LockedMy Christmas Story

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jman
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2011/12/25 12:57:27 (permalink)

My Christmas Story

Fifty-two years ago, I was a sixth-grade student at Ashland Elementary School in Lexington, KY.  Back then, Christmas was celebrated in the public schools without any protests or legal actions from the non-Christian community.  I remember that my few Jewish friends not only respected our celebration of the birth of our Savior, they seemed to revel in the joy of the season.  It wasn't unusual that they would have a Hanakkah bush in their home.  Of course, to an 11 year-old, it looked just like a Christmas tree to me.  My point is that Christmas was truly a community celebration.  It was a special season for both Christians and non-Christians.
 
At school, the last day before Christmas break included lots of yummy treats brought in by the mothers of the kids and exchanging gifts in class.  A few weeks before, we had drawn names to see who we would be bringing a gift to.  Of course, our teacher's desk was covered with little gifts from each of us.
 
As part of this joyous celebration, the school had an assembly that included a living nativity and a chorus composed of both sixth-grade classes.  The parts of Mary and Joseph were played by sixth-graders, the wise men by fifth-graders, the shepherds by fourth-graders, and the various other characters, including the animals, by the younger kids.
 
My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, directed the chorus.  One of our featured songs was O Come All Ye Faithful.  Unbeknownst to her, one of the other teachers taught us one of the verses in Latin, so when it came time for us to sing the standard second verse, we instead, sang the first verse again, but in Latin.  When Mrs. Wilson realized what she was hearing, she was so overtaken with emotion that she broke out in tears of joy.  This was our Christmas gift to her that would long outlast the calendars, the jewelry, the candies, or the books that our mothers had picked out for her as our gifts to her.
 
For the last fifty-two years, whenever I hear the song O Come All Ye Faithful, my mind races back to that day when a bunch of 11 and 12 year-olds gave a wonderful gift to a woman that we loved.  I can still see her face vividly as we gave her a gift that cost us nothing but had more value than any of us understood at the time.
 
Over the years, as I recounted that day, I learned that what we did wasn't just a gift to Mrs. Wilson.  It was a gift to each of us from one another.  It was a wonderful memory that we will enjoy each year when we hear that song.  I don't know about the others from my class, but I usually end up adding the Latin verse whenever I hear it.
 
Adeste fideles laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.
Venite adoremus (ter)
Dominum.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera.
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus (ter)
Dominum.
Cantet nunc 'Io', chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula caelestium,
Gloria! Soli Deo Gloria!
Venite adoremus (ter)
Dominum.
Ergo qui natus die hodierna.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum.
Venite adoremus (ter)
Dominum.
 
May the season be joyous to you and allow your childhood memories to live forever by sharing them with friends and family.
 
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
 
post edited by jman - 2011/12/25 17:09:22
#1

24 Replies Related Threads

    6star
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/25 13:26:53 (permalink)
    Thank you, jman, it was a most inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes.

    #2
    MetroplexJim
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/25 18:10:27 (permalink)
    jman, I guess we are about the same age (I'll be 64 soon after the New Year).  In the public schools of my Commonwealth (Pennsylvania) each day began with 10 verses from the Old Testament, 10 from the New, the Lord's Prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  A few years before our 6th. grade year the words "under God" were added to the Pledge by a non-controversial Act of Congress.  A minimum of two years of Latin were required for graduation from high school. 
     
    General Eisenhower was President (remember how very rare were any words from him) and even the Russians had better sense than to try any "crap" (like putting missiles in Cuba).  The interstate highway system was being built with balanced budgets. 
     
    Ricky and Lucy slept in separate beds (yet somehow had "little Ricky").  There were words written on restroom walls I, in 6th grade, had never heard.  Pretty much every one of my classmates had parents who were married when they were born and were still together.
     
    My Lord, how I miss those days.  Thank you for reminding me of them with such a tender, sweet story.  Pax vobiscum.
    post edited by MetroplexJim - 2011/12/25 18:16:12
    #3
    MikeS.
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/25 20:20:29 (permalink)
    6star

    Thank you, jman, it was a most inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes.


