Category Archives: Christmas Memories

ACCM 2015: Christmas Shopping

Today is the eighth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Shopping – and the focus is on . . .
For many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors? Tell us about how you do Christmas shopping and your memories of Christmases past.

I recently asked my older brothers what was Christmas shopping like for them growing up, and both said their trips to the downtown Foley’s Department Store was more like Christmas “window” shopping than buying gifts. There wasn’t a lot of money to spend on gifts back then. So right after their visit with Santa, they would spend hours with my mom browsing and enjoying all the elaborate holiday displays throughout the store. My brother Jon said it was the 100 ft wide window display at the store’s Main Street entrance that captured his attention and imagination the most!

Foley's Department Store Christmas Displays, 1950's

Foley’s Department Store Christmas Displays during the 1950’s

According to Houston Lost and Unbuilt by Steven R. Strom, the elaborate Christmas displays my brothers enjoyed so much above “. . . made downtown Foley’s Department Store a tourist attraction in its own right each holiday season for many years after the store opened in 1947.” [1]

As I think about this feature topic, I don’t remember Christmas shopping trips with my mom. Sure I visited Santa at the downtown Foley’s Department Store just like my brothers. The store was always beautifully decorated, but nothing really stands out in my mind about those shopping trips. Basically, once I told Santa what I wanted for Christmas, some of those items would magically appear under the tree Christmas Day. Once I learned there was no Santa, all shopping for me was done by my parents and older brothers while I was away from home at school or church. The excitement at this point was seeing the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree for me grow each day until I could unwrap them on Christmas Day.

I am not a shopper. I didn’t really get into the groove of Christmas shopping until I had my son, Marcus. When he believed in Santa, I spent a lot of time standing in lines purchasing those beloved Tonka trucks, Legos, and Voltrons in Toys R Us and Kay-Bee Toys. But when he no longer believed in Santa a lot of my Christmas shopping for him and others on my gift list were by catalog. Remember those JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears thick Christmas Catalogs below that came in the mail?

Christmas Catalogs from the 1980s

My favorite Christmas Catalogs from the 1980s

Because I’m not a shopper and hate long check-out lines of any kind (which is why I have not shopped in a local Wal-Mart store in 5 years), getting those thick store catalogs in the mail quickly became my preferred way of shopping for the holidays from 1980s through the early 2000s. Thankfully, the Internet has replaced those thick catalogs and 95% of all my Christmas shopping today (or shopping in general) is online. Shopping online has made it possible for me to tap into those great Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales early, as well as, make shopping anytime of the year stress free!

Source Citation –

1. Strom, S. (2010). Foley’s Department Store. In Houston Lost and Unbuilt(pp. 120-122). Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.


The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Television and Movies

Today is the seventh day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Television and Movies – and the focus is on . . .
Whether it is the movie It’s A Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas on the telly, what is your favorite television program or movie? What are your memories of first seeing it as a child and did your family have certain traditions related to the show or movie? Are there different versions (such as The Christmas Carol) and have you found modern favorites? Tell us about your favorite Christmas television program or movie and your memories of Christmases past.

When I think back to all the Christmas television shows and movies I’ve seen through the years, I cannot deny my personal favorites today are still those films and shows I watched as a child.

I grew up during the 1960’s. The first Christmas film I remember was the animated TV musical of Charles Dickens’s, “A Christmas Carol” called – Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962).  Remember that TV movie? Yes, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo as Ebeneezer Scrooge visited by three spirits which help him learn the true meaning of Christmas is still my favorite! Other 1960 films I enjoyed were Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), The Little Drummer Boy (1968), and Frosty the Snowman (1969).

My favorite 1960 Christmas Movie Classics

Besides those animated favorites I mention above, another film I probably watched more than any other holiday comedy classic growing up was Miracle on 34th Street (1947). I was 10 years old and just learned there was no Santa the year I saw this film. So I found the court case surrounding a man who was institutionalized as insane because he claimed to be Santa Claus fascinating. Other Christmas comedies I enjoyed as I grew older were Remember the Night (1940), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) and White Christmas (1954).

Christmas Film Classics

What are some of your favorite Christmas television and movies? Seen any of the films I mentioned? Let me know in the comment section if you care to share!

ACCM 2015: Santa Claus

Today is the sixth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Santa Claus – and the focus is on . . .
Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others? Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.

Photo: Chuck Farmer, Houston Post, 1960

Santa Claus addresses parade goers atop a Foley’s canopy after the 1960 Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chuck Farmer, Houston Post

My earliest memories of ‘Santa Claus’ began Thanksgiving Day 1961. Dad took me and my brothers downtown and found a great place for us to watch Houston’s annual Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Either on top of dad’s shoulders or sitting on the curb at his feet, I saw for the very first time — giant caricature balloons, decorative floats, motorcades of all sizes, clowns, marching bands, singers, and much more. At the end of the parade Santa Claus appeared and announced to everyone he was coming soon!

After the parade, I would hear the song, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN everywhere.The idea that he kept a list and checked it twice to find out if I’ve been naughty (I was a little mischief-maker at times) or nice — was something I worried about all the time. Even though I saw everyone’s excitement about him coming to town after the parade, the concept of Santa for me at this young age was suspect — if you know what I mean!

