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Christmas Then and Now — How Things Have Changed

In 1844, Lydia Maria Child wrote the well know poem “Over the River, and Through the Woods”. We are a little more than a week away from Christmas 2013, 169 years since this poem was written.

Over the river, and through the wood – to Grandfather’s house we go!
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow.
Over the river, and through the wood – Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood – and straight through the barnyard gate!
We seem to go extremely slow, it is hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood – now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! The pudding done! Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

As we think back for a few moments to the simplicity of life in the 1800s, I would like later in this article to compare what life was like then to what it is like today as we approach Christmas 2013.

My Grandfather Was Born In 1870

My mother’s father, Rufus, was born in Vermont in 1870, not too many years after the above poem was written. Grandpa’s daughter, my mother, was born on March 24, 1911, over 100 years ago, in Constable, New York, a tiny town just a few miles south of the Canadian border.

Grandpa Rufus was a descendent of George & Martha Washington. He was a blacksmith and a farmer. My grandparents’ income was derived from the blacksmithing grandpa did for neighbors and the apples he pressed into cider at the Ole Cider Mill down by the creek that ran by their house.

Grandma contributed to their income by raising and tending an organic garden (of course, all garden produce was organic in those days) and selling those veggies she raised at a roadside stand on the dirt road that ran past their house. Grandpa died apparently of old age on Christmas Eve 1948 at the age of 78, when I was only 14 years old. He had no known physical problem and was not under a doctor’s care at the time of his death.

Grandpa and Grandma’s Living Conditions

Their refrigeration was a cold cellar under the house and an icehouse, filled with ice grandfather cut each winter from the frozen creek that ran by their house. The ice was then packed in sawdust for later use.

Grandpa had a horse he used for plowing the garden and for pulling their buggy in summer and the sleigh in winter. They never owned an automobile.

Grandma and grandpa didn’t have running water in their home; they had a well with a hand pump across the road from which they drew their drinking water by the bucket full, and carried it to their home fresh each day.

For bathing and washing clothes, they collected soft rainwater in barrels from roof runoff and grandma washed their clothes in a tub with a scrub board. Their toilet was a two hole outhouse in the back of the house.

They heated their home with wood that grandpa cut and split and burned in their two wood burning stoves in winter – one a potbelly in the living room which they dressed behind on the cold winter mornings and the other a wood burning cook stove in the kitchen/dining room. Winter temperatures often reached 30 degrees below zero.

Life Was Very Simple

  • Grandma’s and Grandpa’s life was a very simple one, and yes, you may say that they had it very hard, and that you would not want to go back to that kind of living, but when you compare conditions then with conditions today, maybe it wasn’t so bad. We will compare conditions then and now later in this article.
  • Grandma and Grandpa took pride in what they had and in what they had accomplished, because they labored from sun up to sun down to earn everything they owned. In their day, there were no food stamps, welfare programs, government handouts, loans or subsidies.
  • They paid for what they bought, or went without. There were no mortgages, interest payments, or credit cards. They bartered for or paid cash for everything they purchased. And a man’s handshake was worth more than a dozen signed and notarized legal contracts today.
  • They had no life insurance, health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or even fire or homeowners insurance. Neither did they have any retirement plan or Social Security. To pick up their mail or mail a letter, they walked to the community store – and the cost of a postcard was a penny and a first class letter just three cents.
  • Yet they lived healthfully and happily well into their latter years. If a home or barn burned down, neighbors called for a house or barn raising, and all the neighbors got together to build a new one. If they were sick and unable to do chores, neighbors were there to lend a helping hand.
  • Nor did they go running to the doctor some 20 miles away every time someone sneezed, ran a fever, or had a baby. Chicken pox, mumps, and measles were considered normal childhood occurrences that quickly passed, and provided natural immunity.
  • There were no such things as toxic vaccinations that today cause so many childhood problems. Rather they used diet to keep their immune strong and herbs as healing modalities if necessary, and babies were born at home. Few adults wore glasses, and a child wearing glasses was unheard of.
  • They had no automobiles, televisions, computers, clothes or dishwashing washing machines, or even radios until the 1920s. Before the radio, there was the wind-up Victrola with scratchy records to listen to, and they read lots of books by candle light or kerosene lantern, and spent quality time with the family.
  • They went to bed when the chickens did and got up with rooster crowing. The family took care of the elderly, but usually, the elderly were well enough to be able to take care of themselves.  They had no nursing homes. Today, the elderly are shipped off to nursing homes, and mostly forgotten by the younger generation.
  • All their food was organically grown, because all they had for fertilizer were the manures from the barnyard animals. There were no chemical sprays, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and the like, and yet they produced crops far superior in taste and nutritional content to most being produced today.
  • They were a God fearing, hard working people, working from dawn to dusk every day but Sunday, but even on Sunday before they went to church, the chores had to be done! They were not quitters when times were difficult and things weren’t going well.
  • During the Great Depression days of the 1930s they hardly knew that the country was in a depression because they were basically self-sufficient. In addition, they were self-disciplined and had honesty and integrity.
  • Their children walked to the one-room schoolhouse up the road where until high school all grades were together in one room with one teacher. Yet they excelled in their scholastics. My mother did so well in this environment that she skipped a grade because of her scores of 100 on New York State Regents tests; she eventually went on to be a nurse.
  • Grandpa and Grandma, each Christmas, took their horse-drawn sleigh out into the woods where they cut down their Christmas tree with a handsaw. The tree was then placed on a sleigh and the horse pulled the sleigh close to the house. The tree was then set up in the house and decorated with non-electric decorations.
  • Christmas was a time celebrating the birth of the Saviour, a time of fellowship with family and friends, and a time of thanking the Lord for his abundant blessings. Christmas gifts were inexpensive gifts usually handmade by the giver. These were good and uncomplicated days.

