No, we didn't have one of those wierd "no gifts, just focus on the true meaning" Christmases... maybe that works for some people but it just sounds bad to me.*
We were 9 and 7, I think. We didn't know, and I still don't exactly know how poor we were, but we knew there was alot of stress at the adult level in the house. Looking back, I am sure that there was not much money available for presents. We were blessed, however, with a creative and upbeat Mom. Christmas morning we woke up to find the living room transformed into something like a mideval village. Castles, Towers, and even a peasants hut filled the living room.
Our mom had gotten a hold of half a dozen cardboard appliance boxes, and with some paint, a box knife or two and some skills from her art major days, she turned these boxes into castles. They were big enough for me and Renae to stand up in, walk around in, sit down in. Standing up we could just see over the battlements of the castles- just like in a real castle!
We were jazzed! They were the coolest presents we had ever had!
Hidden inside the castles, hut and towers were our other presents. I got a telescope- a real one- I was into astronomy at the time, and so was my dad. And I got a book- The Forbidden Castle- a choose your own adventure- and a few other odds and ends that I don't remember.
I remember every day during that Christmas break dragging one of my castles (they were open to the floor on the bottom, open to the sky on the top) to surround one of the heater vents and sit down inside my castle to read "The Forbidden Castle". The castle would get all kinds of toasty on the inside. It was pure comfort!
Later that year, we wound up using the castles as props/set for a play that our cubscout den put on. We were the envy of all the other dens.
We had an awesome childhood. We got lucky when we were born. I wish every kid could grow up poor, but with a clever mom. 1982 ended, Dad's job unlaid him off, money got a little better- and evantually alot better- but for shear Christmas morning ZOowwieeeeee! the no other Christmas ever passed up the Castle Christmas.
***************************************************(after all, Isaiah 9:3 - just three verses before the more famous Christmassy "and his name shall be called Wonderful..." reads: " Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil." Christmas should include dividing some spoil.)