Stephen F. Austin State University

Peek into Panola - Christmas time (December 2012)

Peek into Panola - Christmas time
By Vina Lee

Early Christmas events in Panola County revolved around family gatherings much as they do today. Homemade gifts, crochet hats and scarves, fruit cakes and molasses, carved rocking horses and trinkets were priceless. Pine or spruce trees were chopped and carried home from the hills where paper chains were colored with tea stains or red dyes and hung on the tree.

I remember Dad scouting for our Christmas tree along the roadsides, ditches and vacant lots. Sometimes we had a Charlie Brown tree with skimpy limbs and pine branches dipping too far down to put ornaments on them, but I also remember Mother being somewhat of a magician when it came to creating an air of intrigue, imagination and mystery about the upcoming Christmas events that seemed to materialize out of thin air.

One of our most beautiful trees was simply a fallen limb, bare and gray with no value or promise. At least, that is the way it seemed to we children who then ranged from five years old to eight. Mother planted the naked bit of stick with its skeletal fingers reaching upward as if to grasp some unknown quality from magic stardust. Patting the dirt around the stem, she laid white cotton over the soil, then pulling strips of the white fluff, tucked it around scared knobs and gnarls. Once the "snow" was in place, Mother entwined colored lights through the branches of the tree along the veins of white. Topped with a homemade star of cardboard we children had covered with aluminum foil, the lights were turned on.

The glimmer of Christmas danced off of each cotton bit reflecting color onto the "snow" laden pot now surrounded with reindeer, snowmen and a mirrored pond were ice skaters could play. Mistletoe was decorated with tiny red balls and ribbons to finish the snow scene under the "tree." And, now, on to baking cookies and gingerbread men!