Christmas Traditions, and the Wooden Star

October 29, 2020

A custom tradition from my hometown really had to do again with my dad, my favorite person. Every year, he would begin to decorate the Christmas tree pretty early. He would decorate a very, very tall fir tree in our front yard. We were very poor so it just…all he did was make everything more beautiful when he would decorate this tree with all these lights. And he made a homemade star, he used a block of wood and he carved out a star shape and then he put the Christmas bulbs in there and attached it to the electricity. That was the first thing he did right after thanksgiving.

But just before Christmas, he would go off on his own into the woods. We lived in Annapolis, Maryland, and he would go off into the woods and he never let us go with him because he was going to search for and cut down a Christmas tree. So we didn’t know where he went. We were afraid to follow him because he was very strict, but he would come home hours later with always the most beautiful tree. So he would decorate everything for us. And then he would wrap our presents in newspaper because he didn’t have wrapping paper. So we get like a ball or a candy bar or something like that because there were so many children he really couldn’t afford, but it was a wonderful tradition of him going off that day with an axe to get that tree and to come back every year as that custom to bring the tree home. And we’d be so happy that he got another beautiful tree.

You know, he used bubble lights, the bubble lights in the 1950s were very popular and I guess they were expensive. So he would buy two or three sets during the year when they were on sale. When he would use the bubble lights, beautiful Christmas bulbs we had gotten from different family members throughout the years. One had my brother Cristobal’s name on it with the year 1934 that he was born and they still have that Christmas bowl. So it was beautiful trees.

The star that my dad carved, my sister has it now in her yard, the wooden star, we called it. Yeah. He finished the Christmas tree in the house with the icicles one at a time. So there were hundreds of icicles, but he didn’t just throw them in a clump. We said, “Daddy just throw them.” Then he said, “No, everything had to be beautiful.” Really nice. We watched him and sat near him, but he did everything. We would hand him things. He’d say, you know, hand me this or that. But it was mainly him wrapping the lighted bulbs around and everything straight and clipping everything so that it was upright. You know, he was very, very handy. My dad only went to second grade and my mother went to first grade, but they’re probably the most creative people I’ve ever met. They’re smart in their hearts.

When he put up those Christmas decorations, we had a few traditions. Like playing music and mom cooking different meals related to Christmas and smelling sweet potatoes and sometimes orange flavors that they would put in different foods, which I’m not a good…I’m not a big orange flavor person. I love oranges, but not orange-flavored foods. And it would be wonderful, you know and then my sister’s husband every year, he brought us one box of those large peppermint sticks. So we each got one, there were 12 and a box. And at the time there were 12 children, which later became 13.

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