If Santa Claus ever had a helper it was my mother-in-law, Leta Howell. Though she has been gone from among us for 35 years, her love of the Christmas season has inspired all of her children to do many of the things that she did. She was a minister’s wife and thus understood the true meaning of Christmas, and she passed that along to everyone she knew.
Although she was educated with college and seminary degrees, she retained the roots of her upbringing in the plains of West Texas. While living in the piney woods of East Texas, she began several Christmas traditions.
“Granny” Howell was an excellent seamstress. She made Christmas stockings for each family member. She used red felt for the main stocking, then she put a green border around the top. As grandchildren and great-grandchildren were born into the family, she would make sure the new baby would have its own stocking to hang across the fireplace mantle. She stuffed each stocking on Christmas Eve with candy, fruit, and simple useable gadgets. Near the end of her life, the Christmas stockings were almost too numerous to hang on the mantle. This tradition has been taken up by many of her children and grandchildren, most of whom are now married with families of their own.
One Christmas, she got the idea of making red outfits for all the members of her family. The good seamstress that she was, she made red suits for everyone to wear on Christmas day. Even her husband, Rev. Howell, got a new red coat to wear. She sewed for months on them, and gave each family member their red outfits on Christmas Eve, in packages wrapped in red paper. On Christmas morning everyone donned their red clothes, and the house looked like a collection of walking poinsettias. Rev. Howell continued to wear his bright red coat every Christmas until his death in December of 2006.
Now you know who put the red in Christmas.
“SHE PUT THE RED IN CHRISTMAS”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-6986 (cell )