Actress Dixie Carter Shares Her Own Memories of the Holidays …

ou may not immediately recognize Dixie Carter’s name, but if you watch her in the Hallmark Channel’s December 20 movie, “Our First Christmas,” you may recognize her from roles in other TV series. She’s best known for her earlier role as the soft-spoken Southerner Julia Sugarbaker in “Designing Women.” In real life, she’s actor Hal Holbrook’s wife and two of her adult daughters now work in media, as well. (She also has a brother named Hal, so conversations in her real-life household must be at least a little confusing at the holidays.)
    At ReadTheSpirit, we recommend this upcoming family Christmas movie after previewing it this week.
As a longtime fan of holiday films myself, I understand that pretty much every new holiday movie is a blend of classic elements. You probably expect that, too, don’t you? This one follows that familiar pattern. There’s a good dose of “Brady Bunch” here with two families blending into a single household. There’s a little bit of “Gift of the Magi,” as well, and …
    Well, you get the idea.
    I do like the contemporary edge to the movie. Millions of Americans live in blended households and figuring out holiday customs is a huge challenge. That’s what this light-hearted family film is all about.

    (The movie debuts Saturday, December 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on the Hallmark Channel.)

     IN THIS STORY WE’RE SHARING TODAY, though, Dixie Carter offers some of her own real-life Christmas memories. I bet you’ll find themes in Dixie’s reflection that will connect in some way with your own life. In our household, as I publish stories in our online magazine this week, we have college kids coming home for the holidays — a fond memory for millions of families. So, here is what Dixie has to say …

All my childhood Christmases are memorable and dearer than can be expressed, and after childhood my young adult memories of Christmas playing in the snow outside the house with my brother Hal and his bride Margo, and Billy Moss, my fella, using cardboard boxes broken down flat for sleds to slide down the long hill in front of our house, and laughing, laughing.
    Coming into our house on Christmas break from college was every time a new retreat into the land of safety, comfort, and love. I remember how every apple in the big wooden bowl would have been polished to a ruby sparkle, how crisp and clean our sheets and pillowcases were, how loaded with cooking fragrances the whole house would be, how the mantles would be all trimmed with holly and pine boughs, and somewhere a wisp of mistletoe to surprise us, and with the memories, the knowledge of what effort and love, yes love, my mother put into our welcome back sets me weeping.
    During the time my father was in Europe serving in the WWII, our little family was, like all others, in dire straits. Rationing was very strict, and bountiful dinners were out of the question.
    It took a great deal of managing for my mother to save enough sugar coupons to whip up a cake for our three birthdays during the course of a year, and Christmas? How she put together a fruitcake, a coconut cake, and an orange cake I will never know. I don’t remember whether there was turkey or not. The cakes were the main thing on my mind.
    I was four years old on the Christmas when she made the treasure chests. Having no way to give her three children anything from our family store without going against her idea of what was right, she somehow found the time after we had all gone to bed, for I don’t know how many weeks, to construct very nicely, three good sized boxes with hinged tops. They were painted brown, and our names were painted in gold on the side. They had a flip down metal closure over a loop, so that a little pad lock would fit should we want to lock up our treasures, and of course we did.
    There was absolute magic in those little chests. I knew it the minute we came down the stairs on Christmas morning. I still have mine.
    Christmas is wonderful for those of us who have been loved, who are loved. I think that’s the reason it’s a sad time for persons who haven’t known that feeling. Christmas is for me a deeply sacred time, as a cornerstone of my religion; it’s also a time of profound gratitude for having been set on earth in this particular little town and into this particular family.

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