Remembering “Simply Christmas”


Lura Zerick

I remember when we younger,  kids would go to the woods with Mama to get a Christmas tree. It was an exciting time. On our farm we had a choice of cedars, hollys (with thorny leaves) or small pines. These evergreens were always available so a decision was necessary. After we agreed on a certain tree, one brother would be along to cut and carry the tree back to the house.

We didn’t have many ornaments so we made do with items we could trim the tree and hopefully, add some color. Sometimes we had a bit of red ‘roping’ to drape on the green boughs. We usually had saved the ‘foil’ from cigarette packs; this was not available in stores at that time. We used this shiny silver paper to wrap the ‘balls’ from sweetgum trees. This is a wild tree that grows in the south, available in most woods and/or creek banks. The leaves of this tree are shaped like stars! We would hang these silver balls on the limbs, glad of the results because this was so festive! Sometimes we found red berries on holly trees as well as the smaller red berries from the ‘yeopon’ trees in the Florida Panhandle.

As a young girl I read about stringing popcorn and hanging long strands on the tree but we didn’t have popcorn so that was out. We also didn’t have any Christmas carols to add to the Christmas-y atmosphere. Even so, we did what we could to make it a special celebration. This meant, to us then and now, the birth of baby Jesus. We learned more about Jesus in the small country church located one mile from our house.

Toys weren’t big at our house; we knew there would be none. Usually we got an apple in one shoe with an orange in the other. There were no stockings hung on our mantle, though we did have a fireplace. An extra treat might be some walnuts if Mama could find these in the store. There were no ‘supermarkets’ where we can spend hours today, along with hundreds of dollars.

Mama would bake a cake or two; one of her favorites was a “Lane” cake, which had either whiskey or rum as an ingredient. Drinking whiskey was a no-no at our house so there was seldom any on hand for a cake. As I got older, I would help Mama bake mince pies. Sometimes she made apple or peach pies from the dried fruit; I remember that she first soaked the fruit in hot water. We enjoyed the baked items. We didn’t always have dessert so these added to the occasion. All the pie crusts were made from ‘scratch’; ready-made crusts were not available then. There were no servings of pie alamode; we had homemade ice cream only in the summer.

Since there were no toys; the only doll I got was from some neighbor girls, sisters who shared a doll. They gave me their old doll when they got a new one for Christmas; I was elated over having a doll! Sixty-five years later I DID have another doll! When I was around 70, I bought a doll for myself in a thrift store when I was visiting my daughter in Tampa. That doll is placed on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I usually smile when I look at her and always think, “I do, too, have a doll!” The little girl in me often stomps her foot just before saying that. Then I suddenly turn back into an-82-year-old great-grandma as I enjoy other memories.


Lura Zerick an 82-year-old great grandmother enjoys learning new things. Give her an Elvis song with a good beat and watch her go! Her favorite things are reading, listening to music, singing, cooking/baking, birds and words. She  enjoys 12 great grandchildren and 6 great grand children; loves to encourage them o cook, write and sing, as well as use their other abilities. She can be reached at



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