Friday, December 18, 2009

Our favorite family tradition at Christmas - reading "The First Christmas Stocking" written by my husband’s Grandfather in the early 1900's


Every Christmas Eve we read “The First Christmas Stocking,” written by my husband Meakin’s grandfather. Beverly of How Sweet the Sound is our hostess for Pink Saturday and this week she’s asked us to post about our favorite holiday tradition and this is ours.

Years ago Meakin’s dad gave us his copy of “The First Christmas Stocking” that was crinkly and aging along with some black & white drawings of the story his father had written and told to him when he was a young boy. Meakin can also remember his Grandfather telling him this very same story.


Photo of Meakin and his Grandfather reading “The First Christmas Stocking”

Here’s an excerpt of what Meakin’s Dad told us about Christmas when he was a boy in 1919 and about the story his father wrote - “The First Christmas Stocking.”

On the day before Christmas of 1919 in Peotone, Illinois, Mother had spent the preceding week baking cakes, pies, and sugar cookies in Santa Claus or Christmas tree shapes and especially “Tea Rings” with their filling of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and currants. They would be a feature of the holiday breakfast, accompanied by butter and lemon dressed salt mackerel which Dad had soaking in a dishpan of water. The Christmas tree which Dad and I had brought home on my sled leaned, snow dusted, against the side of the house. It would not be brought in until I was in bed and, presumably, fast asleep.

The “FIRST CHRISTMAS STOCKING” is a Hoffer family heritage. It was written by my Father in the early years of this century when there was no television, few radios and movies were silent and seldom seen. Consequently story telling was an important means of education and of communication, especially between parent and child. This particular story occupied a special place in our Christmas celebration. After dinner on Christmas Eve we walked to the church for the Christmas pageant. When I returned home there was a sudden rush to get undressed, hang my stocking and get to bed. And when up I went, Dad did too, to lie beside me, to “start the night” and tell me the story of a little boy whose pleasure was in giving, not getting, whose concern was for the happiness and pleasure of others and in that found his own happiness. Dad wanted very much to see this story published. He found an old friend to do the drawings that illustrate the story here. But his dream was never realized.

Always up for a challenge, in 1977 I decided to find a book binder to see if they could make copies of the story for a Christmas present from us to all of our family members. When they said yes, I begin to painstakingly re-type the story on an old IBM Selectric typewriter with the rotating ball (there were no personal computers or word processing programs available at the time) and took it, along with the drawings, to a very seedy (read unsafe) part of downtown Houston to the book binders, selected an elegant dark green leather cover with gold lettering for the title, ordered copies, and said, “Call me when it’s finished.”

Meakin’s father was thrilled when he saw the finished book. He wrote in the inscription in 1977:

Many times in the last twenty years that my Dad has been gone I have wished I could tell him of some of the wonderful things I’ve seen or done or just lived through. This is one of those times. Now, thanks to Meakin and Sam, here it is. If not for all the world to see, at least for me and my children, their wives and husbands, their children and their children’s children.” James J. Hoffer, New York City, 1977.

Here is “The First Christmas Stocking.” By the way, Meakin’s dad just celebrated his 97th birthday in November. He still lives at home, cooks most of his own meals, reads the New York Times every day and does their crossword puzzles. And on every Christmas Eve he gets out his copy and reads this story.

The First Christmas Stocking

By Doc Hoffer

Away up north a long time ago

There lived a young lad with the Eskimo.

He had a reindeer but he had no sled

So he hitched it to an ice cake instead.

He carved toys of ice and had lots of fun

But they soon melted when exposed to the sun.


One day a ship got fast in the ice

And our little boy thought it would be nice

To take a look at this strange sight;

He wanted to go out that very night.


The men on the ship did not like to stay

So they hitched up their dogs and hastened away.

So Kris Kringle, for that was his name,

Went to look the thing over; you’d do the same.


He found it deserted and much to his joy

There were all kinds of tools that would please any boy.

He found lots of wood and pieces of metal

Lead for his soldiers and an old iron kettle.


He made a sled to hitch his deer to.

He made lots of toys like you’d like to do.


