Stangl

We are a week away from Christmas. Are you ready?

Like nearly everything else in 2020, Christmas will be strange. Between COVID-19 and the lack of snowfall, the holiday we are all used to won’t be quite the same this year.

But instead of sulking about this, I believe it is better to take it in stride. There’s precious little we can do about it, so we should simply make the best of the cards we are dealt.

In my opinion, the best way to do this is spend whatever time we can with loved ones in whatever way we can. If you can gather in person safely, great. If not, find a way to do so virtually. Is it less than ideal? Yes. But with vaccines on the horizon, hopefully this will be a one-off, something to talk about in years to come as the Christmas (and year) that was messed up.

I have found myself thinking about my childhood and how much has changed in my nearly six decades of life.

As the fifth of six children being raised by a mechanic and full-time mom who was a part-time nurse, I didn’t get a lot of presents, but I always felt like the luckiest kid in the world on Christmas Eve when we opened the packages. I know my folks went without so we could have things.

During my lifetime, I believe we have become more materialistic and less grateful for what we have. I realize that my perspective has changed as I have aged and it is a common thought of an older person to think things were better in the past.

Recently, I was thinking about Santa Day in the town of 1,600 people where I grew up. When Santa arrived, children were treated to a free movie in the theater, followed by a free goodie bag and time with the big man in the red suit if you were so inclined.

The movie was nice and gave parents some time to shop in the local stores, free from prying eyes and unencumbered by the need for day care. The goodie bag was a brown paper bag with: salted in the shell peanuts, some hard ribbon candy and an orange. Not fancy, but enough to keep a hungry kid occupied waiting in line for Santa.

The merchants in town paid for and filled the bags, lined up Santa and moved his small “house” to Main Street so audiences could be held in relative comfort and privacy. All in all, a big day for children under the age of 12.

Improvements to roads and cars, changes to retailing and the rise of commuting have brought about many changes to our communities. While some of the changes have been good, many have fundamentally changed our concepts and structure of community. The people and resources needed to do the Santa Day of my youth are still here, but parents and children in our towns are much less likely to participate. Even if they did, I doubt a goodie bag of: salted in the shell peanuts, ribbon candy and an orange would go over well.

I hope as we mark an unusual Christmas we can also consider how we can reinvigorate traditions on our communities. We all love our town, it’s time to strive to make them even better in the coming year.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.