Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2012

Wickie's Wisdom

An Old Fashioned Christmas

By Timothy Harrison

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Montauk Lighthouse in New York by Marge Winski.

As the holiday season swirls all around us with the its changing seasons, family gatherings, decorated stores, holiday music, the wrapping of presents, and the smell of holiday meals coming from the kitchen, it is important to remember how the holidays were celebrated for the lighthouse keepers and their families of yesteryear.

In many cases, especially at remote and off-shore light stations, other than their own immediate family, they could not have large family gatherings with relatives coming from near and far, there were no malls or shopping centers to go to, and many gifts were hand-made by the family members with planning that went on months ahead of time. If they were lucky or fortunate enough, they might have been able to order something from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, but that was not the norm, especially in places where mail delivery might have taken months.

The only store bought gifts that some lighthouse family members received started with the advent in New England of The Flying Santa who started dropping Christmas gifts from the air to lighthouses in 1929. Until the electricity reached remote lighthouses and the radio brought in the songs and news of the season, the only holiday music came from the family members themselves as they would gather around the family piano, if they had one, or perhaps from the violin, or harmonica.

Christmas cards were homemade and communication with loved ones was only available through the U.S. Mail. The early lighthouse keepers didn’t have telephones, e-mail, or Skype to wish family and friends the greetings of the season and many family members lived far and wide, too far away for any type of visit to some isolated and remote lighthouse outpost.

With the exception of modern communications, today, in these economic times, many families across America will probably celebrate the holidays as the lighthouse keepers of yesteryear did. Their holidays will be simple with few gifts, many hand-made, the old fashioned way and celebrated with those they are with them at the time. The cost of airfare, gasoline prices and other economic factors will deter some from making that long holiday journey.

Perhaps we can learn something from the way the lighthouse keepers and their families of yesteryear celebrated the holidays. Although they had their hardships, they had a positive attitude toward the simple things in life; their belief in God, and the true understanding of the real reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. They didn’t need the shopping centers or expensive gifts to tell them how to celebrate, they were simply thankful for what they had, not what they didn’t have.

With that thought in mind, we wish all of you the very best at this joyous time of the year and ask only that you remember the real reasons why we can be thankful for what we have, as well as the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas.

Timothy Harrison

Editor & Publisher

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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