Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The line of children extended around the block of the Fire Station in West Salem, Ohio

They were waiting for their chance to sit on Santa’s lap and ensure convince him they had been good, at least for this year. It was cold and snowy, the children and their parents were dressed in heavy coats, gloves or mittens, scarves or mufflers around their necks and the black galoshes of the era. As they entered the Fire Station where Santa’s chair of honor had been set up, the snow melted into puddles of slush. The heat was stifling from the overhead gas heated blower, yet the cement floor was cold.

As my two younger brothers and I waited our turns, we cautiously looked at each other wondering if one or the other would tattle some indiscretion to Santa, thus ensuring a lump of coal would be delivered to the errant child rather than the coveted toy of request. Somehow we didn’t relate tattling as serious as, oh say, pinching, hair pulling and even hitting one another (loving children that we were).

It was our turn and after each of us (and all the other children) had spent time with Santa, we were ushered off his lap by a volunteer fire fighter and given a bag of candy with an orange inside. I always loved those oranges. I patiently picked off every piece of candy that stuck to its surface and then presented it to my grandmother, Nanny, to wash and then slice up into orange ‘smiles’. The remaining candy smelled just like the orange.  I let my brothers have the candy, even though I acted as if were a real imposition.  I really only wanted the orange. Oh, and maybe just a few pieces of their hard tack cinnamon candies if I chose to use the remaining candy as bargaining leverage.

As I got older and outgrew that routine, my local Girl Scout Troup made orange decorations for Christmas ornaments thanks to the diligence and patience of our Girl Scout Leaders.  Oh, how the scent of those still takes me back to another place… to another time. Mind you, I still love the scent of a live Christmas Tree, but my memories are linked to oranges!

To this day, the scent of oranges brings me back to childhood Christmas

The internet and Google are a vast source of information and I found the instructions for making the Clove Oranges. Easy-peasy:
How to Make Clove Oranges

Gather your materials...
To make a clove orange decoration you will need: 
  • an orange 
  • thin colored ribbon (enough to wrap around your orange twice and a bit more) 
  • whole cloves 

Clove Orange Instructions 
  • Wrap the ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, to divide the orange into quarters.
  • Feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange. 
  • Tie a simple overhand knot to secure the ribbon in place. 
  • Now start pressing cloves into your orange. I like to outline the ribbon with cloves first, and then fill in the gaps. 
  • You can also make pretty patterns on your orange with cloves. Try making stars, hearts and more! 

Once you are finished, hang the clove orange on your tree by tying it on with the extra ribbon, and enjoy the spicy Christmas aroma!

It was an opportunity to dream of Olympic skaters and gold medals…

The Fire Station flooded a cement area that had a curb all around it each winter. It became the community skating rink. Christmas was an opportunity for this growing girl to receive a new pair of ice skates. I didn't tire of this this until somewhere in high school when priorities shifted. Even my brothers got into the spirit and would go skating with me. They believed I was a veritable Peggy Fleming since I could skate backwards.
The air was crisp and clear, the type of cold that almost hurt when you breathed it in. When we got home from skating, Nanny would have hot chocolate waiting for us and ready to pour into mugs, topped of course with a marshmallow.  I always wanted toast with butter to dip into my mug of cocoa.

“animal crackers and cocoa to drink, that is the finest of suppers I think and when I’m grown up and can have what I please, I think I shall always insist upon these”

During the years of awkward adolescence, a highly favored aunt who taught high school English gave me a book of limericks for Christmas. As our families gathered together for the holiday, after dinner I went to my room and read the tiny little red book. It was full of randy rhymes! I immediately committed a number of them to memory and went downstairs to recite them to the family. During moments of uncomfortable silence and extreme giggling, my aunt commented, “that will teach me not to review the book first!” (I still know a number of those limericks!)

My mother recently reminded me of another Christmas that also happened during the time of awkward adolescence.

I kept pestering her asking, “What did you get me for Christmas?” over and over so many times, that she finally told me. On Christmas morning when I opened the gifts – there they were, exactly as she had described them. I’d open one, look at it, and then silently look at her. I never asked again what I was getting for Christmas!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m going to make a Christmas project and recapture the fragrance of Christmas this year! I might even make some hot cocoa and toast! None of the packet stuff, homemade from real powdered cocoa like Nanny’s!
So, what are some of your favorite Christmas memories? (Perhaps it's time to write them down for your children and grandchildren.)

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

The Message (MSG)

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.


  1. I love the Scripture that accompanies this blog. I had never read the version that you posted...only the KJV. What a beautiful translation this is.
    Your Christmas memories are wonderful ones, Tamara. As I read what you have written, I picture you as a child, waiting to climb on Santa's lap...and it takes me back in time, myself. The anticipation of Santa on Christmas Eve is still fresh in my memory, and I can remember as if it was yesterday getting up on Christmas morning with my younger sister and rushing into the living room to open gifts with Mama and Daddy. It is a lovely memory for me...an unforgettable one.
    I have never done the oranges with the cloves, but as I read your blog, I could almost smell them. When I was a girl, we used to take our hives of honeybees to the orange groves in Florida, and Daddy would bring oranges back at Christmas time. In later years, when I began teaching, I would give each of my students a fresh orange for Christmas. Thinking back on that now, I wonder if students today would be appreciative of being given a freshly-picked orange as a gift...and I think that they probably wouldn't. Sad to say that, but that's the way I feel today. There is too much commercialization and too much "give me THINGS."
    Thank you for writing down your Christmas memories. They elicited pleasant Christmas memories for me, my friend.
    I send you love,

    1. Thank you, Jackie. I appreciate your kind comments.

    2. And one more thing - I so agree with your comment on the commercialization of the season. I want fewer things - and more time to enjoy them!

      Love to you too!

  2. that is one of my favorite and most 'redolent' verses.
    what an enigma that to one a fragrant aroma, to
    another a stench.

    i loved making those clove studded oranges, too.

    1. Thanks for stopping in. Those simple oranges studded with cloves are amazing and so simple to make.


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