Gary Strader/gStrader Photography

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Remembering My Childhood Christmas In Salem

Today is my Birthday, and I am thinking of my childhood, and what Christmas was like for me in those days.

I was born in the town of Winston-Salem in North Carolina on Dec 22,1950. Growing up in a community known as "West Salem", which was just west of the historic village known as Old Salem. 

My grandmother passed away before I was born,however she was a Moravian, and is buried in Gods' Acre Cemetery the graveyard for Home Moravian Church, and the site of their world famous Sunrise Service, where people from all over the world come to attend.

My grandfather I think had been a Moravian as well, but by the time I had come along he had remarried and had since joined the faith of my step grandmother who was a Baptist.

Home Moravian Church and Candletea. 

The traditions of the Moravian Church were kept alive however for at each Christmas, any those boyhood memories are what I am remembering today.
You see, it was at Christmas that magic filled the air, and I am sure the magic we shared was a little different from what most of you remember. 

Santa Claus was coming, to be sure;but what fills my memories are rather the smells of Christmas, and sights of Christmas. That is the vivid dreams that my boyhood (now 61 years advanced) remembers.

You see to live in Salem at Christmas to were a part of a living tradition that dates back more than five hundred years, a tradition that began in Germany. It was memories of Moravian Sugar Cakes,(I can still smell them fresh and hot as they came from the oven), also the wafer thin Moravian cookies cut in shapes, and made of Gingerbread, and Sugar Cookies, with raisins and candy sprinkles on them. 

Those cookies were all cut into shapes like stars, and bells, and were not only eaten, but often were used to decorate the Christmas Tree, with Fresh Popped Pop Corn strung together to make garland to wrap the tree in.

Not only did the smells include those of sweets, but also the candles that were made and used for the Candle Tea, which is another Moravian Tradition. The candles are hand poured, mad of Bees Wax, and Tallow (tallow is a animal fat boiled off from either beef or pork). The scent of those candles is rather strong, but very pleasant. It kind of reminds me of the smell or potpourri.

To go along with the smells, were the sights of Christmas also. In addition to the lovely glow of those candles, were the sight of the Christmas Tree, with the strung pop corn, and Moravian Cookies on the tree. In addition was the Moravian Advent Star, seen at almost every home in Salem. You will see it from time to time in other communities, but no where will you find it in abundance as in Salem.