I guess it's a sign of old age when you start thinking and remembering that far back. I'm talking about early and mid 1940's. LOL
My parents were very much into Christmas and being a mixed culture
household (father Cuban, mother American) they would take customs
from both cultures and we children benefited as our Christmas was
really fuller and seemed to last longer than our playmates'.
There are a lot of jumbling remembrances, even from when I was about
three years old......my twin brothers were just two years old and I
remember the Christmas tree being placed INSIDE their playpen so that
they could not reach it and grab and pull or open packages before
they were supposed to!
I remember all three of us (our little sister did not come along
until I was almost nine) sitting in our little chairs and little
rocking chairs lined up in the living room, singing Christmas carols
in English and Spanish as our parents put up the tree.
During those days the trees in our house were usually Australian pines, (or as they are known in Hawaii, ironwoods) with the long thin needles and little-bitty pinecones. These trees grew profusely in Cuba. My parents would place thick wads of white cotton along the branches to make it look like snow. The lights were the now-old-fashioned and multi-colored bigger bulbs and we had a beautiful collection of ornaments that had accumulated through the years. We would oooooh
and aaaaahh! as each ornament was unwrapped and hung.
I remember that for a month or so before the holidays, my mom would
receive copies of the Atlanta newspaper in cardboard cylinders mailed
from our aunt who lived there. Inside the pages of the newspaper,
our aunt would insert sheets of colorful American Christmas wrapping
The week of Christmas, we would all be dressed up and taken to visit
the Asilos de Ancianos (homes for the elderly), hospitals and
convents where the nuns would set up huge and very elaborate manger
scenes every year......usually taking half a room.
They would "build" whole tiny villages, with mountains, and rivers and
lakes (sometimes with real running water) and place miniature palm
trees and shepherds and sheep, and the Three Kings would be seen,
with their camels, way up on the mountains making their way down to
the stable, following a big star, which hung right over the stable.
As the days passed, the Magi and their camel entourage would be
placed closer and closer, until January 6th, (Three King’s Day) when they finally would arrive in front of the manger tableau. There was usually an alms box where donations would be placed and we three children were always given some coins to put in them.
At our house, we kids would get up very early on Christmas morning and
sneak into the living room to see what Santa had brought. We would
search for three packages, resembling shoe boxes, but heavier and
make sure we got our "annual" pair of skates (we would run through a
pair every year, saving the spare parts in the seat/chest part of the
hat-rack by the front door). Once we confirmed they were there, we
would run back in our rooms, get dressed (shoes and all) and hop back
in bed until time to get up. The only rule on this day was we had to
dress, make up our beds and eat breakfast before going in the living
room to open packages.
The packages we opened on Christmas day were usually the ones from
our parents (as Santa Claus) and from family in the States.
The packages from our Cuban grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc were
not put under the tree until the night before January 6th – Three King's
Day, the traditional day Cuban children got their gifts.