Lett's Set A Spell

Holiday gifts from the heart
Dec. 30, 2012 @ 05:00 AM

The idea of sharing gifts during the Winter Solstice dates back centuries, so it was only natural that the Wise Men brought precious presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Gold could be used to acquire food and clothes to take care of Jesus – so fitting for a future king. Both frankincense and myrrh were gum resins taken from trees and used as medicine and highly valued as healing aids at the time. 

In olden times, these simple gifts were very meaningful. The practice of exchanging presents evolved as a favorite holiday tradition. This custom has changed drastically through the centuries, and with recent generations, has become very materialistic.

While growing up in Buckhorn community, I heard stories from Grandpa (Puzie Lett) about how it was difficult to afford an apple, an orange and a piece of candy for each of his nine “young’uns” at Christmas. The Letts believed that Jesus is the reason for the season with Christ being the greatest gift of all, and the family’s holiday celebration centered around religious activities. 

Daddy (Bud Lett) told me that his seven sisters spent a lot of time sewing aprons, knitting dollies, making potholders and baking cookies while he and his brother Gilbert enjoyed carving pipe handles and whistles. Mama (Ruby) grew up in nearby Harnett County where she and her five siblings focused on cooking, sewing and wood-making projects for holiday gifts.

My sister Carolyn, my brother Jimmy and I poured over the exciting merchandise in sales catalogs and longed for “thangs” our friends had at Broadway School. Daddy gave us a weekly allowance so the family took trips into town where we purchased “citified” presents. Sanford was 12 long miles from the Lett farm – and what a treat to go shopping there!  

EVERY HOLIDAY SEASON Mama and Daddy went uptown to buy fruit, small boxes of raisins, nuts and hard candy for Moore Union Christian Church. After the annual Christmas program, a bag of goodies was given to each family, and others were delivered to shut-ins and poor people. These small gifts and short visits brightened many faces and touched lives.

With my nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces expensive gadgets like TVs, VCRs, DVD players and cell phones became popular presents for many years. More recently, they show off a stack of gift cards for various stores from family and friends. 

Since I like personal gifts for the youngsters, I provide outings they will remember. We go to lunch and have ice cream at Yarborough’s Ice Cream and then my husband Michael gives them tennis lessons. Sometimes we also hit golf balls, play basketball and/or take a walk. I love to hear their stories and experience aspects of their growing up ... so different from my own rural upbringing.

For the Lett adults this year, I gave each family a picture from the past in a frame ... simple but memorable. As gifts for our sisters, Carolyn McNeill and Elizabeth Schrull, and their husbands, Michael and I bought unique holiday table centerpieces made by an elderly lady who creates crafts as her livelihood. For Michael’s parents Ann and Carol Yarborough, we provided gift cards for their favorite restaurant and movie theater because they have requested no more items for their full house. 

As I experience a spiritual revival every Christmas, I am choosing to be grateful for my many blessings and trust in a Holy Spirit who will meet my needs. This holiday season I am thinking about the Wise Men who brought meaningful presents to the Christ child. I am remembering Grandpa’s stories about the generosity and simplicity of giving fruit and candy, and most importantly, love, to his children.

During the holiday season, I searched my soul for ideas about how I could dispense tokens of time and lavish lots of love for family and friends. I focused on sharing gifts from my heart, and I vow to give them more love throughout the year. 

AlexSandra Lett will be autographing her four nostalgia books at various events during the holidays. She is the author of “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.