    The same here, thanks for sharing that Jman.
    #4
    Foodbme
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/25 22:40:35 (permalink)
    You awakened similiar memories of my grade school experiences that had been buried somewhere in the recesses (pun intended) of my mind. THANX and Merry Christmas!
    #5
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 02:17:59 (permalink)
    Sounds like 1960 in the South was a fine time to grow up Jewish.
    #6
    jeepguy
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 06:34:31 (permalink)
    I can't even pronounce the words in those verses! Your class must have been studying Latin!
    #7
    joerogo
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 11:48:08 (permalink)
    jman, Great story.  A throwback to simpler, and defiantly better times.  The key word was community.
     
    I always remember this story from a Jewish friend.  He grew up in a town that was 99 44/100% Catholic, Italian Immigrants.  His family operated an auto parts store in town and he lived right next door to the Catholic Church.  One day his mother noticed the Priest in the garden pulling weeds, and she told him to go help.  Not wanting to do it, he told his mother, "why should I help him, we're not Catholic".  His mother, without skipping a beat said, "no we are not Catholic, I asked you because we are neighbors".
     
    Carpe Diem(Seize the Fish)
    #8
    ken8038
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 14:09:10 (permalink)
    Not wanting to be the grinch here, but I completely disagree with all these Leave-It-To-Beaver-Land nostalgic memories. I too went to a grammar school in the 50's that was like 95% Christian, and I always felt sorry for the few Jewish kids. Just imagine how isolated they must have felt at a time of life when being one of the crowd is the most important thing to a kid.
     
    I even remember one of the Jewish Moms telling my Mom that they had to put up a Christmas tree to made her daughter feel more included in the norm. That absolutely sucks, and I'm glad people who are not Exactly Like Me no longer have to deal with such nonsense.
     
     
    #9
    fishtaco
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 14:40:36 (permalink)
    ken8038

    Not wanting to be the grinch here, but I completely disagree with all these Leave-It-To-Beaver-Land nostalgic memories. I too went to a grammar school in the 50's that was like 95% Christian, and I always felt sorry for the few Jewish kids. Just imagine how isolated they must have felt at a time of life when being one of the crowd is the most important thing to a kid.

    I even remember one of the Jewish Moms telling my Mom that they had to put up a Christmas tree to made her daughter feel more included in the norm. That absolutely sucks, and I'm glad people who are not Exactly Like Me no longer have to deal with such nonsense.



     
    You knew there would be one.

    #10
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 15:41:26 (permalink)
    No.  There's more than one.  There's way more than one. Most people just seem to avoid controversial topics, especially when their opinion is clearly in the minority.
     
    The majority of people who yearn for yesteryear are WASP males.  You don't really see African-Americans waxing nostalgic for the days of black and white water fountains and restrooms, do you?
     
    I'd venture to guess those Jews in late 50's/early 60's Kentucky were "supporting" Christmas less for a sense of community and more out of a desire to not have a cross burned on their lawn.  Fortunately, Jews of that time had it a little easier - you can't really spot a Jew on sight, without them wearing any religious attire; blacks didn't have it quite so good.
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    jman
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 16:06:42 (permalink)
    The Travelin Man

    No.  There's more than one.  There's way more than one. Most people just seem to avoid controversial topics, especially when their opinion is clearly in the minority.

    The majority of people who yearn for yesteryear are WASP males.  You don't really see African-Americans waxing nostalgic for the days of black and white water fountains and restrooms, do you?

    I'd venture to guess those Jews in late 50's/early 60's Kentucky were "supporting" Christmas less for a sense of community and more out of a desire to not have a cross burned on their lawn.  Fortunately, Jews of that time had it a little easier - you can't really spot a Jew on sight, without them wearing any religious attire; blacks didn't have it quite so good.

     
    I'm amazed that you and Ken have turned this into a political thread.  Your attempt at pushing white guilt is obnoxious. 
    #12
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 16:37:04 (permalink)
    Political? Male bovine excretement!
     
