With a three-year-old running around the house, this is the first year I’ve felt the pressure of DOING Christmas since becoming a mother. The past couple years have been a bit lacking on traditions, explanations, gifts, etc. We saw Santa one year, getting the obligatory baby crying picture, but that was about it.
This year it’s time I rolled up my sleeves and started getting to work. With every decoration I pick out, I start thinking, “will my kids remember this growing up? Will it stand the test of time and become a family heirloom?”; with every family outing I wonder, “is this something we can add to our yearly repertoire? Will the kids look forward to this each year?” I want to balance the presents with the traditions and history, and create excitement that will be remembered until my children have their own children and beyond. I’m starting to get a bit overwhelmed!
I have a treasure box of memories tucked away in my brain, some revolving around presents (roller skates with glow-in-the-dark stars, a Nintendo, a gumball machine, a wicker desk), others around trips (going to the Biltmore with a car packed full of giant candy canes and our new Caboodles), celebrations (making sugar cookies at my parent’s friend’s house and hanging tinsel on Christmas Eve), and traditions (opening a present on Christmas Eve, getting our REAL tree, the holiday cantata at Harmony Grove Methodist Church – religious carols are my absolute favorite -, watching our favorite holiday movies).
Our family growing up was very small and spread out, so usually on Christmas it was just my sister, my parents, and me. Every once in a while we’d get visitors from Virginia, or take a trip to Missouri (before it became my permanent residence), but that was rare. So a lot of my memories are based on the material things that my parents had, brought out only at this time of year. That sounds bad and “commercial,” but I mean it in the best possible way.
I remember how excited I’d get to pick out which stocking holder I’d use that year (it usually went back and forth between a plastic Kermit the Frog or a resting dog with a Santa hat), or going through the ornament box, carefully choosing where to put each trinket (of course, most ornaments were hung on the lower 1/3 of the tree). We had a gingerbread house candle holder that seemed so hefty yet fragile at the same time. You opened the roof of the house to put in a tea light, and when you blew out the flame, smoke would rise through a little chimney. I actually chose my current stocking hangers specifically because they reminded me of that decoration. I’m not sure if my mom still has it or not; I should find out.
It’s not all about decorations, though. There was one night when we were very young, and my Dad brought my sister and me a tin of soft peppermint sticks, and let us stay up late watching The Grinch on an old TV in our bedroom. I remember being bored by the cartoon, but Dad stayed in the room with us, and I thought that part was really neat.
Seeing Santa was always a big event for us, too. My parents would dress my sister and I in matching, fancy dresses, and we’d go to the “rich” mall in Atlanta, where Santa was the most impressive in the city, and instead of a small candy cane as a treat, he would hand out giant Jingle Bells with velvet ribbons. That was always fun, although I don’t remember if we ever asked him for anything.
My most fond and vivid memories, I think, are about the excitement and magic of going to bed on Christmas Eve, and waking up in the middle of the night to see what Santa brought my sister and me in our stockings. I still get a flip in my stomach thinking how giddy I would get. I believed in him far too long, and even though I knew deep down that it was illogical and immature, how could you NOT believe? Believing meant no more magic, and that was crushing (I eventually found out the cold hard truth by discovering a box of my letters to Santa, along with some old teeth to the Tooth Fairy, tucked away in a box in my parent’s wardrobe).
I would love to hear the memories and traditions that you still hold close to your heart. Please share!
(PS, If you made it all the way through this post, congratulations! I’m not sure it would be as fun to read as it was for me to write!)