This article is part of an occasional series that revisits moments in American history through the lens of old magazines. Previous entries include "Money, Power, and College Sports in 1905 America," "A Trove of History As 1970s Housewives Lived It," and "Guns: Protection Against the 'Growing Menace of Auto Bandits.'"
Gather around, youngsters, for a Christmas story about the days when I was just a lad. The year was 1985. Ronald Reagan was president. Magic Johnson was the best basketball player. Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" was an especially popular song. And my grandmother received the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens, a magazine with a circulation of 8 million readers at the time.
The issue's cover story, "Christmas Across America," spotlights regional traditions beginning in New England, which was evidently a hotbed of cross-stitch folk art. Did you know that "handicrafts are as much a part of New England tradition as Yankee pride and ingenuity"? The "great North Woods" was the next region to be profiled, with its "dark forest pines, silent snows, ice crystals, and glad hearths." And then the South, where Christmas is a time for "old-fashioned elegance and colorful charm," much of it recalling the "graceful manners and grand plantations of yesteryear." (Pardon me, ma'am, is that southern magnolia wreath decked with a bow of crewel-embroidered garland?) And finally the southwest, where "every Christmas is greeted with a rustle of brightly colored tissue-paper, shiny tin ornaments, piñatas, candlelight, colorful pageantry, painted figures, and festive foods."