From one December to the next, it runs through our history like a luminous thread joining us in the best and worst of circumstances.
Even in the grip of the Great Depression or amid World War II, when scores of Tuolumne and Calaveras county youths risked their lives in Europe or the Pacific, Christmas brought a sense of cheer and connection to the Mother Lode.
Through boom and bust and war and peace, the season has brought wonder to our children and, at least for a while, charity and goodwill to their parents.
Although reducing the Christmas spirit to words is a daunting, perhaps impossible task, The Union Democrat’s editors and writers have again and again taken up the challenge. And collectively their efforts help define the special connection between this magical, revered holiday and the place we call home.
So, on Christmas Eve, a look at a few of our own Christmases Past:
Dec . 24, 1870: Christmas is again at hand. The day is to be devoted to acts of fond remembrance and generous friendship. It should be enjoyed free from all the cares of the business life and given up to family reunions and recreations of a domestic nature. To the thoughtful, this day is one of more than mere enjoyment. — Charles H. Randall.
Dec. 23, 1911: All over the country sounds the greeting, “Merry Christmas!” On the sea and land, to the palace and in the hovel, in the hospitals and in the prisons, in the asylums and amid the orphans and in homes for the friendless and the aged, the greeting is exchanged. Is there any other sentiment that has the sovereignty of these cheerful and heartfelt words? — J.A. Van Harlingen.
Dec. 23, 1933: Amid the festivities of the season, the needy should be substantially remembered. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, and what can please the father of all mercies more than to make his creatures happy on the birthday of his only begotten son. Let the children hang up their stockings, and see that they are well filled. Leave the door wide open for Santa Claus and his toy-laden chariot. Let the exuberance of childhood have full and joyous vent. — Ferdinand Van Harlingen.
Dec. 25, 1942: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” How this has been preached for years and how little it has meant to civilized man for the past 1,942 years. Even though we are murdering in a wholesale manner, deep in the heart of American servicemen scattered to the four corners of the earth burns the desire of peace on earth. What the final chapter of this war will bring is still open to debate. If we can kill greed and jealousy, we might see peace for more than 25 years. If we fail to kill these elements of destruction, we shall again have war.” — Art Hender.
Dec. 20, 1945 — The magic of Christmas season is with us once again that magic that softens our cares and gives to life a renewed warmth and gentleness. In millions of American homes the light hearts and laughter of children tell of their freedom from fear. We should never forget that this freedom was bought at a price, a price paid by the fathers and brothers of many of them. — Hugh McLean.
Dec. 26, 1957 — Isn’t everyone nice at Christmas? Of course they are. The spirit of goodwill that always accompanies the Christmas season has been getting increasingly strong, culminating with a sincere feeling of friendship between all of us. We like to make people feel good and we are willing to go to quite some trouble to do so. That makes for some real living. — Hugh McLean.
Dec. 24, 1971 — Christmas is things felt, not said. It is sounds and smells and tempos. It is memories and flavors, sorrows and prayers, tenderness and tolerance. And it’s here in the hills that Christmas fits best. Here where scents and lights are crisp in the December night. Here where a sense of belonging and joy in sharing kindles an intimate warmth. — Harvey McGee.
May that warmth be with you this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties