Have you ever heard of a “farm Christmas”? If you are over about 60, you may have celebrated a farm Christmas when you were younger. Do you remember going to the woods to look for a tree or tree top to take home? If the right tree couldn’t be found then branches were used. Going somewhere to buy a tree was not an option and the artificial tree hadn’t been invented yet.
Once the tree was in place, you could start making ornaments out of construction paper or magazines. And then the most fun was stringing popcorn to decorate it. Your tree was not buried in presents the way trees of today are. My mom, who was born in 1922, says that the most exciting present of all to her was getting an orange in her stocking. This was on a farm here in Ashtabula County during the Depression, but nearly everyone was in the same situation.
My dad, born in 1917, used to tell us that his favorite Christmas present as a child was getting a pair of shoes for the left and right foot. Most shoes that kids wore at that time were for either foot and weren’t very comfortable. Kids today would think you were punishing them if you gave them an orange or a pair of shoes for Christmas. Times have really changed!
Since I grew up on a dairy farm, opening presents had to wait until Dad got in from doing chores. We lived down the road from the farm, and I can remember that it seemed to take forever for him to walk home. My sisters, brother and I would press our noses against the front room window and try to be the first one to spot Dad walking around the curve.
As we grew older, we got to be the ones helping to get the chores done as fast as possible so we could open presents. It seemed to take forever for those cows to finish milking, to feed and bed the calves, and wash milkers so we could go home to eat and start having fun.
As adults with our own cows to milk before we could celebrate Christmas, one thing became very clear: when you are rushing to get chores done on a farm, something always seems to go wrong. Year after year it was the same story. Things would be going pretty good and then on Christmas Eve just before the church program the kids were participating in, the silo unloader would break. On Christmas morning the barn cleaner or the manure spreader nearly always had problems. Finding a parts store open on Christmas just doesn’t happen. So our running joke became don’t tell the cows it’s Christmas because they will break something.
A farm Christmas isn’t actually that much different from Christmas celebrated anywhere else. It just seems special because you have to work so hard to make it happen. It’s Christmas every day that the tractors start without too much trouble and the waterlines don’t freeze.
Sometimes it seems people have so much today and take too much for granted. Wherever you are and however you celebrate Christmas, rejoice in your blessings and have a wonderful Christmas.
Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.