He soon had so many he thought ‘twould be fun

To give each little boy and girl some.


So he hitched up old Prancer and started away

With a pack on his back just ‘fore Christmas Day.


When he got there, there were Indians around

And just a few settlers were then to be found.


The Indians chased him and scared him you see,

He wished he was back home, take it from me.

He urged on the deer and imagine the shock

When it made a quick turn and the sled hit a rock.

He flew right up into the air

And lit on top of a cabin right there.


He crawled down the chimney to get away

From this bunch of savages this Christmas Day.

When he got in the room ‘bout ready to die

He found lots of stocking hung up to dry.


There were small ones and large ones, short ones, too.

Says Santa, “Now here’s what I’ll do.

I’ll fill each sock from top to toe

Then if the Indians are gone, for home I’ll blow.”

So he put in soldiers and swords and guns,

Wooden horses and toys for the little ones.


He peeked out the door and his deer was still there

So he jumped in his sleigh and sailed through the air.

He had such fun he said in his glee

“I’ll be back next year with more presents, you see.”




So he worked the whole year as hard as he could

And comes back each year as Santa Claus should

He’s old and gray, his beard is white

But he comes back each year all right

For all children he brings nice toys

For he still loves good girls and boys.

Please be sure to drop by and say hello to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound where you’ll find links to other Pink Saturday bloggers and read about their favorite holiday traditions. Happy Pink Saturday everyone.

I apologize for the change in print size and the spacing. For some reason Blogger had a mind of its own today and gave me fits with this post and I've re-done it several times with equally strange results. Do you ever have this problem? It's very frustrating. Oh well or c'est la vie as they say. Happy Pink Saturday.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel everyone.




48 comments:

  1. Dear Sam,

    This is one of, if not the best, combination of true family tradition, love and Christmas spirit that I have ever read.

    And look how you have so generously shared it with all of us.

    Thank you, thank you. What a perfect gift.
    Tishxx

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  2. What a wonderful Christmas story! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. This is so filled with the spirit of love that encompasses the season. In all ways.

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  4. thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story - I cant tell you how touching it is because I am sure you probably know!

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  5. Beautiful, beautiful post. I adored every word, and I will be sharing this special story with my younger children along with the pictures. Merry Christmas to you, XXOO.

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  6. What a sweet, sweet tale! How beautiful it is that you typed and had them bound. So great, Sam! :)

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  7. This was awesome! Wow. I hope that you will keep passing down the tradition. Love it.

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  8. What a marvelous story and wonderful family Heirloom! We gotta get Jim Carey to star in it. GREG

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  9. This is a Chritmas treasure. Thanks for sharing it.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this special family tradition and tale. How beautiful that you had it bound into books. Thank you and Merry Christmas

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  11. What a great and sweet story. It's wonderful that you preserved these stories in a beautiful book for your family to treasure.

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  12. I adore the story did you get it published so we can buy it?

    Love Rebecca

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  13. Sam, this is SO sweet, and how wonderful that you had this made into a book for your family and especially for your dear FIL. That picture of your husband with his grandfather is the cutest thing I've ever seen. What a darling little boy he was and a darling grandfather he had. This is a wonderful tradition, and I'm so glad you shared it.

    And what a wonderfully creative story! I love that your FIL still reads it each Christmas Eve into his 90's!!!

    Happy Pink Saturday to you...

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  14. What a special tradition and a wonderful story!

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  15. What a great post and a wonderful story.

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  16. I love this. The personal memories, the family tradition, and most of all, the great Christmas story. I'm printing it out to read with Dan on Christmas day. We'll start our own tradition! Thank you for sharing this with us. I feel as if I were sitting in a rocking chair by the fire with you...

    (I sometimes have the same problem with Blogger. In your case, I thought it was kind of neat that you had the story in a different type!)

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  17. Merry Christmas, Sam! You have certainly made this my favorite 'Pink Saturday Post' with your Family Christmas Story! How thoughtful, heartwarming, and brave (Seedy Section in Houston) you are to have made your FIL's Christmas dream come true. Thanks so very much for sharing the story and illustrations...that was a lot of typing on an IBM Selectric and on Blogger!

