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And Now You Know: Christmas “Don’ts”

By Mike Louviere

Christmas in 1909 was vastly different from the Christmas of today.

The early 20th century was a simpler time. Christmas trees were apt to be cut from one’s back pasture. Decorations were often strings of popcorn. Houses that had electricity, either had no lights on the tree, or only a very few primitive lights. Some trees were illuminated with lighted candles. Houses that had decorated yards were virtually nonexistent. Gift giving was beginning to shift to items bought in retail stores as opposed to the gifts that had been homemade, or were gifts of fruit, cakes, or cookies made by the mothers and grandmothers of the family.

A.L Ford, the editor of the Orange Daily Leader, took it on himself to give some advice about things to not do at Christmas. He listed them in an edition the week before Christmas, 1909, titled “Christmas Don’ts.”

Don’t think you are too poor to keep Christmas, you can’t be as poor as all that.

Don’t spend so much on Christmas that you can’t get even with the butcher and grocer until March.

Don’t give presents that are a pleasure for 10 minutes and a worry for 10 years.

Don’t give a drum to the children of an enemy that works nights.

Don’t give your wife something she don’t care for just because you want it yourself. This “don’t” works just as well the other way.

Don’t try to find the price marks on the gifts you receive.

Don’t check off each gift you receive against the gifts you gave and calculate whether you made out.

Don’t set your own happiness up as the chief thing to be looked out for at Christmas time.

Don’t give a book to a man with a big library, or a picture to a man who makes a specialty of fine arts unless you know pretty well what he wants.

Don’t write your name on someone else’s card if you send them.

Don’t oppress children who are satiated to sadness with toys already by giving them more.

Don’t forget that a basket of fruit or a box of flowers is just as nice a present in many cases as something that will last a good deal longer.

Don’t put everything off till the last because you had better, for the joy of your friends, give nothing than wear yourself out and be as cross as two sticks when the blessed day comes.

Ford’s list of Christmas “Don’ts” is as relevant today as the day he wrote them. We do not use the same prose to write them, or vocalize them in the same way, but the lessons are the same. Christmas in years past was simpler than it is today. Beneath all the expanses of lights, acres of cars in parking lots at the “Big Box” stores, and the host of electronic games, cell phones, tablets, and computers in today’s home is still the time we spend with friends and families at what is, to many, the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

“And now you know”