At Christmas these days, I find my thoughts drifting back in time — to the 1930’s and the Great Depression when I was a little girl.

Attending a one-room parochial school, we participated in a program in our church on Christmas Eve.

Marching into the church singing “Oh Come all ye faithful,” was traditional.  We had rehearsed the program for some weeks.  Our teacher had given each of us a passage from the Bible to memorize and recite it before the congregation. 

Seating was pre-arranged and we nervously waited our turn to speak.  It always started, “And it came to pass in those days,” and so on. 

We stood up, turned, and faced the sea of expectant faces.

A feeling of comfort and confidence came when I found the familiar faces of my family members facing me in the crowd.

The Christmas story was told with each of us having a small part.  Interspersed among our telling the story, we sang the usual, traditional Christmas songs.

But the most wonderful part of it was what waited for us at the end of the program. 

The ushers came down the center aisle, walked behind the altar and came back with a brown paper bag filled with assorted nuts, peanuts-in-the-shell, an orange, and a few pieces of Christmas hard candy for each of us.

I don’t know who paid for the contents – perhaps donations from local merchants defrayed the church’s expenses.

But the most prized item for me was a blue-lined writing tablet and a No. 2 pencil.  Oh, the letters I would write to my cousins in another state…the childish pictures I would draw for my parents.

Arriving home after the program, we found that Santa had come and left a gift-filled carton on our front porch since we did not have a fireplace.

Sadly, most times the gifts were practical like socks, long underwear, or a new flannel nightie.  But some years if our parents could afford it, a single toy…not several, as children now have come to expect.

As I grew older, I noticed tears in my parents’ eyes – and sadness, because they could not afford to do more.   

I often wonder if the joy that today’s children experience is any greater than ours was with such meager gifts.  I doubt it.  When you have practically nothing, anything brings joy.