1960’s Style Christmas

First published in December 2009, I re-post today as a way of wishing you all a very joyful holiday season.

My father and mother had what the Hollywood movie-makers call a “Meet-Cute.” My mother Jewel, was in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps in WWII and drove a supply truck. She made a fateful food delivery to the mess hall one day and met the cook, my father Jim. Their union last 35 years, until my father’s death in 1976, and produced 7 children. They were systematic people and named their children James, Joyce, Janice, Joan, John, Junene, and Julya.

I tell you that because it lays the ground-work for what I call the golden years of the 1960s when people really did Christmas right. I know, you probably think nostalgia is clouding my memory, and you would probably be right. But there is something to be said about these memories that so many of my peers share.  Those scenes in our minds that resemble the late 80’s TV show, The Wonder Years. It was indeed, a wonderous time for me.

I was born on Christmas eve, 1961 and grew up believing that the people who showed up on our doorstep singing songs every year did that just for me. My mother would answer the door, whisper into an ear that it was my birthday,  and the carolers would start to sing.  Their voices, singing the Happy Birthday song, would echo down Oak Street, as I sat listening on the top step of my porch.

My mother was also one of seven children and in the 1960s our house was the place to be. Relatives from far and near would show up to eat the feast prepared by Jim and Jewel. Having a mother that is a great cook and a father that is a chef is fantastic for parties and producing fat kids. They did both.

Our den became a buffet line and approximately 80 people would file through to load up their plates. To this day, I believe random passersby joined the line for my father’s sumptuous food and mother’s classic salads. They didn’t care, to my father it made about as much sense as feeding a second cousin that he only saw once a year.

As the youngest child, I was spoiled beyond belief. My parents were older when they had me and my sister Junene, more stable financially. The earlier five kids had suffered through the lean years and to this day remind me of the disparity. Bottom line is I got whatever I asked Santa to bring me.


Junene would wake me up at 3am to go take a look in the living room at the goodies left behind by Santa. Remember the feeling that came over you? Remember what it was like to see that new bike glistening under the lights of the tree? If I could give one thing to every kid on the planet it would be that feeling. The utter joy that I can recall as a middle-aged woman and still get a tickle in my stomach. Wouldn’t that be a great gift to be able to share?

Carolers will not be on my porch singing and my mother’s arm will not be draped around me this year, but you know what? The 1960’s Christmas memories are enough to sustain me, they run that deep.

If you are reading this, try to make a memory, in the month of December,  that someone might write about 40 years from now. Moments that last just 60 seconds, can live on in the child within us forever.

I wish for all of you one of those moments. Merry Christmas.


8 responses to “1960’s Style Christmas

  1. Thanks for making me cry this morning. I have tried to recreate those Christmases for my children over the years and it is not possible. Those were such different times. I wrote our mother a thank you letter for all those Christmases once long ago, and she was so surprised over how they had impacted me as an adult. Her memories were complete opposite of ours. She remembered hours of work and ungrateful relatives that just came to eat and load their plates to take home as if they were intitled to such gifting. I was shocked it wasn’t magical for them as it was for you and I. If I could, I would have those carolers at your doorstep Christmas Eve. I would put that magic back in place just for you. You forgot one part of the story. You were my Christmas gift when I was five and you still are. I love you. Your sis, Junene

  2. Shannon Pritchard

    Julya, you made me think about MY childhood Christmases, and yes, even a woman who has embraced Judaism can feel nostalgic for family Christmas memories. I light my Hanukkah candles every year, but there is no replacement for Santa Claus!

    Happy early Birthday!

  3. What a great way to remind us all how important the ones we love are. And as well for me it was a reminder of how great it was to be a child at Christmas. Mom (Junene) – I can probably tell you every gift that Santa brought each one of us as we were kids.. I can tell you what our house smelled like and remember very vividly my stocking that looked like a doll with yellow yarn hair. I remember the cabbage patch dolls, porcelin dolls, cameras, curling irons, makeup, and all the other goodies we would unwrap Christmas morning. I also recall the anxious feeling I would have in my stomach the night before Santa would come, and how i would squeeze my eyes as tight as I could to try and make myself sleep…..and how hard it was to fall asleep. I remember Jeremy and Chris coming in to wake me up so that we could run down the hall to see the living room filled with packages, motorcycles, bikes, candy, etc. And later me waking Eli and Whitley to do the same. I also remember that no matter what struggles the year had brought that for that one day nothing else mattered. It was always magical…we were all together and all happy. Thanks Aunt Juju for such a great story and helping me remember my childhood Christmas memories. And thanks Mom for making them so special!! Love u both,
    Mary Junene

  4. Thank you, Julya for writing such wonderful family stories. Even though I never have met most of you we heard so much about you from my Grandmother – your Aunt Helen! I would always try to picture what your house looked like and she would show me pictures of all of you… My Mom – your cousin Rosemary – would talk about her “Uncle Jimmy”. He was a favorite of hers. It’s funny though… we never got to travel to meet any of our “distant” relatives. We made two trips to California to see our relatives there, but that was the farthest we ever got to go.

    Anyway… once again, I am enjoying hearing these stories about your family. I can put faces to some of the characters in your stories even though they are from photos that were taken 45 years ago!


  5. I remember Christmas being just like that. Christmas carolers and Christmas feasts. Relatives from near and far. And shiny new bikes under the tree. Good times and good memories.

  6. thank you for the story. at the age of 50 my daughter Madisen was born. christmas eve 2005 a son was born to me at the age of 55, Jameson, named after my favorite irish whisky…You would have thought a man of my education and a wife who is an attorney would kn ow better.. as least i figured Santa doesn’t bring babies… after my mother died i decided to build upon those wonderful memories of christmas’s long long ago. I remember the 50’s,60’s, well most of it, and the 70’s.. it is my turn to give my children the wonderful memories that my mom and dad gave me.. thank you for your post

  7. I love that story!

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