ALLEN — Among the joyful masses of those ripping into brightly wrapped Christmas packages this morning, one area woman will celebrate Christmas in a way few others will ever experience as she witnesses one full century of Christmas holidays and celebrates her 100th birthday.

Mabel Tate was born Dec. 25, 1905, to Demps and Alice Plunk of Allen. "I was next to the baby," she said of her family of six children. Originally from Mena, Ark., Tate's family settled in the Allen area after riding to Oklahoma in a horse-drawn wagon.

"We were poor people, as a lot of people were back then. We didn't have much but we always got goodies for Christmas," Tate said. Tate explained birthdays were not celebrated with parties when she was a child, but she always got to celebrate because her birthday fell on Christmas.

Tate shared a memory about a special childhood treat when "the banana wagon would come around every Christmas. We kids loved to eat those fresh bananas," she said. In those days, Tate's youngest son Dwain explained, peddlers would travel around rural areas selling fresh fruit and vegetables. "We got fruit every Christmas," Tate said.

Tate was married in 1924 to Luther Tate of Allen. Three years later the couple started a family and welcomed their first son, Lindon, in 1927. A daughter, Weona, and Dwain soon followed.

During the late 1950s, Tate and her husband divorced and she began working outside of the home for the first time. "I was a home-maker up to that point," she said and explained she gained employment as a care provider for the elderly. "At first I only made $60 a month," she said and added, "but I soon got a raise and started earning $90 a month."

Tate continued providing care for others until she chose to finally retire at age 80. She chuckled, "I was taking care of a 70-year-old woman, and I was 80." Tate said, "I used to joke and tell people I was taking care of the elderly and they would laugh."

Dwain explained his mother began working after the divorce not only for income but to also contribute to social security. "She worked until she was 80 and has lived long enough, she gets a pretty good check now," he laughed.

Tate said her church has been an important part of her life since the early 1940s when she began attending the Allen Church of Christ regularly. She said she continued regular attendance until a leg injury last year slowed her down. Tate is planning to attend service today to celebrate Christmas with her family. "I'd love to see everybody Christmas day," she said.

Over the past 100 years, many things have changed Tate said. "I've lived under a lot of presidents, I know that," In fact, she has witnessed the terms of 18 American presidents to be exact. "I first remember Theodore Roosevelt," she said, whose term in office dated from 1901 through 1909.

One thing Tate believes has remained unchanged is how children still enjoy Christmas. "I know its a great time for kids," she said. "I can't see that Christmas has changed a lot over the years, except people just spend a little more money then they used to."

Tate's family has grown considerably over the years and she now enjoys 13 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Tate said one granddaughter, Danna Martin of Ada, is hosting a 100th birthday celebration for her. "She's invited the church and a lot of people," Tate said. "Except for one grandson in Wisconsin, my family will all be there and there's no telling what they are going to do. I know I'll get a lot of hugs," Tate said "because I reckon everyone will be there."

"If I think I am getting old," Tate said, "I just look at my kids, then I know I am. My oldest son is close to 80," she laughed. Tate added "My children are the most important things in my life," an enriched life that today witnesses her 100th Christmas on her 100th birthday.