Last Updated:November 25 @ 11:06 am

Brown: Ronald Reagan's Timeless Christmas Gift

By Floyd and Marybeth Brown

"Christmas has always been a very special day for as long back as I can remember," Ronald Reagan once reminisced, writing in a letter. "Maybe this was due to my mother and her joyous spirit about the day."

Although President Reagan could have spent his White House Christmases with family at his beloved ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., he instead stayed in Washington, D.C. This way, his sacrifice allowed Secret Service agents and other aides to spend Christmas at home with their families. He was a thoughtful person.

Reagan grew up in a desperately poor family. His father was a shoe sales clerk who had trouble keeping a job, partly because he was an alcoholic. "There were very few decorated trees in the years of my growing up," Reagan said when recalling his childhood. "But never defeated, my mother would with ribbon and crepe paper decorate a table or create a cardboard fireplace out of a packing box. And she always remembered whose birthday it was and made sure we knew the meaning of Christmas."

His mother Nelle was an optimistic Christian woman who always looked for the positive side in every situation. President Reagan explained, no matter how bad things were for their family, his mother was always finding someone worse off than them. Reagan's most vivid early memory of his mother was of her taking a covered dish to a needy family. Nelle was always gladly helping others.

Perhaps those lean years are one reason why Ronald Reagan once said a particular Christmas gift was especially memorable for him, calling it "a gift truly in keeping with the spirit of the day." It became his favorite gift. His older brother, Neil, gave it to him after struggling to find a suitable gift for his brother. At the time, they both were middle-aged adults with successful careers.

Neil solved his dilemma by writing a letter. In the letter, Neil told his brother he had found a truly needy family with small children "who wouldn't go to bed with dreams of Santa Claus in their head." Ronald Reagan recounted how his brother Neil changed that and "became Santa himself, providing a Christmas from tree to turkey plus toys and gifts for all." Included in Neil's letter was a very detailed, blow-by-blow account, describing the "joy of the children and the grateful happiness of their mother."

This act of charitable giving by Neil reads like the ending of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," thus becoming President Reagan's most unforgettable Christmas gift. He called it "a gift that will never grow old," as he enjoyed re-reading the letter and thinking about the family's reaction to Neil's generosity.

Helping and serving others gives true joy and happiness, not only to the recipient, but even more so to the giver. Maybe Neil's gift was particularly touching to Reagan because he knew what it was like to go without.

Today, there are still families out there who are in difficult circumstances, facing a bleak Christmas. A gift like Neil's may be the perfect gift for you to give to that someone in your life who has everything. Your church or locally based charities such as the Salvation Army are aware of needy families. You could make a difference and receive special Christmas joy by giving to a family who has hit hard times. Then, write a letter similar to Neil's describing the family's reactions, and give it as a gift. This is the true spirit of Christmas.

While speaking to the nation on Christmas Eve 1984, President Reagan said "families and friends across America will join together in caroling parties and Christmas Eve services. Together," he said imparting his usual optimism, "we'll renew that spirit of faith, peace, and giving which has always marked the character of our people."

At the end of his tale, Dickens writes, "it was always said of [Scrooge], that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May this be said of all of us. And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"

Merry Christmas!


© 2012, Floyd and Mary Beth Brown. The Browns are bestselling authors and speakers. Together they write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Floyd's latest book is "Obama's Enemies List, How Barack Obama Intimidated America and Stole the Election." See more at Floyd's blog on

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  1. gilplynComment by gilplyn
    December 24, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    Nothing makes me more acutely aware of how much this country has changed than listening to a Reagan speech. He had such a way of boosting the nation’s morale and making us feel like anything was possible. He was an apologetic Christian and gladly shared his beliefs about Christmas in his Christmas speeches while still being respectful of non-Christians. Now our world is so hampered by political correctness people barely say the word “Christmas” in connection with this time of year for fear of offending someone. Every time this president opens his mouth it’s to put us all down. I think I’ll go re-listen to some Reagan speeches so I can remember what greatness looks like.

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    • Eagle OneComment by Eagle One
      December 24, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

      Again, well stated… Not to be critical but I think you meant UN-apologetic, right?


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  2. mysticComment by mystic
    December 24, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    Although still young and barely out of high school, heading off towards college when President Reagen held his terms, I remember him fondly. I often called him “the Grandpa President” as he reminded me of my own grandfather. A bit old, a bit out dated, imminently wise and the kindest eyes I could possibly look upon. Since my own grandfather had passed several years earlier, I found great comfort in the radio and t.v. messages Reagen became famous for. I especially remember his Christmas messages, which always put a small wet tear in my eyes and a huge smile in my heart. They certainly don’t make them like him anymore.

    As for giving. In the 80′s, one could still volunteer and give service and receive that wonderful feeling of doing something ‘good’ and ‘decent’ for your fellow man. In today’s present world, the supposed “needy” verses the truly needy, expect to be given all their needs, are angry if they don’t have equally spectacular goods as a wealthy person and even those in the most desperate of needs are not as needy as those when I was a young woman. People struggled to stand on their own two feet. Today, people want you to stand for them. Then, people would begrudgingly take help. Today, they ask where the help is and why they had to ask at all..why wasn’t it provided by some wise crystal ball carrying politicians that should have known what they needed and when and provided it.

    Reagan would not recognize the country his so loved and tried to serve. That to me is a great loss for everyone. For within that loss is the beginning of the death knoll of what this nation used to be the shining beacon on the hill of light for the rest of the world.

    My Christmas wish this year. May a clarity of sight in every corner of this nation become so obvious and so bright, that the only remedy from it is to stand up and walk towards it (instead of hiding from it.) May God Bless and Keep us. May God Bless America.