Visit with Santa 1961

Liv with Santa, 1961

I wasn’t comfortable telling him what I wanted for Christmas the first time we met.The look on my face in my 1961 keepsake photo tells it all! But with each passing year, I found sitting on his knee telling him what I wanted for Christmas got easier. I believed in the magic of Santa Claus until I was 10 years old and was a little disappointed when I learned he wasn’t real. Thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last very long because my parents did a great job making sure I grew up knowing “Santa Claus” wasn’t the real reason for the Advent Season!

Taylor Siblings and Santa, 1957-1963

Taylor Siblings with Santa from 1957-1963

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“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Recipes

Today is the fifth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Recipes – and the focus is on . . .
The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it. Post your favorite Christmas recipe and your memories of Christmases past.

Mom’s 1950’s Mirro Cooky Press

Baking cookies was an expected tradition in my home for the holidays! So when we saw mom pull out her 1950’s Mirro cookie press and cookbook (remember this cooking gadget from back in the day?), it wouldn’t be long before the smell of baked sugar, caramel, and peanut butter cookies would fill the air and have us all heading for the kitchen to sample them!

There were 12 different cookie design disks that came with this cooky press. When I asked my brother, Elgin, which cookie design was his favorite, he said he didn’t have one. He didn’t care what the cookies looked like as long as he could eat them fresh and hot from the oven!

Eating freshly baked cookies was a must for my brother Jon, but what those cookies looked like was very important to him too! According to mom, he wanted all of our Christmas cookies to look like dogs. Dogs?! Yep, that certainly sounds like something my brother Jon would want – LOL! But, trust and believe, mom wasn’t having none of that! So as well as a dozen dog shaped cookies, there were Christmas trees, stars, and other festive shapes associated with the holidays baked too!

Mirro Cooky Cookbook, 1950

Mirro Cooky Cookbook, 1950

I don’t remember having a favorite cookie design growing up. What I do remember was hanging around the kitchen to eat any, and all, cookie dough left in the bowl and on the spoon. Mom’s cookie dough (and cake dough too) was so-o-o-o good! When I asked her about sharing some of those great cookie Christmas recipes with me a few years ago, that is when she informed me that the cookies we loved so much came right from the Mirro cookbook that came packaged with the cookie press (which she still has today) all those years ago!

Looking for a simple, yet fun, Christmas recipe to make with the kids for the holiday? Then check out this cookie recipe from the 1950’s Mirro Cooky Cookbook below.  Enjoy!

Caramel Cookies

Time: 10 – 12 mins
Temp: 375 F

1 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of soda

Cream shortening; add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly

Add beaten eggs and vanilla extract

Sift flour, soda, and salt gradually, then add to creamed mixture

Fill your Mirro Cooky press and form fancy designs on an ungreased cookie sheet (if you don’t have a cookie press, spoon cookie mixture instead on the cookie sheet)

Bake until cookies are a light golden brown; yields 6 dozen

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

ACCM 2015: Christmas Lights

Today is the fourth day of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2015!

The featured topic is – Christmas Lights – and the focus is on . . .
Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbors into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbors? And was it a favorite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations? Write about anything related to Christmas lights and your memories of Christmases past.

I really had to give today’s feature topic a lot of thought because I can count on one hand (and still have 4 fingers left) the number of times my dad put up outdoor lights and decorations for Christmas! Then I thought, since I’m the baby of the family, maybe these outdoor decorations were done when I was too young to remember them. No, that wasn’t the reason at all. Both of my brothers recently confirmed that putting up outdoor lights and decorations wasn’t something dad liked, or even wanted to do. However, what he did like from time to time was taking the family to see beautifully decorated homes and neighborhoods for the holidays – which is probably why I enjoy Christmas Light tours today!


Front view of the Balian House

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While living in San Gabriel, California in 1989, I had an opportunity to experience one of the best Christmas Light Tours that year — the spectacular Balian House in Altadena, California! This 1922 Mediterranean-style mansion at 1960 Mendocino Lane is the home of the ice-cream mogul, George Balian. During the tour, I learned the family has decorated this house and the 3.5 acres surrounding it for the holidays since 1955. They started with 10,000 colored lights and today, the 10,000 lights cover just the front walkway alone!


Baby Jesus Nativity Scene, the Balian House

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There were many holiday scenes to enjoy on the tour such as Santa with his elves and reindeer, and Charlie Brown with the Peanut Gang in tow. Most, if not all these scenes have movable parts that made it a fun experience for kids (and adults too). My favorite part of the tour was the Nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus laying in a manger surrounded by angels, shepherds, Wise men and a whole host of others celebrating the birth of Christ!


The Balian House

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Thousands of people visit this mansion every year and I can certainly believe that because there were a lot of people there that night! And once the strolling carolers began to sing, “Children laughing, people passing; meeting smile after smile. And on every street corner you’ll hear…” everyone who knew the song was singing right along with them!


Just when I thought this night couldn’t get any better, Santa Claus appeared on the sidewalk a few feet in front of us with a HUGE bag of toys for all the kids there that night. My son’s face lit up brightly when Santa handed him a gift from his bag. Marcus was so pleased with his gift, and Santa, that he gladly took a picture with him for me!

Marcus with the Balian House Santa!

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“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”