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  18. What an amazing family tradition Sam. Such a treasure to pass this story down the generations. It really is a special legacy. A very happy and joyous holiday season to you all.

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  19. Perfectly fitting and a wonderful Christmas story! I really enjoyed reading the story and loved the added illustrations! It warmed my heart~

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  20. What a fantastic heirloom. Truly priceless.

    Remember how fancy and technologically advanced you thought it was when typewriters began including correction tape ribbons?

    Hope you guys are warm and having nice weather over there. My parents said it was snowing in Franklin, we just got rain over here.

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  21. Beautiful and perfect are the only words that come to me right now. What a wonderful memory and tradition for your family. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Pink Saturday. I will see you in 2010, Char

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  22. Sam, Thanks so much for sharing with us this wonderful story and tradition. Very heartwarming and special. Meakin sounds like a special guy.

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  23. What a GRAND Christmas story,...

    Thanks for this beautiful & well loved post!! thanks for sharing your Christmas spirit with us!!

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  24. What a touchingly,beautiful post, Sam!

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  25. What a wonderful tradition and story!

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  26. What a treasure! Your idea to bind the book for gifts was wonderful. Your family members must have loved it.

    Merry Christmas...Kathy

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  27. Sam,
    What a lovely and special family tradition. How lucky you all are.
    Happy Holidays! and thanks for reading me a bedtime story, now I can go to sleep and have sweet dreams!
    Stacey

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  28. Wonderful tradition! Great story.
    Happy Holidays!

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  29. Holidays are only special because of cherished family traditions and this one is wonderful! I love the story and the drawings and I can only imagine grapndpa after grandpa reading this wonderful story to family after family gathered round the fire on Christmas. Happy Holidays, Sam, and thanks for sharing this part of you and yours.

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  30. What a beautiful family tradition, Sam - thanks so much for sharing this. I think a return to story telling would be a very good gift for every family this holiday! Merry Christmas!
    Cheers - TW

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  31. Awwww... Sam, this is a very nice and sweet post. Thanks for sharing it with us. And wow, good to know that Meakin's dad just celebrated his 97th birthday, that's so wonderful!

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  32. Reading this post brought a tear to my eye. what a sweet tribute to your grandfather-in-law. How nice that your family tradition lives on.

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  33. Sam, I have a great big smile on my face. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful family tradition.

    This is incredible.

    Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

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  34. Beautiful story Sam. I love the illustrations too. You are so lucky to have this family heirloom and so smart to preserve it.

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  35. This is beautiful! It is also inspiring. We too have family stories from the early 1900's. How wonderful it would be to finally have them bound as a proper book. Maybe next year...
    For now I will enjoy your story!
    Merry Christmas!

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  36. Just came be your blog via TTish at A Femme d'un Cartain Age, your last minut gift ideas were great.
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful storoy - what a special treasure this is to your family. And to be able to listen to this dear man read it must be such a thrill. Please tell Doc I loved his story.
    I'll be following along and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

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  37. Sam,
    What a beautiful Christmas story. The illustrations are so nice. Thanks for sharing this lovely story with us. I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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  38. Loved the story and the history that went with it! Doc sounds like he was a talented man.
    Merry Christmas to you! Happy new year, Shalom!

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  39. Soooo NICE to have a year tradition!
    Merry Christmas!
    ENJOY!
    Fifi

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  40. Happy Christmas to you and your family Sam, xv.

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  41. Such a fine family tradition -- and what charming illustrations!

    Your blog is a continuing gift -- Many thanks, Sam -- and a Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours!n

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  42. sweet Christmas story~thanks for sharing!

    ~Merry Christmas~

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  43. Sam-I loved the story he wrote-I love that you saved it in book form-and I loved that you shared it!!!

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  44. What a great story! Thank you for sharing that.

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  45. This is a delightful story Sam! It was so thoughtful for you to have it bound for your Dad, and your whole family to treasure! That will be the very best gift for future generations!

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  46. I can't think of anything more precious then a story handed down from generation to generation! And then to have it bound including the hand drawn illustrations is just wonderful! What a treasure!!

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Sam