In the five days remaining until Christmas, shopping will reach a fever pitch, traffic will be jammed everywhere and parking lots will fill to capacity. Grocery stores will be packed to the gills with shoppers stocking up for Christmas dinners. And, let’s not forget the baking — cookies of all sorts and poppy seed and nut rolls are always Christmas staples.
Over the last few weeks, many towns held Christmas parades and tree lightings during which communities gather as one to celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus. It’s an exciting time for children as they awake on Christmas Day to see what Saint Nick has left them under the tree.
In 1943, Greater Pittston celebrated Christmas a bit differently as World War II raged on. The front page of the Pittston Gazette was not dotted with stories or photos of Christmas folly but of Berlin being smashed by the British, Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower being appointed commander of the European invasion and American troops raiding the French coast.
On Christmas Eve, in the same Pittston Gazette, columnist Erich Brandeis wrote about Christmas that year, stating the holiday season would not have the “merriment in store for most of us.” He spoke of the difficult time the nation was experiencing during wartime.
In the midst of war, the nation had to pull itself together to be as one. Instead of talking about the commercialism of Christmas, hearts and souls turned to religion.
Brandeis wrote, “Not one of us who is worthy to be an American will fail to be a better human being for the experience of this catastrophe. May we thank God on our bended knees that He has spared us the horrors of invasion, that He has left our homes unmarred and our bodies whole. No, it will not be a Merry Christmas this year. But it will truly be the Holiest Christmas we have ever known.”
Even today, those words ring true. Peace is always an arm’s length away – it is ever eluding, in a smaller world today than in 1943.
I can’t imagine what life was like with a world war taking place. The horror stories of war filled newspaper and magazines covers every day. Christmas took a back seat to battlefields.
As I read that same edition, I got the sense of how the country struggled between what was real and what was fantasy. Parents did their best to keep the spirit of Santa Claus alive.
A Christmas Eve column titled, “To Children of All Ages” from the Gazette’s editorial page reassured children that Santa, despite the war, would make his rounds.
“Hitler and beasts like him have destroyed many of our found illusions. Don’t let them dim the luster of your faith in Santa Claus. Santa Claus isn’t an illusion or a delusion. He is as real, as tangible, as everlasting as the daddy who holds you in his arms when the day’s work is done, the mother who tucks you into bed and pulls up the covers against winter’s cold blast. He is as concrete, as substantial, as love and faith and hope.”
Those words ring true today in this world of high-tech espionage where wars still rage. In 1943, there was great uncertainty of where life was headed or who would be victorious but the people of this nation were strong and positive and strove for peace – just as today.
Unfortunately, there will always be good and evil, even as technology shrinks our world. Planes get faster, bombs get smarter, yet terrorism continues to exist.
Brandeis closed his column with a Christmas wish: “Let it be the dawn of a new life to us, a life of devotion, of tolerance, of duty, of understanding and of peace.”
May this be the merriest and holiest Christmas for Greater Pittston, our nation and the world as we, too, look for love and faith and hope.
Quote of the week
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” – Calvin Coolidge, 30th American president
Thought of the week
“I heard bells on Christmas Day; their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the word repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet
“The best Christmas of all is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up with one another.” – Author unknown