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A Green County Christmas

Vintage Christmas Tree


By Jene Hedden

     Every year when I was a child, my kinfolk gathered in the family home on the Green-Adair County line in Southern Kentucky.

     I remember one Christmas Eve in particular when I was trying to sleep in the feather bed in the attic of my grandmother’s house.  It was 1952, and I had been anticipating the big day for weeks.

     Only a week before, my Uncle Douglas chopped down a red cedar tree from a hillside on the rock-strewn farm and brought it into the house. Since cedars were notorious for drying out quickly, the tree was set up in an old stone crock  in the unheated parlor where it would stay cool. Dressed up with homemade ornaments and decorations, its fresh green fragrance filled the room as it sat awaiting the small gifts that would be piled around it on Christmas morning. 

     Holiday treats and baked goods, including Grandma’s famous dried apple cake, had also been prepared during the week before Christmas and sat in the kitchen in anticipation of  the next day’s family feast. Packages had been wrapped, Christmas secrets had been whispered and wishes made. Christmas Eve had finally arrived.  

     Before nightfall, I made the quick trip to the outhouse in the poultry yard. After all, I didn’t want to have to answer nature’s call after dark or use the “thunder pot” during the night. Then, after saying goodnight to my mother and grandmother, I climbed the stairs to the chilly unfinished attic bedroom and crawled into the big deep feather bed.   I snuggled on my soft fluffy pillow under the handmade quilts, sinking so far down into the feather mattress that it was a chore just to turn over. The only warmth in the room radiated from the chimney, heated by the flames in the potbelly stove downstairs.

     Anxious and excited, I listened to the rain falling on the tin roof above me and hoped to hear sounds of Santa and his reindeer. I was sure I would never get to sleep. I was just too full of the Christmas spirit.

     The next thing I knew, I awoke to the soft light of dawn. But, it was too early! As I stirred and started to get up, I heard Mom say, “Go back to sleep!” 

     Disappointed, I grabbed the clothes that I had laid out at the foot of the bed the night before and dressed under the covers so as not to get too cold. Then I snuggled back down under the quilts, waiting impatiently for Grandma to get the fires going in the cook stove in the kitchen and in the potbelly stove in the main room below. 

     Finally, when everyone was awake and all was prepared, I crawled from my warm feathered nest and hurried downstairs to gather with the rest of the family to see what was waiting for us under the tree.

     My gifts were simple and usually included stick candy, fruit and maybe some new gloves or a handmade scarf. But sometimes, if I were lucky and had been especially good, there would be a small toy or game that had been purchased during a prior Saturday trip into Greensburg for staples.  Of course, I knew it was really from Santa.

     How simple the pleasures of Christmas were back then...a warm soft feather bed, a fragrant cedar tree and simple gifts exchanged with family members by the potbelly stove.  Yet they are grand memories that grow sweeter as each year passes. Even as I grow older, the details of these memories remain sharp and sweet, and thoughts of departed family members gathered around the table for Christmas dinner bring back that same old feeling of anticipation and excitement I knew as a child.              

     My wish for my family and friends this holy season is that you would experience the same holiday excitement I knew as a boy, and that you may know the joy found in the simple blessings of a Green County Christmas.