90 Years Ago, I Was Touched by a Random Act of Kindness That Defined the Christmas Spirit

The Great Depression hit our family hard, but there was light amidst the darkness.

It was two weeks before Christmas and I was on my way home from school. I was six years old and our Grade 1 class had just finished making Christmas decorations for the blackboard. As I walked through the snow, my boots made a crunching sound and the cold wind stung my cheeks. I thought of what my mother had told me that morning, and felt very sad. There would be no presents or Christmas tree at our house this year, as we were going through a very hard time because of the Depression. I’d be lucky to get some candy and oranges in my stocking. But my mother said we could still celebrate the baby Jesus’s birthday.

As I passed the bakery, I smelled fresh bread and the wonderful scent of cinnamon buns. Next to it was the drugstore, and then the grocery store. They were all decorated with cedar boughs, red ribbons, wreaths, and Santa Clauses. I could hear the tinkle of bells; a man dressed up as Santa Claus was collecting money for the poor.

As I came to the hardware store, I could hardly believe my eyes. In the window was a Christmas tree that sparkled and glistened. I went inside to have a better look. The owner of the store, Mr. Robertson, asked if there was anything that I wanted. I said, “No thank you, I’m just looking at the tree.”

On top of the tree was a shiny, gold and silver star. Around it were garlands and tinsel. Beautiful glass bulbs of red, green, gold and silver hung from the branches. Some were shaped like stars that looked like beams of light, others like trumpets or long, glass teardrops. There were also painted wooden ornaments of white snowmen with black top hats, a red toy soldier with a blue drum and a reindeer flying through the air. In the centre was a beautiful angel dressed in blue and gold. Whenever someone opened the door to the store, the wind made the tree shimmer.

Each day on my way home from school, I would go into the store and just gaze at the tree. On Christmas Eve it was snowing outside, but I felt cozy and warm inside. I could smell the heavenly scent of Christmas cookies baking. Thinking of the baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men, I asked God to help my family have a happy Christmas.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was Mr. Robertson from the hardware store with my magical Christmas tree. He said he thought we’d enjoy the tree over the holidays. I was so surprised and happy. We thanked him and wished him a very Merry Christmas. After he left, I sat on the floor in front of my tree. I touched the prickly needles and smooth bulbs. My heart was bursting with joy to think that this tree was ours. The scent of pine filled the air and, as I looked out the window, I saw a very bright star shining in the sky.

Next, find out what a country Christmas was like in the 1950s.

Originally Published in Our Canada