Bruce Heberle

Thinking Out Loud: Small Town Christmas Traditions

December 19, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about small town Christmas traditions. What were your family traditions? What did your family do that made Christmas special? Do you still feel the magic of Christmas?

Bruce Heberle
Bruce Heberle

The other day I was listening to the Garth Brooks radio channel. He was talking about how Christmas was always special to his family. Garth’s favorite Christmas memory was when he was four or five years old; it happened on Christmas morning.

As we all know, Garth Brooks grew up in Oklahoma. In that area of Oklahoma, it apparently never snowed. He relates that during this particular year it did! Out on the snow was proof positive that Santa Claus had come! Sleigh runner tracks and reindeer paw marks were left on the grass. Santa was real!!! He shared that this one incident convinced him of Santa’s existence for the next 30 years!

One of my family traditions growing up was the school holiday we always had on December 8. On that day, Dad and Mom would load us into the family station wagon and head to the state capital to do our Christmas shopping. As I remember it, the downtown area was adorned with festive decorations and beautiful window displays that sparked my imagination. I remember the hustle and bustle of the people going from store to store on the busy sidewalk. Everyone seemed so happy! As the day progressed, my parents shopped separately, each with a couple of kids in tow. I was living in the moment and it all seemed so magical! To this day, I cherish this memory.

Our family never put our tree up until the 24th of December. It was always a tree harvested from the hillside of our farm. We started the process at noon and finished the tree trimming late in the afternoon.

Our old house had 10′ ceilings and we always chose a tree that took up every inch of that space. When finished, Dad always said: “That’s the prettiest tree we’ve have ever had!”

Everyone knows that Santa has a lot of places to visit on Christmas. We were lucky in that he came to our house the evening of the 24th. Our family always drove around town looking at Christmas lights. Since Dad was the county sheriff, he needed to patrol the city. He packed me and my siblings into his 1959 Chevy patrol car and off we went. We slowly traveled up and down every downtown street and continued our ride through the residential neighborhoods marveling at all the holiday lights and displays. Each one of us would choose our favorite decorations along the way.

Mom was the county radio operator and worked from our home. As we pulled out from our house, Dad would radio Mom and report: “Car 400 in route to town” (on duty). After we were gone awhile, he would hear Mom say: “Gasconade county to car 400.” Dad would respond: “Car 400, go ahead.” She would continue: “We have a 10-10 here at the base,” (assignment completed). Dad would respond “10-4” and we would head home. That doggone Santa always came while we were on patrol! Never once did we catch him!

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I loved the memories of my Christmas traditions growing up and hope you do too. May God bless you all. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

See you next month.