Posted by Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett

I like to start the holiday season early by listening to my ChChristmas_w_ray_conniffristmas CDs in late October. Naturally, this drives my hubby up the wall. I start out slow with piano instrumentals and slowly move into the more elaborate instrumentals, and finally into vocals by the likes of Celine Dion, Amy Grant, and even Ray Conniff. (Yes, THAT Ray Conniff. Christmas With Ray Conniff was my favorite Christmas record when I was a little kid and one of my favorite Christmas songs is still "Christmas Bride.")

Figurinecase Once Thanksgiving is over, it's time to get to the real stuff. Last year on my personal blog, Dazed and Confused, I shared pictures of my vast (well, over 200) Christmas figurines throughout the month of December. These are all "Made In Japan" figurines from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I've been collecting them for at least a decade and some I paid as little as a nickel for and some I've paid as much as $8 for. (Mostly in the lower range. I don't buy as many nowadays because the prices have skyrocketed.) Some have been repaired (wings reattached, candy canes mended, decapitation restored, all with the help of a little glue and TLC), but just as many have survived over half a century with no injuries at all.

Merrychristmas It would be pretty tough for me to choose my favorite out of all the angels, cherubs, choirboys (and girls), snowmen (and women), Santas (and Mrs. Clauses), musicians, carolers, skaters, Christmas trees, reindeer, and elves. And in fact one of my very favorites was perfect when I got it, but a cat (probably Fred) knocked it off a shelf and the little guy's pom-pom broke off. (Which is why I now keep them in a cabinet.) He's no longer perfect (and probably now worthless to a true collector), but I love them still.

This year I'm treating my Dazed and Confused readers (all ten or twenty of them) to samples of my Christmas ephemera. See, in addition to the figurines, I also collect 1940s-50s Christmas wrapping paper, gummed labels, stationery, and especially Christmas Picture_013 Cards. (And I'm posting one a day through the month of December.) All of these were bought at garage sales. Sometimes I'd pay a whole dollar for a bag of 10-20 old Christmas cards. Were these people nuts parting with such treasures? I can't tell you what pleasure I get (year round) taking out my old cards and looking at them, reading them, and wondering just who Herbert Baldwin was, or Mary Ellen & Norman, or Helen, Ross & Gary, and what happened to them. Have they all passed on to that big Christmas Card sorting room in the sky, or could little Gary be retired and living in Florida right now?

I only wish real life could mirror those more innocent times back in the 1940s and 50s. Its_a_wonderful_life Movies like It's A Wonderful Life give us a hint -- and yet, were things really that good back then? Was rotten old Mr. Potter much different from the corporate thieves (otherwise known as CEOs and their henchmen) we can read about in any newspaper today?

(Did I mention I'm also a sucker for old Christmas movies, too?)

Real life isn't always much fun. Parents have strokes, other family members pick fights (or their spouses do) and are estranged, jobs are lost, we lose pets. Everything changes.

The one thing I do have, besides my collections, are my memories of my happiest Christmases past. I wouldn't trade them for a million bucks.

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