It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Families and friends gather to tell the tales of Christmases long, long ago. With these stories, they are able to grasp what is really important and what the holiday season means to them.
Ed Baggett, 70, and his sister Sybil Jones, 72, both of Ochlocknee, remember Christmases being very different when were growing up more than six decades ago. The commercialism of gift giving didn’t exist.
Baggett and Jones recall getting, perhaps, two small toys, fruit and hard candies. They grew up in a family of eight children, but never considered what they had as minimal. They put their emphasis on something more important— family.
“Mama always made a large Christmas dinner. Daddy has turkeys out in the yard and he’d go outside and get one for our dinner. I remember Mama making a delicious pound cake,” Baggett said.
ones said that they would leave the food out on the table all day and wait until it was time to eat again.
She said, “Our mama would leave the food on the table, something most people wouldn’t even think about doing today, but she’d cover it with a cloth after Christmas dinner. She’d uncover it later for supper.”
The Baggett children have many fond memories of childhood Christmases despite their simplicity.
“When we lived in Florida, Ed was too little to remember, but Mama would try to hide our Christmas stuff and us kids would make a game of finding it. When we did find it, there wasn’t much hard candy left for Christmas morning,” Jones said.
She and her brother also reminisced on the first time they ever heard Santa Claus. An older member of their family would go outside and make noises. The children would believe Santa Claus was outside and they would be on their best behavior.
Baggett said, “I went outside and saw the tracks outside made by boots and I tried to follow them.”
Even as they got older and had families of their own, the Baggett children always looked forward to everyone getting together. Jones said she and her husband, Bob, never bought a Christmas tree, but cut trees from the woods.
One Christmas Jones, wanted a tree badly. Her husband went to find get one, but what he brought back was not what she was expecting.
“He brought me back a Charlie Brown tree. I was so mad because I wanted a tree so bad,” she said.
They both said that the gift giving is mainly for the children today and they enjoy putting decorations out that they never had growing up.
Jones said, “We have very close-knit family and friends. It’s basically about the family getting together. Gifts are secondary. I think it means the same to me as it did when I was growing up in church and learning the true meaning.”
One thing that was looked forward to by all the Baggett family was the Christmas party at church. It is a tradition that continues at Little Ochlocknee Baptist Church where the Baggett family attends.
Jones and Baggett remembered their dad being Santa Claus at the party. Today, Baggett takes on the role his dad had so many years ago.
Bea Griffin, 90, of Ochlocknee, also attends Little Ochlocknee Baptist Church. Her family would heat its home with a fireplace and a woodstove.
Griffin said they would hang her mother’s stockings over the mantel for Christmas.
“These were the stockings she wore, but they were clean. On Christmas morning, they would be filled with apples, oranges, nuts, grapes on the stem and something useful such as a fingernail file, a looking glass, comb or box of powder,” Griffin said.
During the first seven or eight years of her life, Griffin received only three dolls. She recalled them being very inexpensive.
As she got older, Griffin would receive a dollar on Christmas. Back then, a dollar could buy many things at the dime store.
Griffin said, “I’d go to the dime store and buy books called big-little books. The little boys and my brother would get harps, or harmonicas, and BB guns. I remember my mama would take a towel and make a cape for the boys. They thought they were really something.”
She never remembered having a tree until she was old enough to want one. The decorations would be made from paper.
“I would have my brother pull the top down so I could cut it. There was nothing fancy about it, but it was a tree. Actually, there was nothing great about our Christmases, except having the family together. We had no electricity until 1950. My daddy would kill the turkey and Mama would cook it, all in the same hour,” said Griffin.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.