For the month of December I purposefully chose not to publish many posts on my Blog. Quite frankly, I figured most everyone had enough to do preparing for Christmas. With making lists, checking them twice and doing all the multitude of items on these lists before Christmas, who would have time to squeeze in something I wrote? (By the way, whatever you were thinking as you read that last sentence keep your comments to yourself- I want to think you have missed my weekly posts!) Anyway, with all the extra time on my hands not devoted to writing I reminisced about Christmases past. Well, that got me to thinking and wondering about what other people’s favorite childhood traditions of the season were and what they are today as grown-ups. So, I promptly sent out an email to all the guest authors on the Blog and posed these questions to them with the intention of sharing their responses on the Blog. For those that had the time to respond, I want to share their answers with you. Some even sent me pictures as well.
I have to admit I thought this would be a fun thing to do for the Blog. But, as with most things that happen, I got so much more than interesting info from each person. I got a wonderful glimpse into their personal lives that not only told me much more about who they are and what makes them tick but, I also got laughs at visualizing some of what they wrote, much to ponder from some of their thought provoking responses and to sum it up – I got a real sense of peace and joy reading their words. Read for yourself and I hope your heart is filled with joy and laughter as well.
1954, Jane and Susan visit Santa Claus at Santa Claus Land
My favorite childhood holiday memories and what the season now means to me as an adult seem to have blurred lines! As a child, I thought it was magic! It was all about our Christmas traditions. Before Christmas, our mother would take my twin sister and me to Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana. That’s where we got to speak to Santa about what we’d like for Christmas and ride the rides at the park. Also before Christmas we would get dressed up and go Christmas shopping in downtown Louisville with our mother and while there, we would view the department store windows decorated for the holidays. The days leading up to Christmas and the few days after were all about going out to visit friends and family, or they came to see us. My mother shared cookies and fudge she made. This is also when we would drive around looking at Christmas lights. Santa had a surprise he always left at our house ~ he would put a special gift on the beds of my sister and me. We shared a bedroom so whoever woke up first would wake the other and we’d feel around our beds in the dark for the gift which we could unwrap right then. Now as an adult many of the same traditions remain. When my daughter was little, Santa also left her a special gift in her bed each Christmas and it thrilled her as much as it did me when I was young. We established a new tradition in our family and it was choosing a name from the “giving tree” at a local department store and purchasing gifts for that child. My daughter enjoyed doing that each year ~ she loved trying to find a little girl who seemed a lot like her based on the gift requests. Nowadays, I still love to look at Christmas lights ~ the more lights the better! As a photographer, I’ve enjoyed photographing some of my favorite houses over the years and have a special photo album of “the best of the best” which comes out each Christmas. Spending time with my family and friends at Christmas time is still important to me. Everybody seems so much busier these days, but when we can take the time to visit, it’s always special. I enjoy seeing everyone’s homes decorated for the holidays and sharing mine, as well as sharing fudge (from my mother’s recipe) and cookies I have made. The Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning gift opening with my husband, daughter and son-in-law is a special time each year which I always look forward to. I have never outgrown the magic of Christmas!
Patti Baron Schreiber
Wow! It’s hard to pick just one favorite holiday memory from my childhood because my family was so steeped in traditions and they all centered on home. First came the decorating – it was the same decorations every year and they went in the same location but there was such comfort and joy in pulling the little elf out and setting him on the table or seeing the same ornaments nestled in their boxes, waiting to be hung on the tree. Christmas Eve began with me setting out a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. Then came a visit to my Grandma Martha’s house, where all of my Dad’s brothers, sisters (7!), their spouses and children gathered in a very small space with the men drinking Blackberry Brandy and all of us eating Grandma’s homemade bread. Magically, when we returned home, Santa had arrived! Piles of presents were under the tree – quickly placed there by Mom before we left for grandma’s house while Dad and I impatiently waited in the car wondering what she could be doing in there. After the present opening, we were off to Midnight Mass followed by an open house for anyone who wanted to stop by for ham sandwiches, salads and a dessert buffet.
I have continued many of these same traditions with my own children when they were young and now that they are teenagers; it’s fun to see which traditions are important to them. Decorating and cookie making are at the top of the list. This year we can hardly wait to make our special frosted cutout cookies, as we didn’t get to eat any of the time and labor intensive treats last year. After making the dough, cutting them out, baking and decorating them (a two day affair), my oldest child decided her siblings were hogging the cookies so she hid the plastic bin in the oven. A short time later, flames erupted in the oven, smoke poured from the vents and the plastic had melted all over the oven and the cookies. I’m still missing the bottom oven rack which is covered in molded plastic but there’s no doubt in my mind the memory of THAT moment will live on in our minds and give us some good laughs in the coming years.
When I think of Christmas as a child, I keenly remember making gifts (cigar boxes encrusted with elbow macaroni sprayed gold), wrapping gifts (proud that my mom trusted me) and making millions of cookies – all fun, all exciting. But I remember, too that at some point during my high school years, I was grateful that the fun and excitement were sustained much longer than usual in our home, all because two little brothers, Rich and Bill, were born when I was 11 and 14, respectively. The tinsel would have lost its shine for the three older siblings- myself, Chuck and Connie – but because we had two little ones in the house, we were swept into their vortex of believing, which was the best gift ever – and not to be repeated until I had children of my own.
