homemade baked good and old family recipes were laid out for all to enjoy. There was always a wide assortment and magnificent array of food! At all of the family Christmas gatherings from my childhood, I can remember having NO LESS than three or four meats to choose from. The selections would vary, but almost always, there was ham AND turkey….and very often chitterlings (chittlins’ ). Family dinners, for some, would include duck, goose, hen and all types of wild game. The possibilities were endless. Christmas 1968, at our house the meal included a whole roasted pig all dressed with a red bow on the neck and an apple in his mouth.
I love to hear the stories of my parents’ childhood Christmases.
My father says that during Christmas, when he was growing up, his mother would cook at least seven or eight cakes. One of those, he said, would always be a Jelly Cake. He says that there would always be a lot of meat from the hog killing that his father would perform right before Christmas. My mother says that her mother would prepare lots of food and always had a Pound Cake and Ambrosia for every Christmas meal. She remembers that the children were always excited about getting lots of fruits and nuts, which they didn’t get regularly throughout the year.
Times have certainly changed, and so have our Mississippi Christmases.
Christmastime at our house
Was such a joyous thing;
There was much anticipation
Of what the day would bring
For many months prior,
The list making would begin;
There were so many things I wanted,
On pure memory I couldn’t depend.
I carried handy ’round with me
A trusty little list.
There was not one single thing,
I wanted my parents to miss.
And every year, without a doubt,
I couldn’t ask for any better,
For I ‘d get everything on my list,
Down to the very letter.
The night before, my brother and I,
Would always try our best;
To catch ole Santa in his tracks,
So we’d get little rest.
We’d try to keep ourselves alert,
With a flashlight by our side;
But, every year ole St. Nick
Would cleverly by us slide.
We must have fallen fast asleep,
Before the morning’s light;
Because our toys appeared miraculously,
Sometime through the night.
In our den, the floor was covered,
With toys of every kind;
The sheer volume of them all,
Would surely blow your mind.
We’d jump around from here to there,
And squeal with pure delight;
We couldn’t have concealed our excitement,
If we tried with all our might.
Later on in the day,
The relatives would pour in;
For the traditional Christmas dinner,
With us and all our kin.
We’d have such an array of food,
Usually, specialties of the South;
One year, we even had a whole roasted pig,
With an apple in his mouth.
We’d exchange gifts and laughter,
And each other’s company enjoy ;
The men would often help assemble,
Some child’s complicated toy.
Our festivities usually lasted,
Way into the night;
And after all was said and done,
We felt that everything went just right.
from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems
by Patricia Neely-Dorsey, Copyright © 2008