Expressway: Enjoying Christmas, assembly not required

One of the greatest innovations in the holiday

One of the greatest innovations in the holiday season has been the elimination of the need to assemble various toys at home -- especially bicycles. (Credit: iStock)

Back in the day, midnight Mass on Christmas Eve actually took place at midnight. Now the late-night service is celebrated in many Catholic parishes about 10 o'clock, a more civilized time that helps families get sufficient sleep before busy Christmas Day activities.

In many ways, the holidays become more chaotic as each year passes. Black Friday shopping has reached unprecedented proportions. And cyber Monday adds to the sales figures that achieve phenomenal highs. Of course, this chaos could be controlled by consumers. They could choose not to participate in the madness and concentrate on the real reason for celebrating Christmas.

If we are honest about how the holidays have changed, we also have to acknowledge that many tasks are easier now. We can shop online rather than standing on lines. We can forego miles of wrapping paper and ribbon and mountains of boxes in favor of gift bags.

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One of the greatest innovations has been the elimination of the need to assemble various toys at home -- especially bicycles. It was a red-letter day for our family when the task of putting together a couple of two-wheelers was taken out of the hands of overworked dads and left to the more knowledgeable professionals.

One particular Christmas Eve in the early 1960s comes to mind. While I went to midnight Mass with other family members at St. Patrick's in Huntington, my husband stayed home with our two boys, who were 10 and 12, respectively. As soon as the kids were in bed, he intended to assemble their shiny new bikes, which we'd purchased at Sears store in the Big H Shopping Center in Huntington. He didn't anticipate problems, but when I returned home after 1 a.m., he was exhausted and crawling around the garage floor, uttering words no self-respecting dad should say on Christmas Eve.

He was searching for a tiny spring that was vital to the assembly of one of the bicycles. I helped him search, and when the missing link was discovered, I had the good sense to let him complete the task.

When our boys graduated to bigger bicycles, we picked them up from the store, completely assembled. Black Friday had yet to become a shopper's worst nightmare and cyber Monday was still in the realm of science fiction. And none of the words uttered that Christmas Eve were X-rated.

Reader Carol Strub lives in Huntington.

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