December 4, 2018

Just Saying…

By Q.C. Jones

The Christmas Pageant: Great Moments in Musical Variety or what?

Once standard Holiday fare and an important bit of Americana, Christmas Pageants have gone the way of the Dodo bird and Wooly Mammoth. In the words of famous Iowans from the other end of the state, The Everly Brothers, the tradition is “Gone, Gone, Gone”. It wasn’t climate change or massive meteor collision, their demise came via Political Correctness.

It seems that schools across our great land received word Christmas Pageants are legal sticky wickets. While no Supreme Court Ruling has out and out banned the tradition, schools have shied from anything which could be construed as “Christmasy” in nature. Sadly, this includes just about everything tied to old American traditions. Snow is cool. Snowmen, I mean snowpersons, squeak through. Mistletoe, which happened to be the Oklahoma state flower for 114 years, is probably not good; sexist or something. Sleigh rides to Grandmother’s house might involve some ice skating of the thin ice variety.

Lots of things to ponder this December. QC is going to leave this Political Correct stuff to the late night pundits. Instead, we’ll go back through a collection of memories of days gone by. Like the Dodo Bird and Wooly Mammoth, Christmas Pageants might be gone but they certainly cannot be forgotten.

Daydreaming for a few minutes and sipping a spiked cup of hot chocolate, my brain quickly sorts through million-plus Christmas memory. I recall a few of my six-year-old friends standing, just backstage, preparing for our debut performance. Donned in our Sunday best, freshly washed and recently ironed white shirts and dress pants, stage fright was starting to set in.

Our class was one of the last to go on stage, and we watched nervously as the other classes solemnly shuffled to the makeshift stage to perform their songs and poems. From our vantage point, we could see the overflow crowd of parents, grandparents and visiting dignitaries politely waiting for each group to perform. My dad, who owned a sports coat for every occasion, wore his bright red coat and a matching tie. My mom and grandmothers couldn’t have been more dolled up if they were attending the Metropolitan Opera. John, one of my dad’s friends an old-time bachelor farmer famous for his bibbed overalls, came out to see my performance. He had on his signature bibs, a white shirt and an ancient tie; but then again, this wasn’t all that uncommon in our little town.

The performance, which consisted of two short Christmas songs (Silent Night and We wish you a Merry Christmas), met a polite yet enthusiastic applause. Celebrating what, for most of us was our first taste of audience appreciation, we lightly marched back to our mini-sized seats near the front of the lunch room. I distinctly remember the knowing glances exchanged with my grandmothers, who beamed with pride as I managed to sit completely still during the next few performances.

In my six-year-old mind, the crowning moment of the pageant came at the end. Our principal took the stage and personally recognized each and every classes’ hard work and talent. He even went so far as to mention that Santa would no doubt be impressed with our devotion to maintaining 100 percent nice behavior. Milliseconds following the mention of his name, the Jolly Old Elf burst into the back of the room, “HoHoHo-ing” all the way to the front. What’s more, he had a
monstrous bag over his shoulder.

Santa replaced the principle at the front of the room and after a few well-chosen remarks, proceeded to give every kid in the room a small wax paper bag containing candy.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. Back in the day, Santa had a batch of elves who (apparently) didn’t believe in individual servings. Nor did they believe in tooth decay. This special candy only appeared at Christmas time and it was amongst the hardest variety of molten sugar on the planet. The colors matched the season, but even six-year-olds noticed the flavor of the green candy and the red candy were identical; actually a sweet and slightly off peppermint. But, we love Santa and the Jolly One loved us, so we graciously grabbed the loot and returned to our seats.

What can top Santa you ask? In our little town, the best part of the pageant was the hot chocolate and cookie time. Here’s how it worked. The PTA asked each family to provide a collection of cookies, brownies and other delicacies for the extravaganza. Every family packed enough cookies to serve 100 people. Cookies which were carefully rationed at home flowed like water over Niagara Falls. Those little puffy white pecan cookies were (and remain) my favorite. Nobody could make them like my grandma. At home, I was allowed to take two, after the Christmas Pageant I had two dozen.

Allow me two more thoughts.

First, this was the first of many Pageants for me. I went on to a supporting role as the singing Magi in the fourth-grade show and worked my way to the big kahuna part as a sixth grader.

Secondly, if I should keel over with a massive heart attack tomorrow, I blame it on the pure lard base of those fabulous little white pecan things. Merry Christmas… Just saying

Filed Under: History