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I believe in Yesterday’s Christmas

Cheers to everyone whoever experienced a holiday like the one I had in 1966.

(Image: Robert Thiemann/

I believe in Yesterday’s Christmas

Maybe I’m just nostalgic. Maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t think so (nostalgic, I mean). But I believe in yesterday’s Christmas. In a spiritual sense Christmas over the last fifty years has changed. There actually were Advent wreaths and families lit them and said a prayer in preparation for the coming of the little king. Mangers were put in a strategic place where a family could offer adoration well into the Christmas season.

Today, the baby Jesus takes a back seat to electronic games, sports, and fantasy. We bow down to the god of material commercialism. Inappropriate dress, of which Our Lady of Fatima warned us against, dominates fashion. Things are expected not worked for.

But it wasn’t always like that.

I was eleven-years-old in the winter of ’66. Things were scarce for me because we hadn’t any snow yet that year which put a dent on my snow shoveling business and thus on my income. My news paper sales, one hawking the morning edition of The Trentonian to steelworkers on shift duty, and the other delivering afternoon home sales of The Philadelphia Bulletin, gave me some money for personal use but was mainly paid to my parents for room and board. It was like that. If you made money you paid a portion of your earnings to mom. Keeping ten children warm, fed, and clothed cost everyone something.

Evenings were spent rushing back to school to practice with the boys’ choir for the big Christmas show and Midnight Mass. I still had a prepubescent, unbroken voice and I sang like an angel.

Everyone was busy cleaning, cooking, baking, and decorating the tree with garland, lights, and tinsel. Everything was in preparation; everything, that is, except the wrapping because there weren’t any presents under the tree. My older siblings were unconvincingly satisfied with mom’s answer that “your father will be home soon.” The younger of the ten of us were placated with “Santa Claus is on his way.” Although I saw some tears in my older sisters’ eyes, I was enchanted by the flurries kissing our front-window pane.

Somewhere out west, in the plains I think, a major storm had developed. It was powered and fueled by a massive cold front. Off the coast of Virginia another storm was taking shape fed by warm air and water from the Gulf Stream. Upon collision the storms formed a classic nor’easter and it was already circling above our heads. Buckets began pouring down as I bundled up and headed off to church. An usher there informed me that Midnight Mass was cancelled and I’d better trudge my way home if I expected to see Christmas Day. Later, I heard he had called and spoke to my mother to make sure I was safe and secure (people did that back then, it wasn’t unusual for another parent to watch over someone else’s kids, even strangers.)

As I unbuckled my boots and removed the plastic trash bags covering my socks, I noticed my mother had been crying. Something was terribly wrong. Then I noted the obvious. There were still no presents underneath the tree.

The snow came down in bands so thick we couldn’t see out the window at all when dad got home clad in white but with his arms empty. My folks went into the bedroom where I heard words from dad and pleading from mom. I was sent directly to bed. Instead I laid on my belly at the top of the steps where I could hear what was being said. Apparently, dad was waiting for a phone call. Someone started reciting the rosary. Despite the wind howling around our little jubilee, I could hear the beads of the decades being said: The Joyful Mysteries.

The phone rang and my heart skipped a beat. Through a crack in the railing I could see mom and dad scurrying to don hats and gloves and then out the door they went, mom leaving a trail of condensation through the snow. Dad had gotten a check from a late-night lender (more like a loan shark). Now they had to cash the check at the toy store and shop before the store closed at midnight. The manager of the store helped my parents fill their carts, often discounting much of the merchandise. There were essentials like hats and scarves thrown in for free as stocking stuffers.

On Christmas Day mom had all the girls in curls, dad helped the boys with their ties. A hot turkey awaited everyone after mass. After the night before everything seemed so sublime. In Thanksgiving we said a rosary before digging into the pumpkin pie with whipped cream because we were truly grateful for what we had received.

So, cheers to everyone whoever experienced a holiday like the one I had in 1966. Nostalgia be damned. They know that gratitude trumps attitude every time.

Merry Christmas.

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About George J. Galloway 11 Articles
George J. Galloway is a retired history teacher, now freelance writer and novelist. He is a father of three and married to Cathy, his bride of 33 years. He writes from his little Cape Cod in Fallsington, Pennsylvania. You can read his blog at


  1. Back about that time, my older brother (then eight) had asked for and received a certain cement mixer for Christmas, which he had great plans for. We heated with wood, so during the school break in between Xmas and New Year’s we had to go and cut wood. The general process was to cut down a dead tree and then haul it into the clearing or edge of the field to cut or put in a ‘buzz pile.’