    As someone who grew up being a half-breed, with a protestant father and a Jewish mother -- someone who was both baptized and bar mitzvahd (it happens folks) -- I'm sort of familiar with what it's like being neither fish nor fowl. Even worse, in order to continue to play basketball at St. Aeden's Father Kiely made me serve as an altar boy every so often. being part of the minority was difficult, and so was being part of the majority. We never had a Christmas tree at home. My mother wouldn't allow it. Chanukah candles? Yep. Christmas stockings? You bet.
     
    I have my wonderful memories of Christmas, and I have some bad ones, too. I grew up getting the grief and the glory. And I survived quite nicely. Oh, and there's a beautiful Christmas tree in my living room right now.
     
    By the way jman, I love your wonderful memory of a Christmas past.
     
     
    #13
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 19:26:25 (permalink)
    jman

    I'm amazed that you and Ken have turned this into a political thread.

     
    Sociological, anthropological, and maybe even a little bit theological, but not political.
     
    Brad
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    joerogo
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 20:16:36 (permalink)
    ScreamingChicken

    jman

    I'm amazed that you and Ken have turned this into a political thread.


    Sociological, anthropological, and maybe even a little bit theological, but not political.

    Brad

     
    Brad, Thank your for the analogical perspective.
    #15
    jman
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 21:18:09 (permalink)
    joerogo

    ScreamingChicken

    jman

    I'm amazed that you and Ken have turned this into a political thread.


    Sociological, anthropological, and maybe even a little bit theological, but not political.

    Brad


    Brad, Thank your for the analogical perspective.

    Yeah, I should have used the term, "political correctness".  It was still obnoxious.  That's the problem with this country.  Someone just has to pick at something and act offended, I guess.  The fact that TM turned it into a racial thing was pretty silly.
    #16
    wanderingjew
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 21:48:14 (permalink)
    On a lighter note - wow are you people OLD! 
     
    Grammar school in the 50's- I wasn't even born yet- and I'm no youngster.
     
    Seriously- most of  my coworkers think I'm ancient because the first president I (barely) remember watching on TV was Nixon, I asked my coworkers who they first remember, most replied Clinton, a few replied  Bush  Sr. 
     
    Really puts things into perspective.
     
     
    However going back to the topic at hand. I went to elementary school in the 70's- way before political correctness existed ( remember this was the Archie Bunker era) during the holidays we had both a Christmas tree  and a Chanukah menorah display in the front entrance. Of course this was back on Long Island- where everyone  wanted to be Jewish ! 
    post edited by wanderingjew - 2011/12/26 21:51:05
    #17
    6star
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/26 22:16:30 (permalink)
    wanderingjew

    On a lighter note - wow are you people OLD! 

    Grammar school in the 50's- I wasn't even born yet- and I'm no youngster.

    Seriously- most of  my coworkers think I'm ancient because the first president I (barely) remember watching on TV was Nixon, I asked my coworkers who they first remember, most replied Clinton, a few replied  Bush  Sr. 

    Really puts things into perspective.



    Hey kid.  You are just a young sprout.  I was in grammer school in the 40's!

    #18
    ann peeples
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 08:06:03 (permalink)
    Wow! growing up in the 60's we had many Jewish friends and embraced their holidays as much as ours.It wasnt even an issue. However, I am sure the memories of my great grandfather, having to leave Germany because of the Kaiser Wilhelm didnt wax nostalgic his whole life. I am saddened by your comment, TTM.
    post edited by ann peeples - 2011/12/27 08:10:10
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    jman
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 10:37:08 (permalink)
    ann peeples

    Wow! growing up in the 60's we had many Jewish friends and embraced their holidays as much as ours.It wasnt even an issue. However, I am sure the memories of my great grandfather, having to leave Germany because of the Kaiser Wilhelm didnt wax nostalgic his whole life. I am saddened by your comment, TTM.

     
    When I was in elementary school, there were one or two Jewish kids in each of the classes.  Luckily, when I was in the fifth grade, the father of one of my Jewish classmates came to our class to tell us about their faith.  He explained how they celebrated their major religious holidays.  He let us know that it was important for the kids from Christian families to celebrate the birth of our Savior and that his kids enjoyed our celebration and would gladly participate in the various holiday festivities.  He told us it was a way for them to show respect for our beliefs.  He also told us that we should respect their beliefs and that one way of doing that was to learn about their beliefs and to understand that we were all God's children. 
     
