Classic Christmas True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill

Several years ago, I had just sold my first short story to Adams Media’s Rocking Chair Reader series. I was on Cloud 9! This story, SILVER MAGIC, was the 2nd story I sold to them and would appear in their first Christmas collection, Classic Christmas: True Stories of Holiday Cheer and Goodwill. I want to share it with you here. This story is true, and is one of the most poignant tales I could ever tell about my grandfather–he died when I was eleven. I never saw this side of him, and I don’t think very many people did–that’s what makes this Christmas story so special.



SILVER MAGIC by Cheryl Pierson

Did you know that there is a proper way to hang tinsel on the Christmas tree?

Growing up in the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma, I was made aware of this from my earliest memories of Christmas. Being the youngest in our family, there was never a shortage of people always wanting to show me the right way to do—well, practically everything! When it came to hanging the metallic strands on the Christmas tree, my mother made it a holiday art form.

“The cardboard holder should be barely bent,” she said, “forming a kind of hook for the tinsel.”   No more than three strands of the silver magic should be pulled from this hook at one time. And, we were cautioned, the strands should be draped over the boughs of the tree gently, so as to avoid damage to the fragile greenery.

Once the icicles had been carefully added to the already-lit-and-decorated tree, we would complete our “pine princess” with a can of spray snow. Never would we have considered hanging the icicles in blobs, as my mother called them, or tossing them haphazardly to land where they would on the upper, unreachable branches. Hanging them on the higher branches was my father’s job, since he was the tallest person I knew—as tall as Superman, for sure. He, too, could do anything—even put the serenely blinking golden star with the blonde angel on the very highest limb—without a ladder!

Once Christmas was over, I learned that there was also a right way to save the icicles before setting the tree out to the roadside for the garbage man. The cardboard holders were never thrown out. We kept them each year, tucked away with the rest of the re-useable Christmas decorations. Their shiny treasure lay untangled and protected within the corrugated Bekins Moving and Storage boxes that my mother had renamed “CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS” in bold letters with a black magic marker.

At the end of the Christmas season, I would help my sisters undress the tree and get it ready for its lonely curbside vigil. We would remove the glass balls, the plastic bells, and the homemade keepsake decorations we’d made in school. These were all gently placed in small boxes. The icicles came next, a chore we all detested.

We removed the silver tinsel and meticulously hung it back around the little cardboard hook. Those icicles were much heavier then, being made of real metal and not synthetic plastic. They were easier to handle and, if you were careful, didn’t snarl or tangle. It was a long, slow process—one that my young, impatient hands and mind dreaded.

For many years, I couldn’t understand why everyone—even my friends’ parents’—insisted on saving the tinsel from year to year. Then one night, in late December, while Mom and I gazed at the Christmas tree, I learned why.

As she began to tell the story of her first Christmas tree, her eyes looked back through time. She was a child in southeastern Oklahoma, during the dustbowl days of the Depression. She and her siblings had gotten the idea that they needed a Christmas tree. The trekked into the nearby woods, cut down an evergreen, and dragged it home. While my grandfather made a wooden stand for it, the rest of the family popped and strung corn for garland. The smaller children made decorations from paper and glue.

“What about a star?” one of the younger boys had asked.

My grandfather thought for a moment, then said, “I’ve got an old battery out there in the shed. I’ll cut one from that.”

The kids were tickled just to have the tree, but a star, too! It was almost too good to be true.

Grandfather went outside. He disappeared around the side of the old tool shed and didn’t return for a long time. Grandma glanced out the window a few times, wondering what was taking so long, but the children were occupied with stringing the popcorn and making paper chains. They were so excited that they hardly noticed when he came back inside.

Grandmother turned to him as he shut the door against the wintry blast of air. “What took you so long?” she asked. “I was beginning to get worried.”

Grandfather smiled apologetically, and held up the star he’d fashioned.   “It took me awhile. I wanted it to be just right.” He slowly held up his other hand, and Grandmother clapped her hands over her mouth in wonder. Thin strands of silver magic cascaded in a shimmering waterfall from his loosely clenched fist. “It’s a kind of a gift, you know. For the kids.”

“I found some foil in the battery,” he explained. “It just didn’t seem right, not to have icicles.”

In our modern world of disposable commodities, can any of us imagine being so poor that we would recycle an old battery for the metal and foil, in order to hand-cut a shiny star and tinsel for our children’s Christmas tree?

A metal star and cut-foil tinsel—bits of Christmas joy, silver magic wrapped in a father’s love for his family.

I know Christmas is over, but this is a fantastic little anthology you might enjoy any time of year. If you’d like to read the wonderful stories in this collection, here’s the link at Amazon. This is a true “bargain” at only $5.18 for a new copy!


Christmas horses

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here:
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  1. I never had the patience to do the tinsel like that. My ex was really picky about how it was hung too. One year, we found pieces coming out of the cat’s rear end and we had to carefully remove it. That was the end of using tinsel in out house. It was almost like a relief to me not to have to put it on again.

  2. oh wow,,I could not do tinsel that way,,we grap handfuls and throw it on the tree,if it lands in lumps that’s okay too,,,my husbands first wife was very picky about tinsel,,he was so happy that I just threw it on there,,I said heck that is the fun seeing where it falls,,,the only issue we have is the cat comes and pulls it off the tree and eats it,,the grandkids don’t touch the tree and neither does the dog but that dumb cat loves to eat tinsel,,,he has done it for years,,it wont digess,it passes thru..I know Too Much Info,,have a great Christmas everyone!

    • What is it with cats and tinsel-eating? 😀 I’ve never had a cat, but my dogs will hide the ornaments if I don’t watch them.

      My dad was one of those strand-by-strand types, so that’s the way we did tinsel when I was growing up. Once I got out on my own, I did away with tinsel altogether. Never missed it. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping in, Vickie! I know Cheryl would appreciate it. You have a great Christmas, too!

  3. My grandfather would put one strand of tinsel on the tree at a time… my mom always tells us how he would even take the ugliest tree he could find on Christmas Eve day and cut, clip, and glue it together until it turned into a beauty…

  4. Great post, Cheryl. Brings back lots of memories. We had tinsel as a child. Really early on, it was kind of crinkly metallic stuff. Later, slippery silver plastic strips. yes, we had to put it on one strand at a time, although my brothers easily tired of the tedium and tossed up handfuls LOL. Hubs and I have never used tinsel on our trees. Somehow I’m kinda homesick for it right now!

    • Tanya, I remember the crinkly metal stuff, too, and I still think of that as the only “real” tinsel. Tinsel is one of the things I don’t miss from my childhood. What a mess!

      Have a wonderful Christmas, sweetie!
      Kathleen (responding for Cheryl)

  5. We had similar childhoods. Those same conversations were had, almost word for word, at our house. You could always tell which of the 6 of us put what tinsel on the tree. The boys never had the patience to put it on strand by strand, so globs they did. We took it off carefully. I do remember once my dad or grandfather mentioning making tinsel. We really do take a lot for granted and have it easy. We don’t need to recycle the tinsel year to year, but my husband has no patience for taking it off carefully and saving it. I enjoy it. I let everyone else finish taking off the decorations and usually finish alone taking the tinsel off. It is a chore, but is rather calming to do and brings back so many good memories.

    Have a great Christmas holiday.

    • Patricia, I think my mother enjoyed it, too–taking it off and saving it. But of course, that was back when tinsel was heavy and not this plastic fly-away stuff we have now. As I got older, I could see that it relaxed her to take it off and put it back on the card. Hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

  6. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented, and thanks so much to Kathleen for pinch hitting for me while I was away! Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! Here’s to a wonderful 2015!

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