    During one of these tows, a branch hidden under the snow caught his leg and broke a bone. He spent a couple days in the hospital, as was common in those days, all the time looking forward to coming home and at least holding his beloved cement mixer until he could play with it like he normally would. Once he got home he asked for the cement mixer – the other brothers, in the course of only two days, had completely wrecked it – no longer mobile!

    • Knowall, every time I see your name I think Christmas carols. “The First Knowall, the angels did say…” 🙂

      I hope you have a merry and blessed twelve days of Christmas.

      (And you are lucky to have survived if you are one of the boys who destroyed your brother’s present!)

      • funny correlation — I’m one, like John, who’s not fit to untie His sandal strap..

        Instead of knowall it’s more like big mouthful of hot air, in reality

        that leg cast was in our attic for many years

        We would get a Tonka dumptruck or similar and run in along the ground all the while putting our weight on it — they can only last so long

        Merry Xmas to all – hope you were able to partake in the Eucharist this week.

  2. If not what we expect or think we deserve, it is what it is and always a gift when accepted with trust and gratitude. There is a time for all things. May the Lord in His boundless mercy and compassion hold us firm even when we settle on the far side of the sea. Merry Christmas and a Joyful New Year.

  3. Enjoyed reading that article. I intended my Christmas to be as close to yours as I could. I may be wrong, but I’m seeing PP, not so much as evil but weak. I’m watching Jesus: His Life. Sky History.

  4. The way things are going in the church and the world these days, it’s seeming like Christianity is nothing more than Harry Potter fantasy made-up nonsense.

  5. me too I survived four brothers and was the only girl. That says alot. There were foods I could not eat until I was about 30 due to the comments they made about them. But Christmas in a real family a little larger than neighbors thought should be and we were only 5, without much money. My father was a buyer for a large restaurant chain so many vendors gave us such goodies of fruit and nuts and berries I so thought we were rich people. One even gave me a doll for Christmas Good innocent memories. I remember an Irish Catholic family across the street, which had more kids than us, who gave me a Lady of Lourdes and I many years later I converted and still recall them often. The prayers of the mother may have brought me home. Thank you and Merry Christmas Mrs O’Conner. I believe…..

  6. We had Christmas times like that also. In your one paragraph, you mentioned Santa Claus. Ever notice how everyone has fun with this “fake” idol and always say they do it for the kids, but they never
    talk about Jesus later on in years even after the kids have grown up. Think about how much Santa is adored and talked about, but Jesus is abandoned in society and even in a lot of Catholic homes. Look at the world today in all the chaos that is all around us. God will not bless a nation who doesn’t worship Him only and is trying it’s hardest to remove Him from all aspects of American life. There is a mighty spiritual battle going on and Satan uses all sorts of tricks to get our minds off of Christ. He cleverly disguises himself in Santa……move the letter “n” to to end of his name….see what people have been following all these years! He has been attacking God since Adam and Eve.

    • You know Barb, I think most readers here will agree with your other points but “Santa” is simply St. Nicholas who was a real person, an early Christian & bishop from what’s now Turkey. Goodness, even our local Christian radio station affiliated with American Family Radio acknowledges that & they’re hardly a Catholic outfit.
      Not only has Christmas been co-opted by secularism but so has St. Nicholas. I think we should try to regain the true meaning of both.
      Merry Christmas & God bless!

      • So what does St. Nicholas have to do with the birth of Jesus? Anything that distracts from the focus of the incarnation is an affront to a Holy God who from eternity past created everything for His glory only. Any little change, no matter how cute, “religious”, etc. He finds as an abomination. Once we take our eyes off the true shepherd, Jesus, that’s when we let in all kinds of false beliefs, idols, traditions, etc. No wonder He refers us as sheep….the dumbest animals around! I can’t express in words anything that will open your eyes to the truth, only the Holy Spirit can do that, but will keep you in prayer.

  7. Growing up (I was born in the early 60’s) we got one present from our parents. Fast forward, a child I know opened a present and when he saw what it was he threw it on the ground. If anyone of us had done that growing up we would have been considered ungrateful. Unfortunately I am seeing more and more of what this boy did.

  8. Wow, an amazing story – thank you! Our family does the Advent Wreath, making our own every year & saying prayers each evening. We keep our Christmas holy, reflecting on the birth of Christ & the meaning of it all. Material gifts are 2nd fiddle – so far. Hopefully, my kids will keep that idea as they grow, & we will continue to do all we can to keep them on that path as they mature.

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