The Christmas season is upon us and it seems like everyone’s stress level goes up a notch or two this time of year. Christmas should be a time for peace and joy, not stress and headaches.
I long for the simple days of my youth when I looked forward to going to Christmas Eve service, looking at the Christmas lights around town, opening presents and spending Christmas day with my family.
I used to love Christmas shopping. It was fun, and sometimes a challenge, to search for just the right gift for each family member. Sometimes I didn’t have much money, but I always enjoyed giving as much as I enjoyed receiving.
I can remember my siblings and I would sometimes snoop around the house in hopes we would find our unwrapped presents. My parents must have hidden them well because I don’t ever remember finding anything.
Mom used to set up a folding table in the basement and listen to Christmas music on the big console stereo as she wrapped presents. She made such pretty packages I almost hated to open them.
Dad would put up the outdoor Christmas lights. He was very conscientious about making sure all the lights worked before he put them up.
Decorating the tree was usually a family affair. It was always exciting to go to a tree lot to get our tree. A couple of times, we went to a tree farm and chopped down our own tree. One year, I found the perfect tree, but it was spoken for. As I stood there admiring it, one of the tree farm workers came up to take the reserved tag off. The person who had reserved it had changed his or her mind. I immediately ran over to my dad and begged him to come look at the tree I’d found. It was the most beautiful tree we’d ever had. We had an aluminum tree for several years, but eventually we got an artificial green tree. I still miss the smell of a live tree in the house.
At some point during the holiday season, we’d gather all the candles in the house and put them on newspaper we had spread out on the floor. Mom or Dad would light the candles, one of us would turn off the lights (except the ones on the Christmas tree) then we’d sing Christmas carols.
Every year, Mom would make sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, bells, stars, holly and a snowman. As soon as I was old enough to help, Mom let me frost the cookies. I divided the white frosting in different bowls then mixed in red, green and yellow food coloring for each of the different shapes. Sometimes, I would “accidently” break one of the cookies so I could eat it.
Christmas Eve service was a special time, not only because of the music, candles and readings, but because it was a constant reminder of what Christmas is all about – celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
By the time we came home from the service, it would be Christmas morning. Mom would fix hot chocolate and cinnamon toast for us. Even now, it doesn’t seem like Christmas Eve without that special treat.
Just before bedtime, we’d put cookies and milk out for Santa. We knew Dad ate the cookies and drank the milk, but when we’d confront him about it, he’d always deny it.
My sister and I usually had trouble getting to sleep and we were always the first ones up. One year my dad sent us back to bed because he thought we’d gotten up too early.
One Christmas morning, my sister and I quietly opened my brother’s bedroom door and prodded each other to go wake him up. As we stood there verbally nudging each other, my brother said, “I’m awake.”
After we went downstairs, we repeated the process at my parent’s bedroom door. Most of the time, we woke them up by rattling packages, jingling the bells on the stockings or whispering loudly.
After we opened presents, Mom would fix our traditional Christmas breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice. I always looked forward to our big breakfast because it wasn’t something we got very often.
We'd spend the day relaxing, eating and enjoying the gifts we’d received that morning. That evening, we’d go over to my aunt and uncle’s house and visit with our cousins. We’d play board games or with toys we’d gotten for Christmas that year.
When it came time to take down the tree and the other decorations, it was always such a letdown for me. It was if all the magic of the season was suddenly gone. However, as I’ve gotten older, the meaning of Christmas has become more apparent and I can carry the joyful feeling I have during holiday season with me all year long.
Do you have a favorite Christmas memory? Please share your recollection with me!
Photos by Velma Kipp