Niagara Gazette — Not too many years ago when I was a kid, the joy of Christmas shopping began with the arrival of the giant Sears Christmas catalogue. My siblings and I would pour over that book until the pages faded and fell out as we pointed out the dozens of toys we wanted Santa to carry down the chimney to us.
This time of the year seemed to take forever to get here; a year was a heck of a long time to wait back then, but the older we get, the faster this season comes around probably because nowadays, Christmas starts to show up in some stores on Halloween.
I can remember when all of Niagara Falls was lit up like a huge Christmas present with beautiful wreaths and ribbons streaming from the street lights; gigantic banners stretched across the streets wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
Most of the churches in my neighborhood back then had large congregations (there were officially 43 churches in the city in the 1950s representing 20 denominations), and many of them built life-like mangers scenes out in front of their buildings.
Most of the parochial schools celebrated the season with plays produced by the faculty, staring the youngest students, all fully costumed and completely made up for their parts by their proud parents.
I was pretty much guaranteed a role in the annual Christmas play as one of the Three Kings, a character generally accepted as mine since one of the three magi was supposedly black. I was a shoe-in as the only black boy in my school at the time.
Christmas time was a fusion of Santa Clause lore and religious observance, not just the purely commercial enterprise it is now. There was a genuine Christmas Spirit and it was genuinely reflected in the decorations not only on the city streets but throughout the neighborhoods too where most of the homes were decked out in some way that reflected the content of the neighbors hearts more than the special effects of the flashy commercial high tech decorations we see today.