As an adult, I can find myself so overwhelmed with the holidays that if I’m not careful, I start to think of all the decorating, buying, wrapping and addressing cards as a “part-time” job. At times like this, I recognize that I need to get “real”. “Real” means getting quiet with myself for as little as five minutes – meditating, journaling, listening to Christmas music, sipping on a cup of chai tea, looking at the snow falling on the twinkle-lighted trees in our yard – anything that helps me remember the truth: I don’t “have” to do anything; I “get” to do the things I choose. This reality brings me back to the present moment; it slows my mind down…and helps me once again see life as a child. All possibility. All magic. All a gift.
Awaiting His Birth
Having been given the task of sharing my favorite holiday memory, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks racking my brain, going through them all mentally and changing my mind over and over again about which to share. I mean, there are just SO MANY! However, the answer came to me today as I was watching my children decorate gingerbread houses at my grandparents. My youngest daughter is only two years old, so we are in the really fun stage of exploring every aspect of the holiday season: introducing her to the decorations, lights, music, and that odd, robust old man in the red suit. Today at my grandparents’ house I made a point of showing her one of my favorite Christmas decorations, an antique ceramic nativity set. Now I realize that just about every Christian household has at least one nativity set of some sort, but this one was special. Even as a small child I recognized its delicate beauty, with its soft warm colors and fragile elegance. But the thing that made this nativity unique was the baby Jesus. He wasn’t fixed in the manger like in most modern nativities. No, this baby Jesus didn’t make his presence known until Christmas morning! Every time we went to visit, I would go almost immediately to check his status, anxiously awaiting him in his absence, and always making sure he was there if Christmas had come already. I truly anticipated his arrival! Now, even as an adult, every year I go to admire the nativity and note his absence or presence.
He is born
Today was no different as I pointed out all of the figures of the set to my daughter. It occurred to me just how very cool this idea is: withholding the baby Jesus from the manger until the morning of his birthday celebration. What a fun way to anticipate his arrival and keep the focus on the true reason for the holiday season! As an adult, each year it has disgusted me a little more how ridiculously commercialized and really off base our society has allowed Christmas to become. It’s more than a little ironic that a season originally about the spirit of giving has become more about getting the best deal and the biggest gifts. Today I was listening to a local radio station that plays all Christmas music during this time of year, and it dawned on me that of the 10 or so songs I had heard, not a single one mentioned Jesus. Sometimes it feels as though he’s been lost in the hustle bustle, that so many people like to take advantage of the decorating, partying, and gift getting, yet don’t ever get to the heart of the matter. Needless to say, after today’s realization I will be searching out a nativity set with a removable baby Jesus for my own home! And I will look forward to sharing in the excitement of Jesus’ arrival year after year with my own children and hopefully, one day, grandchildren!
After having thought about this for several weeks, it is still hard to zero in on what my favorite holiday memory is of when I was a child. And, as an adult thinking back, I realize that my favorite holiday traditions as a child are the same ones I have now. I still hold near and dear to my heart the traditions I had as a child. Four of them stick out in my mind though. I loved baking Christmas cookies, the annual punch-out chocolate Advent calendar, decorating the tree and riding around on Christmas Eve to see the luminaries.
Each year growing up we spent two solid days making and baking cookies. We made at least eight- dozen. I remember my mom and I both wearing our aprons. Every single year my mom would say the same thing to me and I learned to look forward to it. She would say, “You are the messiest baker I have ever known”. Once we baked all the cookies we would wrap them up and give them as gifts to our neighbors and friends.
Our yearly Advent calendar took careful planning to figure out the days each of us kids got to pop a chocolate. As an adult, I still like getting one for my stepchildren to enjoy.
And, oh the Christmas tree! Every year our Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments we had made ourselves. The rest of the ornaments were from my mom’s childhood. It was the most wonderful feeling pulling all the ornaments out of their boxes one by one. Each one we would stop and talk about. I can still hear the tingle of the old rusty bell that was my mother’s when she was a child. Decorating the tree was wonderful and I remember we took such time and care into placing the ornaments on the tree. Now as an adult, I take the same joy, love and care in decorating our tree.
The luminaries were lit in neighborhoods near where we lived every Christmas Eve. After church and dinner we used to ride around as a family to see the lights. We would always turn Christmas music on the radio and we usually drove around in silence so that we could each reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. I especially loved going up and down the hills, as the brilliance from all the luminaries was truly majestic.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and I look forward to all that it brings.
Ryleigh and Blake with Buddy Rudolph
The Christmas Season as a child and even now as an adult brings me much joy! I love the smells, the decorations and even the shopping! Although now as a mother I must admit- my favorite part is creating memories and traditions for my children. Some of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood would have to be spending Christmas Eve with my dad (my parents are divorced so this was a special time) and always opening my stocking last (I have carried this tradition on with my own children, after all, the stocking is the best part with each treasure wrapped- it is amazing what you can stuff inside a stocking). Now with a family of my own we have added a couple more traditions. We make reindeer food and spread it across the lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer know what house to stop at. We also have an Elf on the Shelf. The children named our elf, “Buddy Rudolph”. He arrives each year on December 1st. He flies to Santa each night telling him how the kids have behaved and when he returns he hides in a different location. The children rush around in the morning to see who can find him first. I also have each child pick a gift and we donate it to the Toys For Tots Program. It is a joy to watch them choose a gift so carefully, each considering what another child their age would like. It is my hope that when they grow up they will remember the fun, simple traditions we have as a family and even carry them on in their own.
Making reindeer food
Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you have enjoyed these glimpses into Christmas memories and traditions. Now I wish for all of you the true peace and joy that comes with Christmas. See you next year!