The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


Christmas Without the Christmas Tree

AUNT MANDY'S face beamed with satisfaction as she put the finishing touches to her Christmas tree. She laughed softly. Never [illustration - "De 'freshments am free an' malicious."] in all her experience had she trimmed such a tree as this. And she had trimmed many.

"Well, sah! no one nebber made Christmas trees out'n umbrellas in my time," said Aunt Mandy, "but them chillun's boun' to hab sumpin' to hang dey praisents on, an dat sho am jes' a hifalutin tree!" She stood with her hands on her hips and surveyed the tree intently.

The frame of the old umbrella spread its bare ribs above an empty soap box to which the handle had been rudely fastened. Strings of popcorn and cranberries afforded the principal decorations, while cookies, apples and sticks of candy were suspended by strings of various kinds and colors. The presents consisted of mysterious looking bundles of many shapes and sizes.

Aunt Mandy had worked long and patiently, and now she turned away, saying as she closed the door behind her; "Clar' to goodness, hit do look mighty scrumptious— 'deed hit do!"

Only a few hours more, and the tree in all its grandeur would be displayed. Never had there been such excitement in Aunt Mandy's cabin. The pickaninnies, dressed in their Sunday-best, indulged in low whispers and smothered giggles. Even the perky bows on 'Liza's and Maria's pigtails seemed to stir with life and quiver with eagerness.

Supper over, Uncle Mose led the to
the best room. As he threw open the door, a shout went up from the delighted pickaninnies.

"Chillun," said Uncle Mose, with a low bow and a flourish of the hand, "on dis mos' 'spicuous 'casion, yo' suttinly hab a lubbly tree to celebrate yo' Krismus day. An' I will now reced to constribute yo' praisents.

"Fust, foahmos', an' to begin wid, I puhsent yo', George Washington Lincoln Harrison Grant, wid a pair o' skates, from yo' lubbin mammy.

"An yo', 'Rastus Robinson Carter Keller, gits a football from yo' 'fectionate daddy.

"Liza Jane Arabella Helen, git right up on yo' feet an' make yo' bow. I puhsent yo' wid a bran' new dress from yo' lubbin mammy.

"Maria Melissa Wallace Winifred, what yo' gwine to say to yo' mammy when yo' 'cepts dis bonnet, de work ob her lubbin han's? Now, chillun, yo' can walk up an' he'p yo'se'fs. De 'freshments am free an' malicious."

With a wild howl the youngsters made a rush for the spreading ree. "Dey's mo' praisents!" "Golly, what's dis?" "Huc-come dis heah?" "De tree's ben'in over!" "Hol' on!" were the exclamations that came crowding one upon another. Then the uproar became deafening, and the Christmas folic was on.

Uncle Mose stood for a moment in happy contemplation, then his eyes fell on Aunt Mandy's smiling face. "Mandy Mehitable Sonora Frances Somers," he said, "yo' 'strabagance an' he'plessness befo', an' I's glad, 'deed I is, honey—'case I nevah 'spected hit." Uncle Mose bowed, waved his hands airily and took his seat. The perspiration stood in beads on his forehead, but his smile did not vanish. Christmas cheer was stirring in his heart, and Christmas angels were hovering over the little cabin.

When the clock on the mantel struck the midnight hour, doors were locked, lights snuffed out and silence fell upon the happy home. Little black faces smiled up from soft, white pillows, for their dreams were sweet that Christmas night. Aunt Mandy felt well repaid for all her extra care and trouble, and Uncle Mose, wearied with his speech-making, soon fell asleep.

The old umbrella, bare and forlorn, stood in the darkened corner, stretching its bent ribs into vacancy. It had fulfilled its mission. Christmas without a tree and Christmas with an umbrella was a success in Aunt Mandy's cabin.