Column/’Tis the season

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2006

December has arrived, Christmas decorations were in the stores well before Thanksgiving, happy Christmas music is being played on the radio, along with the traditional carols, and cold weather and snow are already hitting certain areas in the country. Wal-Mart has decided to go back to the “Merry Christmas” theme, so all is right with the world – or is it?

Trouble is – Christmas ain’t what it used to be – in many ways, some good, some bad, but thankfully, Christmas is still Christmas because of the one common denominator.

That is, of course, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for those of us who profess the Christian faith.

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The timing this year for Christmas is perfect for the Dec. 24 Christmas Eve church services and their wonderful music,

as well as being the very best December calendar weekend to accommodate the last minute shoppers. When I was in the candy business, we loved that “extra” weekend – just before Christmas day. Our customers also watched the December calendar closely and would buy more Christmas candy if they had four selling weekends.

In my case – growing up in the 30s and 40s –

the Christmas season was always a very exciting occasion for my three siblings and me. We grew up in the relatively small town of Gastonia, a cotton mill town of about 30,000, 20 miles west of Charlotte, and we were raised under very modest circumstances, as both of our parents were educators.

Rather than the Country Club, nice dances and Christmas parties, the center of our social universe and religious activities, was the First Baptist Church – almost every time the doors opened.

With the happiest of all holidays fast approaching, I always find myself reminiscing about Christmases past. A memory I can never forget is about the fireworks that started going off right after Thanksgiving, mostly at night, all around our area.

The exploding of the noise-makers was sporadic during the day, but one would think that a full-scale war was going on at night – I mean all-night long!

The primary source of the firecrackers was in Clover, S.C., about 10 miles south and just across the state line. There was also a package store in Clover where our Gaston County imbibers could purchase the necessary sweeteners for their Christmas eggnog. Of course, the Gastonia Baptists would never take a drink, even just to put a little extra zing in their eggnog. The firecrackers kept on popping through New Year’s Day.

Christmas day at the Looper residence was always filled with joy, because – over the years – Santa Claus would leave bicycles, electric trains, air rifles, baby dolls, nuts, candy, etc.

During the holidays, we would often travel to visit Dad’s South Carolina relatives and/or Mother’s kinfolks in Asheville, N.C.

Yes, Christmas holds very special memories for me as a youngster, and Christmas in Selma has been very, very special for me and my family for the past 40 years.

As my Daddy used to say, “the older you get, the sooner Christmas time is upon us again.” Indeed, almost as quick as a flash, Jolly Ole St. Nick will be bringing toys and goodies to all of the good little girls and boys on another Christmas day. Unfortunately and sadly, the Yuletide season is not a happy time for those impoverished people – especially the children – here in our country and around the world. Those of us who have been blessed with great families, friends and good fortune should get down on our knees and thank the Almighty for all his many blessings – while we share with those who are less fortunate.

My very special thoughts and prayers for the Season go out to all of the wonderful men and women, those courageous members of the United States military, who are protecting our freedoms at the risk of making the ultimate sacrifice. “They will be home for Christmas – but only in their dreams.”

Merry Christmas!!

Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.