Like any child, I loved Christmas! A favorite memory was pouring over the Christmas binder my mom set out during the holiday. It was an eclectic assortment of articles and stories that she had collected over the years about Christmas celebrations and traditions that have been enjoyed through the ages and passed down from one generation to another. I never tired of reading the newspaper article entitled “Dear Virgina” based on a letter written by an 8 year year old girl to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa really did exist! “The Gift of the Magi” was another favorite! I always wondered if I could have been as selfless as the couple portrayed in this timeless story. There is a certain awe and wonder to Christmas that I treasure to this day! I think it has evolved from the fact that my parents embraced a variety of ways to enjoy the Christmas season; they seemed to readily know how to strike a good balance between all the wonderful aspects of the Savior and Santa that each child loves most about Christmas!
My dad and mom were great story tellers, and the special details described in some of their Christmas celebrations in years past always captured my attention, and now make for my most cherished memories!
Darling Dimple Doll
“Merry Christmas to all! I heard Mama singing, and I hastened excitedly to explore the enchanted region round the shining tree that filled the room with the pungent odor of pine.”
“My heart pounded expectantly; then it seemed to halt when I saw smiling up at me from an adorable buggy, the darling Dimple Doll with arms reacing for me. How could I resist? I clasped her to me and with inexpressible delight and awe, I displayed my treasures to Mama and Daddy. Many other Christmas surprises awaited me, but Dolly Dimples became my constant care. Each morning, as soon as I was dressed, I brought her out to be bathed and dressed. I took her for daily rides, undressed her for bed each evening, wheeled her buggy to the foot of my bed and kissed her for the night!”
–as told by Merle M. Jorgensen in her autobiography
My mom often described Christmas time with such phrases as happy children, toys, treats, relatives and proud parents. I love that!
Christmas in Bethlehem-1937
My dad was privileged to travel abroad in 1937 for several months with his father. They traveled with large trunks aboard big steamer ships. They met interesting people of varied nationalities and from all walks of life. His stories read like adventure novels! Along the way he and his father, Nicholi Jorgensen, spent two weeks in Palestine at Christmas time. This is how he shared his memories of that special Christmas in Bethlehem.
“On Christmas Eve, my father and I made our way with hundreds of others to Bethlehem. It fit so well our expectations…the shepherd’s fields, the narrow streets, people in the New Testament clothing. The full moon hung so low in the sky that it gave enough light so all was very visible. We stood with the others in the Nativity Church courtyard and sang carols which were broadcast by radio to the world. The mood of the occasion was inspiring. It seemed as though our group was joined by the heavenly hosts, for the singing was beautiful. Yes, then as now, the Arabs and the Jews were in discord with each other. Many in our group were British soldiers with rifles at the ready to keep the peace. After singing, we entered the Church of the Nativity and descended into the grotto which tradition marks as the birth place of the Savior. A young Catholic friend, a Rhodes scholar from England, was traveling with us. As he entered the birth room, he fell flat on the floor and then inched his way to the great star which he kissed–tears streamng down his cheeks. Dad and I didn’t follow his example, for we were not raised in his traditions. But we were very quiet for we knew we stood on holy ground.”
Beautiful Bethlehem: The Birth City of Christ
My father continues his account by saying, “…for a few minutes I invite you to catch a glimpse of this city of Bethlehem…”
“Bethlehem is located in the top of the Judean mountains, and is one of the most rocky districts I have ever seen. With the exception of a few meager sprinklings of olive, cypress, palm and a few other trees, Palestine is almost without forest or trees over it’s hills and valleys. Probably this is the reason why Bethlehem and nearby cities are constructed almost entirely of rock. The narrow streets, as well as the buildings of the city, are made with the same limestone rock. The ancient habits and style of dress so common among Palestine Arabs and Jews impressed us greatly and we realized this country hadn’t changed as much as it might have since the birth of Jesus.”
“The center of the Christmas festivities in Bethlehem is in the Church of the Nativity, which according to tradition, shelters the spot where the old inn and stable stood. A holy room marks, as nearly as possible, the location of the place where Christ was born and laid in the manger. It is richly adorned with velvet hangings, oil paintings and lamps made from precious metals which throw a soft light to all parts of the room. Needless to say, entering the small, sacred room was one of the most thrilling and impressive experiences of our lives. It would be difficult to attempt a description of the feelings my father and I had when we realized we were really in Bethlehem and actually at the place where the old stable stood. The reality of it sort of numbed our senses and we stood gazing in wonder, partaking of the Lord’s spirit which is so abundantly present there.”
Singing Carols in the Nativity Church Courtyard
These were my dad’s final thoughts about his experience in Bethlehem at Christmas time… “After staying as long as we liked in this holy room, we ascended the steps to the main floor of the church. We attended some of the services that commemorated the Savior’s birth, to which we were welcome visitors. But of all these services, undoubtedly, the carol singing in the Natvity Church courtyard impressed us the most. The words were in English and at least some of the music was familiar to us. As we stood singing those Christmas carols in th clear, crisp air, with the quiet little town of Bethlehem all around us, we could almost imagine a star brightening in the sky. A deep sense of appreciation crept into our hearts and we caught the spirit of unity in that great congregation. Somehow we seem to have placed the same hope, faith and gratitude in Christ for the gift of the resurrection and the chance of eternal salvation which He has given to us all.”
–quoted from LeRoy I Jorgensen’s autobiography
A most wonderful addition to this beautiful recollection of my father’s visit to the Holy Land, is that in December of 1979, shortly after I was married, my husband and I visited these same sacred places in Bethlehem during Christmas time with my parents. At dusk, we sat in the hills that overlooked the little town of the Savior’s birth on Christmas eve, and just like my father had many years earlier, I was able to envision the beautiful events that took place in the little town of Bethlehem many hundreds of years before!
What I’m learning now is…
Christmas is always a magical time of year. Christmas celebrations can be enjoyed in a variety of wonderful ways. What I’m learning now is that children quickly sense the attitude and affection that their parent’s may have for making fun family traditions. I feel it’s integral if we want to keep our families close, especially as children grow and go their separate ways, that we try and keep some form of the traditions established when they were young; then all hearts will indeed come home for Christmas!
I’d love to hear about the Christmas traditions in your families.
My husband says that love for Santa Claus is most assuredly an “aquired affection”! Ha!
However, once established–the bond is deep and strong!