    Back then, there were no malls, and strip shopping centers were just becoming popular.  When you went shopping, you went "to town".  The only chain stores in Lexington were Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery Ward.  Most of the other stores were owned by Jewish families.  During the Christmas season, we were always greeted in those stores with a hearty "Merry Christmas", and my parents and I would respond with "Happy Hanukkah".
     
    Yes, I long for those days when you were judged by your actions toward your fellow man and not whether or not you always walked the straight line of political correctness.  Heck, back then, no one even knew what the words, "political correctness" meant. 
    #20
    seafarer john
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 11:36:24 (permalink)
    Thanks for your story, Jman. It is and honest memory of the precious innocence of childhood, and, as such, should be valued.
     
    I started kindergarten in 1933 and graduated from high school in 1945. I grew up in an era and place where prejudice  was all-pervasive and generally unspoken. We learned at an early age all the nasty terms we would routinely apply to anyone who was different from us - you know the terms, no need to repeat them here, and I've spent a lifetime trying to unlearn those hateful lessons.
     
    As an Irish-Catholic American I was taught  , not to hate, but, to distrust anyone with a skin color any shade darker than mine, a religion other than mine, an ethnicity other than mine, or even the ability to speak a foreign language.
    WWII changed all of that; not all at once, but gradually from 1941 to about 1960 when we largely came to our senses, embraced "political correctness", and learned to see ourselves as all being alike in the eyes of nature, and all being due equal respect and opportunity. I reject "political correctness" as a pejorative term and proudly announce myself to be just that - open minded, progressive, liberal, accepting, and forgiving.
     
    Cheers, John   
     
    #21
    ann peeples
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 11:51:23 (permalink)
    My father fought in the war, my uncle fought in the war, my cousin gave his life in the war-lets get over the black thing.History is, well, history.
    #22
    ann peeples
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 11:55:03 (permalink)
    And frankly, I am now pissed off at this discussion...........
    #23
    chewingthefat
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 17:23:00 (permalink)
    Wonderful post, thanks jman.
    When I was growing up, 1951-60, Kindergarten thre 8th grade,we lived in Chevy Chase Village, Md. a very wealthy enclave on the DC border. Went to Blessed Sacrament School, didn't know Catholics from Jews, Italians from Irish, didn't realize we were Irish till much later in life. Rabbi Richmond and family lived accross the street, the Montralls to our immediate right, 5 or 6 Jewish families on my Lenox street. All sang Christmas Carols, no distinctions taught to me or anyone I knew. The Negros, Blacks, African Americans, lived in theri own areas and very few made much money, but they had great traditions, dignity, and family values, their unemployment rate was virtually zero. How happy/unhappy they were, I don't know, nor do I know about any other Irish, Italian, Arab, Sweedish, German, etc. families that attended Blessed Sacrament. We all were simply Americans, and if Leon Burns, the African American Sacristant said JUMP, you asked how high, we called him Mr. Burns, he was in charge of all things B S Church, from the Wine to the Collections. Then came the 60's!
    post edited by chewingthefat - 2011/12/27 17:24:50
    #24
    seafarer john
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    Re:My Christmas Story 2011/12/27 18:11:03 (permalink)
    Ann: I do not understand your post, but it seems disturbingly aggressive to me. I should have mentioned that I served, as a merchant seaman, in "combat areas" - areas where my friends in the army and navy received medals and citations although they were in no more danger than I. Then, I served two years in the US Army  - for which I received the GI Bill and a college education. During those years in the merchant service, and especially during my few years in the army, I learned to live and work with, and, more importantly, to take orders from, people I had been raised to think of as inferior to myself.    
    Black, white, brown, jew, christian, muslim,  infidel we are all equal in nature. And that's a lesson a lot of us learned in those years from 1941 to the '60s.
     
    Cheers, John 
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