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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Top 10 Foregone Christmas Traditions

How many do you remember?

Published: Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - 00:00


Listening to classic Christmas music on a radio station that labeled the songs as “holiday traditions” certainly brought back memories of holiday traditions from the past. Some of them, in fact, are so traditional they’re in danger of being lost in the mists of time. As such, here is my top 10 list of bygone Christmas traditions.

10. Children these days have no idea what it means to find a lump of coal in their stockings. Back when we were growing up in the Dark Ages, most homes in the community had coal-burning furnaces. So to signal that a child perhaps was a bit naughty, Santa would leave some coal in the stocking that was hanging from the mantel.

9. These days Christmas trees are well manicured at nurseries before being set out for sale. I can remember looking for a tree in a lot that one could place in the corner of the home because it was rare to find a scotch pine that was perfectly cylindrical.

8. Christmas songs certainly have changed over the years. Now we have “Grandma Being Run Over by a Reindeer” and of course “Dominick the Italian Donkey,” instead of Judy Garland’s memorable “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie Meet Me in St. Louis.

7. Back when we heard the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” we thought nothing of the line: “A pistol that shoots is the wish of Barney and Ben.” Today, when we hear that line, we wince.

6. There are several classic Christmas movies that are constantly on television this time of the year, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life to name just two of the most popular. What has changed, though, and what is upsetting to us movie aficionados, is that both films have now been colorized instead of remaining in the original black-and-white format. When that occurs, we turn off the color dial on our television. Some traditions are just hard to break.

5. Christmas trees now come with colorful lights that are sewed into the tree, and when one light goes out, all the remaining ones stay lit. How many of you remember testing an entire string of lights with a new bulb just to locate the burned-out culprit? Back then lights were in a series until someone invented parallel connections.

4. One of our favorite treats during the holiday season is plum pudding. J. L. Hudson’s used to have the best plum pudding topped with hard sauce. Somehow during the transition to Marshall Field’s and then to Macy’s, that recipe must have been lost because it is no longer on the menu, much to our disappointment.

3. Soldiers in various battlefields could always look forward to seeing Bob Hope on one of his USO tours. Yes, his jokes were lame and predictable, but it brought laughter and fun to our brave troops who were away from home during the holidays. And Hope’s bevy of beauties that accompanied him were a welcome sight, too.

2. Another bygone tradition would be the Christmas entertainment television shows from Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Andy Williams. The shows were always family-friendly. Williams started the extravagant sweater routine, Perry mastered entertaining us always in a tuxedo, and Bing surprised us by performing a duet of “The Little Drummer Boy” with then bad-boy David Bowie. That duet has become a Christmas classic.

1. And finally, one of the bygone traditions that really needs to be restored is the exchange of the “Merry Christmas” greeting. Let’s stop all the malarkey about a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree for starters, and replace the “happy holiday” signs with the true meaning of December 25: Merry Christmas. So if you encounter me during this month, I will be wishing you a Merry Christmas because political correctness is not a part of my world. And as a follow-up to that, nativity scenes should never be banned in public places.

So there you have it, Christmas traditions that have served us well over the years. I no doubt have left some out that you remember, such as Gene Autry singing “Frosty the Snowman.” Maybe J. L. Hudson’s 12th-floor toy store in downtown Detroit or midnight Mass at your favorite parish church are gone but still embedded in your fondest Christmas memories.

And speaking of times past, this column is best read with background music from orchestra leader John William’s rendition of “Somewhere in My Memory” from the movie Home Alone.

Merry Christmas!



About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Merry Christmas


Thank you for the nice column.  I share many of the traditions that you do and I also am not politically correct.