Christmas and the brown bag

The true meaning of Christmas is feeling the closeness to God. Photo: Church at Christmas/ wikipedia

MISSOURI, December 22, 2013 — Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The word Christmas comes from Cristes maesse, an early English phrase that means Mass of Christ.

The word “Xmas” is sometimes used instead of Christmas. This tradition began early in the Christian church. In Greek, X is the first letter of Christ’s name and is frequently used as a holy symbol.


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Memories that this day brings back for some who grew up in the 30s and 40s. Christmas was made up of two main ingredients, which were church and family. It was not a period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve of frantic shopping which today is the predominant meaning of Christmas.

Today, companies manufacture ornaments, lights, and other seasonal products throughout the year. It has become one of the economic thermometers as to how the economy is doing. This is over shadowing the true meaning of Christmas, which again is church and focus on the family. Materialism, an overabundance of gift giving, cannot replace personal attention given to your loved ones.

This is a Christmas story. Many have similar wonderful memories. Let’s start with a  Christmas Eve that could have been taken out of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” staring Jimmy Steward and Donna Reed. The night was so clear and bright and the ground was covered by a fresh snowfall that had not been disturbed by any human or creature. The family was all cleaned up and were walking together going to a small country church. Again, the clearness of night, the stars shining so bright, the sound of the snow breaking up as one brought their feet to the ground, the coldest on their face which made it feel so clean and fresh but most of all the quietness which was so deafening.

As they entered the church they were blinded with the brightness of the lights that lit up the church. Now you must remember at that point in time of their lives they were still using oil lamps in some homes in the rural areas to brighten the rooms. There was just a few lamps and as they left the central focal point of the home which was the kitchen they used the lamp to find their way to their rooms. This lamp also provided the dim light in order to read a chapter of the bible every night prior to going to bed.


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The church lights themselves were startling and there in the corner was a huge tree (the men had went out into the forest and cut the tree down, no tree lots) that was fully decorated. The decorations were very simple. Popcorn strung together, paper loops inter twined to make a chain that covered the tree from top to bottom, candy canes, and religious ornaments and at the top of the tree a gigantic star.

Large brown bags surrounded the bottom of the tree and the children were very curios of their contents.

Service begins. Even today some seniors can remember the singing. It was loud no it was thunderous to the ears. They all had songbooks and found joy in this time of celebration. Prayer was periodically introduced into the service and every person was so tuned into the true meaning of Christmas. Service is over—which was several hours of celebration and the children were asked to form a line and come up to the front of the church to get that mysterious “brown bag.”

The brown bag was drawn to their small chests as they returned to their families and still did not look into the bag. They now left the church and greeted all of their friends and finally started the walk home with a heart of shear happiness and one must say it was a sense of internal peace.

This particular family, which in reality represented the typical family of that time and place, entered home and shed their winter togs. Boots went by the wooden stove to dry out. They had been rubbed down with linseed oil to protect them from getting water logged. Now was the time to look into the brown bag.

The whole family gathered around the kitchen table, the center of the home, and opened the “brown bag.” The bag was filled with walnuts; pecans candy canes, apples, oranges and other types of fruits.

Now one might say, “Is that all there is?” The answer is yes, that was all that there was. But honestly one must say that this was one of the most memorable Christmas celebrations that this child experienced.

The point is that it was the whole Christmas evening which consisted of the snow, the clearness of night, the cold on ones face, the church service, the love and friendship that was ever prevalent and in retrospect was Christmas because everyone felt the closeness to God which is what Christmas is all about.

To all a very Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas.

However, that’s from a place and time I am from-


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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.

Charles is a fifty-four-year career in technology retiring at the directors level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a free-lance columnist, published three books, over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, radio interviews, one television commercial and finally married for sixty-five years, four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great grand children. 

Charles is also a Navy veteran.

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