I have many fond memories of Christmas and there are two that especially come to mind. I think Christmas has been over commercialized and the true meaning of the holiday is sometimes lost. Too many people are focused on shopping, Black Friday, what they are giving and what they are receiving. The two events I recall most do not involve gift giving in the conventional sense.
We are all familiar with the Bing Crosby hit, “White Christmas” and growing up in New York as a youngster there is some expectation that it will snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; the reality is that it usually doesn’t snow.
I can’t recall the exact year but it was probably in the late 1950’s when I was less than ten years old and as a youngster Christmas to me meant getting gifts. I knew the true meaning of Christmas then but the anticipation of presents was the focus of my Christmas morning. Presents aside the other thing on the wish list for all the kids in the neighborhood was a “White Christmas”.
Late on Christmas Eve of that year it started snowing. My dad was working and normally we would go to church later in the morning; my mother sensed the excitement and we went off to an early Mass. The walk to the church was four blocks; it was dark when we went to church and it was still dark after the Christmas service was over. I can still remember that morning and how exciting it was walking in the fresh snow. Memories of the gifts I received that day have long faded but the snow from the heavens that Christmas morning I will never forget.
The second Christmas I have extremely fond memories of was in 1967 when I was 16 years old. On that day my family went church and exchanged gifts as usual; we were then guests of friends where three families gathered for dinner. My dad had passed away several years prior and the other two families were also single parent households; single parent homes were not that common in 1967.
My best friend Roy who was also 16 was at the Christmas dinner and we were the only two in that age group there. Roy and I both had jobs and several years of work history at the time and often had to work until 11PM; we were use to being up very late. The Christmas celebration was winding down and we were trying to figure out how to spend the rest of the evening.
The movie, “The Graduate” starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman had just been released; the movie featured the music of Simon and Garfunkel. We lived in Queens and Simon and Garfunkel were especially popular since they came from Queens; everyone wanted to see the movie.
One of our mothers suggested that we go to the movies; we looked at each other wondering if the movie theatre was open on Christmas Day. The thought of anyone going to the movies on Christmas Day never occurred to either Roy or I; we called the theatre and they were indeed open.
The movie theatre was about a 20 minute walk and it was a pleasant December evening in New York. The streets we desolate, especially along the commercial avenue where the stores had been packed the evening before.
The movie house was empty and we did see “The Graduate”; I think that Christmas Evening there were two 16 year olds from Queens that might have been a little jealous of Benjamin.
Roy and I were best friends since we were toddlers having grown up on the same block; we would occasionally reminisce about the Christmas Evening we went to the movies to see “The Graduate”.
Roy and I shared many good times as friends; he passed away in 1986 at the age of 34.
I can assure you that the gifts of that Christmas snowfall over 50 years ago and a lifelong friendship were not purchased in the mall on Black Friday.