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    • Eagle OneComment by Eagle One
      December 24, 2012 @ 11:55 am


      That was amazingly well stated.
      President Reagan raised the bar for every American and did so in a manner never before or since seen by anyone.
      He brought pride in one’s self and of country and did so without arrogance and self importance.
      He said, and I can only paraphrase: It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.
      That’s an amazing thing especially when you consider what we have now.


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    • mysticComment by mystic
      December 24, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

      A very Merry Christmas to you and yours Eagle One. May, in our lifetimes, we see the resurgence of the once proud tradition of standing on one’s own feet; giving and hand up to the needy; and a true self perseverance this nation so grandly stood for once upon a time.

      cheers and happiness to you in the New Year!


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  3. jaijacobiaComment by jaijacobia
    December 24, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    I was born on Ronald Reagan’s birthday and every year on our shared day, examples of his kindness and wisdom challenges me to be a better person.

    He was a great President and a wonderful person.

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  4. catwalkerComment by mcurtdavis
    December 24, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    This image [URL below] Gentlemen, is Ronald Reagan showing his true colors as corporate huckster, pitchman, and all around cancer merchant, hawking Chesterfield brand cancer sticks for Christmas gift-giving in the early fifties.

    In 1929 the German physician, Fritz Lickint, published a paper in which he showed that lung cancer patients were particularly likely to be smokers. The following year other German researchers in Cologne, German confirmed the correlation statistically. So it is not as if Reagan was promoting a product whose dangers were unknown some 23 years later.

    Notice the marketing dovetail above Ron’s right shoulder promoting Reagan latest “B” movie, “Hong Kong.” This 1952 film (one of three Reagan films released in 1952) is so obscure Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t list any reviews of it.

    Considering Reagan’s Christmas spirit of mercantilism, he was spiritually closer to the [Mitt] “Mormon” mercantile retail spirit, than to the Christian spirit of charity as most people imagine it to be.

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    • vevaComment by veva
      December 25, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

      There were MANY celebrities who did cigarette commercials, years ago. Before it was proven that smoking did cause lung cancer! Many TV programs were sponsored by different brands of cigarettes. Hollywood always showed soldiers being given a “smoke” as they lie wounded. As if that was good for them. It was probably the worse thing to do. Cigarettes were rationed to civilians during WWII, so they could be sent to the military! Despite the evidence of lung cancer in smokers, youth and adults still smoke – a waste of money and a waste of health! Reagan’s commercial was no worse than those presented by other “celebrities”.

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    • buckeeComment by buckee
      December 27, 2012 @ 10:46 am

      Your first paragraph is a glib lie. It is what YOU wish his true colors were. People in the entertainment biz, then as now, work for others. It’s a job. Did you ever consider that he needed the money regardless of his feelings about tobacco?

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  5. tncdelComment by tncdel
    December 24, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

    I as a true Conservative take issue with the idolizing of a man I deem a neocon. And I am a lot more reminded of Reagan’s globalist-agenda “timeless Christmas gift” giving amnesty to illegals, thereby serving to attract millions more illegals here since then.

    So to Ronald Reagan’s “gift” I say HUMBUG!

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    • catwalkerComment by mcurtdavis
      December 24, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

      In “Conservatives Without Conscience” John Dean details the difference between true conservatives and the neo-con poseurs who now claim that mantle. A true conservative, Barry Goldwater, was to be the co-author of that book, but failing health forced him to drop out of the project, and John Dean, a family friend of the Goldwater family since being a prep schoolmate of Barry’s son, completed the project alone.

      Worth commenting on is the alleged informal agreement Goldwater had with JFK to travel the 1964 campaign trail together, staging ongoing debates, much as Lincoln and Douglas had done in their 1858 Illinois Senate race.

      In an 1988 interview with the Washington Post Goldwater said, “I would have enjoyed it very much. I even talked to him one day about using the same airplane, going to the same places. He’d get out in one place and start to debate and I’d rebut him. Then we’d turn it around in the next place… it probably wouldn’t have happened. But he liked the idea. It would have saved a lot of money, we’d have had a good time, and it would have done the country a lot of good.” (Washington Post, 8/14/1988)

      Had such a series of debates occurred in our modern TV era, it would have changed the practice of presidential politics forever.

      (No wonder JFK had to die.)

      Instead, what passes for presidential debates is a limited number of high stakes joint press conferences masquerading as debates.

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    • vevaComment by veva
      December 25, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

      The 1986 Amnesty was a result of Legislation sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy. He said, if passed, it would solve the problem of people crossing our borders illegally. Congress passed it! Reagan was persuaded to sign it. A big mistake by ALL.

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  6. Cape ConservativeComment by Cape Conservative
    December 24, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

    Thank you, RR – your STRONG belief in America reinforced the true conservative values taught to me by two wonderful and caring parents – back when conservative thought was pretty common in our country…even in the state of Massachusetts!

    It is so hard to witness the United States of America being led by an individual who disses our nation at every opportunity. There is no inspiration coming from our leadership any longer. I miss you RR!

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  7. dfiorini16@aol.comComment by
    December 25, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    President Reagan always had Christmas at the White House so that all the additional secret service people could spend the day with family.
    Lets look at your current Predident. Where does he spend the holiday with hundreds of secret service. Hawaii. That should tell us alot about the arrogant individual that got re-elected with the votes of the freebe voter not the hard working individuals that make this country great. This guy is a disaster that we have to live with for another term.

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    • Cape ConservativeComment by Cape Conservative
      December 25, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

      I’d give you 10 stars if I could!

      If ever there was a fine example of the ‘let them eat cake’ crowd, these uncaring individuals are it!

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