Christmas with the Friersons

Beverly Frierson

Beverly Frierson

Christmas in the Frierson household meant the smell of live spruce Christmas trees – a tiny one in the den and a large one in the living room. My sister Delaine and I would go with Daddy to Christmas tree lots to pick out the perfect trees. Daddy would put them in little red Christmas tree stands, and every few days we’d add water to the stands to keep the trees from becoming too brittle.

As we decorated the trees, we’d listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Mathis and Harry Belafonte.

Mother made us hot chocolate and set out yummy slices of Jane Parker fruit cake. Daddy’s only tree decorating task was to place the angel on top, although he willingly remained in the room the entire time we decorated.

Throughout Christmas break, our home was filled with eclectic holiday music, including Alvin and the Chipmunks. We played it over and over and over. We loved those little chipmunks.

I always sang “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” as a solo on Christmas Eve. My rendition made my Mother, who served as my voice coach, exceptionally happy. That tradition has changed slightly. Delaine and I now sing it as a duet at The Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Sumter during their Christmas Eve program.

On Christmas Eve, Daddy would take us downtown to the Capitol, a big department store in Sumter to buy Mother something really nice.

As for Daddy, we usually bought him Old Spice. Poor Daddy . . . what were we thinking? Well, he acted as if he appreciated it.

We were always exposed to two religious Christmas services: the United Methodist Christmas service at Daddy’s church and the Christmas program at Big Mama’s African American Episcopal Zion Church in Cheraw.

Big Mama’s church sponsored the Christmas Tree: a Christmas pageant highlighting the Christmas story.

After the play, all of the children would receive a bag with an orange and Christmas ‘ribbon’ candy. Delaine called that candy ‘old people’s candy’ because elderly people seemingly were required to keep it in the candy dishes of their living rooms. It always stuck together, but according to Delaine it tasted good.

I also remember the excitement of preparing for our relatives to come home for Christmas. Home was Cheraw, where everyone gathered. Our Aunt Hattie always baked delicious fruit cake cookies. The few times she didn’t come home for Christmas, we anxiously awaited the arrival of her Box, for we knew it would be filled with yum yum Christmas goodies.

When we became adults, after Daddy died, we would sometimes spend Christmas in Washington, D.C.

We loved to visit the National Christmas tree and search for the South Carolina tree. Delaine found other activities such as noon-time organ concerts at downtown churches and Christmas concerts at the Kennedy Center. Once, she insisted that we go to the Mormon Tabernacle, while they were still allowing non-Mormons to enter.

We would also drive our aunts around D.C. to see the lights and other signs of Christmas, and they truly appreciated that because they were otherwise dependent on public transportation, which didn’t take them to all the fantastic nooks and crannies Delaine discovered for us to explore.

When spending Christmas in the capital, we always ate Christmas dinner early. Then, no matter how cold it was outside, Euralee, Aunt Hattie’s son, would treat us to a blockbuster movie on Christmas night. What joy!

Now that Mother has passed, Delaine and I take cruises at Christmas time. Delaine loves to watch TV aboard ship as the weatherperson reports on snow storms, stateside. As we bask in the warmth of some tropical location, we giggle at shoppers bundled up, hustling to complete Christmas shopping in some ungodly cold city such as Chicago. We reminisce about our childhood, our wonderful Christmases with our family, and it warms our hearts.

The Frierson Sisters wish our readers love, hope, peace and much joy this wonderful time of the year.