The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

The Longest Night of the Year – This is the first day of winter and tonight is the longest night of the year. Most kids will disagree because they think Sunday night which is Christmas Eve will be the longest night for them. As adults, we try to make Christmas Eve the longest night of the year because we want to savor every hour of Christmas joy we can store up until next Christmas. After all, the night of Christmas Eve is the most holy night of the year, the night of our Savior’s birth.

A Candy Dish of Colorful Hard Christmas Candy Mix – One of the great memories of Christmas past and present is the colorful Christmas hard candy mix of fruity and spicy hard candies and peppermint and wintergreen and cinnamon. Each piece taste like a Christmas of long ago. Keep a bag or two to bring back Christmas memories and keep the candy dish field.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Lights of 1950s – The colorful lights of the 21st-century are a light year apart from the eight light strings of bulbs from the 1950s. The lights were connected in a circle and if one light burned out, the other seven would give out and the search was on to find the burned out bulb. This was fairly easy when one bulb burned out at a time, but on a tree with eight strands when the bulb burned out, made the search for bulbs challenging. Colors for these bulbs were limited to red, blue, green, yellow, and white. One of the additions to these bulbs were some came in shapes of Santas, snowman, gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, Teddy bears, cars, and angels, as well as candy canes. My dad on Thanksgiving night would get the lights out of storage and test them. If any were burned out, he replaced them with the bulb shapes like Santas, angels, etc. Amazingly these unusual bulbs lasted for years. One thing we keenly remember about these 1950s bulbs is they were hot and most trees were live trees so no one had to remind you to unplug the tree before leaving the house!

The Tastes of Christmas: Chocolate Cream Drops – These are definitely a treat found only at Christmas and therefore they are a true tradition of the season. Shaped like a dark chocolate mound filled with a vanilla cream filling that perfectly blends with the dark chocolate coating. Most supermarkets feature them from Thanksgiving until Christmas. They are sold in 1 pound paper bags. Many country stores and produce markets as well as hardware’s carry them. They come in plastic bags or you can buy them from old-fashioned wooden barrels.

Daddy’s Memories of a Real Candle Lit Christmas Tree – At Christmastime, my father always told me the story of his boyhood and the real cedar tree covered with lighted candles, pinecones, popcorn roping and homemade ornaments. The tree was lit by real candle light for just a short time on Christmas Eve. All the pots and pans and buckets were filled with water and placed around the tree just in case a flame from a candle started a fire. As a child, he said it was a memorable Christmas memory. In the Walton’s Homecoming Story, the Baldwin sisters had a huge spruce in their parlor filled with real candles and they would have most likely had a candle lighter and snuffer to snuff out the candles instead of blowing or pinching them out. We imagine that my father and his brothers and only sister had a form of a bucket brigade when that tree was lit up. You could not blow them out because flames from the tree would catch on fire. Can you just in your mind picture the aroma of the tree and candles in there glowing in that unforgettable beauty in simplicity on a Christmas Eve?

County Eggnog for Christmas – At Christmas time, all my uncles would make a bucket of homemade eggnog with fresh eggs from grandma’s hen house. The finished product was bright amber because of the fresh eggs. They have their own traditional recipe. They used one and a half gallons of milk, 18 to 24 beaten eggs, 2 1/2 cups of sugar, 3 teaspoons of vanilla, 2 teaspoons of nutmeg, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 3 teaspoons of rum flavoring. Stir all ingredients and serve. They also used real rum!

Searching for Holly with Red Berries – American holly seems to be getting more extinct in Piedmont North Carolina and it is because so much woodlands are being cleared or because there are not as many female trees (the ones that produce red berries / seeds) as we grew up in eastern North Carolina, even in the 1950s, there were plenty of holly trees but very few with red berries. Holly trees were plentiful back then and some were even used as Christmas trees.

Candles are a Huge Part of the Decor of Christmas – At grandmas back woods house in North Hampton County, there was no electricity and also no running water. At Christmas, the house smelled like wood burning, oil lamps and plenty of candlelight. The large cedar was bright but not with candles but holly with red berries, mistletoe that had white berries, longleaf pine cones, running cedar, popcorn strings, and popcorn balls. Candles glowed in the living room but strangely enough not glowed on the kitchen table. We always thought it was because of Christmas there were so many relatives around that table it may have been a hazard. For memories of old fashion Christmas, we love to light a few candles just for the smell of them. May your Christmas be as happy merry and bright as every candle you light!

Ray Baird