When I was a kid, my family always had a wonderful celebration of Christmas. My parents were married in 1950 and their life together was in the time of the greatest economic prosperity that America had ever seen. Television was promoting the spirit of Christmas, shopping malls, which started appearing in the 1960s, did elaborate decorations for Christmas. I remember some of the displays the stores did, not just merchandise, but things like miniature Christmas towns, with toy trains, that were very elaborate. Stores were trying to attract people, and they did.
And my parents knew about hard times. They had grown up in the 1930s, and they had seen the deprivations during the war in the 1940s. By the 1950s, they were ready to live the American dream, and they did. My dad had a good job at the Ford Motor Company with a generous salary, excellent benefits, and always a Christmas bonus. And at Christmastime my parents, who were usually very careful with their money, spent it lavishly on presents for their children.
This is how it worked for us - The presents were placed under the tree, and it was always a nice, fresh, real, Christmas tree. We opened our presents on Christmas Eve after dinner. We always ate off of paper plates so that we could get right to the gifts, otherwise we would have to wait while mom did the dishes. Yes, mom did the dishes - she had four boys and a husband who did not touch housework. And this was one of the rare times that we used the living room of the house, which I always now associate with Christmas. After the gift exchange, we would go to bed and try to sleep, because we knew that Santa would come that night.
On Christmas morning, the "big gift" was displayed, unwrapped, in the living room. These were the toys "from Santa", but we kids knew that they came from mom and dad. In fact, we had picked them out from the Sears "Wish Book" - the Christmas catalog.
It was a good time to be a kid at Christmas.