Let’s Compare Life Then With Life Today

  • Our lives are very complicated today, and there are laws governing almost every area of our lives. Sadly our freedoms are slowly being eroded as big government takes the place of God and the traditional family, as established by God in the Bible, is disappearing before our very eyes.
  • Many today are not God fearing, are not hard working, are not self-sufficient, are not self-disciplined, and they lack honesty, integrity, and work ethics. Today, many have become lazy, television watching, pleasure seeking, couch potato quitters, looking for someone to take care of them.
  • We have allowed government to take over the raising and educating of our children at an ever-earlier age. School buses pick up most of our children and take them to government-run schools with a much smaller number of students under a single teacher, yet test scores are lower than ever before.
  • Prayer and Bible reading have been removed from our public schools, while it is against the law for teachers to teach our children that God is our creator and the Bible is the source of all truth. In the Bible’s place concerning where we came from, evolution is taught as fact, and in schools God has been replaced by government mandates.
  • The government today takes care of those who don’t want to work and those out of work, and provides income for the elderly who do not plan ahead for their senior years. For those who don’t want to be responsible for providing provision for their own selves there are food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid.
  • Government has taken over our health care, and our bodies no longer belong to ourselves. By taking over health care, government is now in control of one-sixth of the country’s economy. And if a citizen does not want government to control their bodies through Obama Care, they are fined with heavier and heavier taxes.
  • Today, government will take care of those who don’t want to work and an ever-increasing percentage of the populace wants the government to provide their needs from the cradle to the grave.

We Should Learn From The Frog

The situation our nation finds itself in today reminds me of the frog that was placed on the stove in a pot of cold water. Then the heat was turned on under the pot, and as the temperature rose, the frog did not realize the temperature was rising and that it was in increasing peril, that is, until the water was boiling, and by that time, it was too late for the frog to jump out of the pot.

The Solution Is God

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves , and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

In My Lifetime

I have lived through over one-third of our country’s history. I have lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s; through the Korean and Vietnam Wars (I served in the Korean War); and the recent Iraq and Afghan wars. I realize at age 80 that my years are numbered and what happens in the future has little effect on my life because I have lived most of it.

But, what about my and your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? What about my country that I went to war to protect during the Korean War, and the American flag I pledged my allegiance to throughout my school years at the beginning of each school day?

May the people of this great land unite to bring the nation back to the faith of our fathers! It is really a matter of “united we stand, divided we fall!”

May you and your family have a very healthy and happy Christmas 2013 as we remember the one who came to earth some 2000 years ago to bring us eternal life, and life more abundant! Luke 2:11 tells us what Christmas is all about:

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Next week, the good Lord willing and if the creeks don’t rise too high, we will return with another exciting issue of the Hallelujah Acres Health Tip. Trust you will join us and that you will share these Health Tips with friends and loved ones.

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