Memories of Christmas in Durham

Dec. 07, 2013 @ 03:21 PM

Christmas in Durham. Tell me about it. How many Christmases have you spent in Durham? At home? At work? Do you buy your Christmas tree from a Durham lot every year? Or you did, until you bought a pink aluminum tree that one year, then back to the green-grown? Remember that white Christmas in Durham? Which one? Did you march in the parade? Did you get the best Christmas present ever in Durham?
Christmas. Christmas. Christmas. Durham. Durham. Durham. That’s what I want to know. It doesn’t have to be Christmas Day, but rather Christmastime. So, basically between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 from the past 100 years. You already know my best Durham Christmas memory, as I’ve mentioned time and again: The 2008 Durham Holiday Parade, which was the first for my son. He wore a Santa suit. It was adorable. His favorite part, like mine, was the Hillside High School drumline. Here’s another Durham holiday memory, to jog yours. Picture it: Dec. 4, 2010. The forecast was for inclement weather that evening. Mid-day on that Saturday, families visited the Stagville State Historic Site in northern Durham County to learn how Christmas was celebrated in plantation times. Around lunchtime, snow began to fall. By the time of the Durham Holiday Fun Fest that afternoon, big, heavy snowflakes were coating downtown, including the jackets of the Hillside Hornets, the red balloon noting Santa’s location at the Durham Armory, and of course the sidewalks, streets and people gathered outside. Even Wool E. Claus. I was reporting on both events that day, and got in my car feeling like a cold but melted snowman (snow woman, rather) as I drove back to file my stories. Remember that Durham Christmas?
This newspaper has an archive photograph, in black and white, of a large Christmas tree in the middle of the road at Five Points. Do you remember it? When?
Do you remember Durham’s black Christmas parade held in 1968 or the store boycotts that season? Did you see the African-American Santa Claus? Was it you?
I want to hear from all of you. Bonus if you have photographs. If Durham Christmas 1985 was the year you received that Cabbage Patch doll, tell me about it. Did you grow up on a farm and live in the city now? What was Christmas like then and now? Do you have the same traditions? Where did you do your holiday shopping before the malls were built? Which department stores downtown? Or did you make gifts? Was it just last Christmas, and it’s an embroidered pillow of the Durham skyline?
Christmas in Durham 2013 is new, but with every new experience, bits and pieces of our past are with us. Past candlelit church services. Past parade watching. Past shopping trips for the perfect present for your mom. Past Christmas cards postmarked Durham. Past tree lightings. Past Decembers at American Tobacco campus walking past the Lucky Strike Tower on the way home from working in the factory, long before the tower was a holiday decoration.
Share your story of Durham Christmas with me – one big Christmas memory or a culmination – and I might feature you in a story about it. You know how to reach me; my phone number and email address are below. Let’s talk about Christmas of yore.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563.