Thursday December 25, 2003

Christmas Memories, Christmas Traditions

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

“No. Your past.”

Hearts Gladness is...

Good memories

My memories of Christmases past are good. Lights sparkling on the tree, sometimes (although not often) snow. Unlike our cousins, who usually spent Christmas at the home of our shared grandmother, my family spent Christmas together at home, often joined by our other grandmother.

We generally put the trees up the weekend before Christmas and left it up through Twelfth Night. From very early on, we had (at least) two trees in our family. My sister Keri and had a shared tree for quite a few years when we were young. When we were very little, my mom wouldn't let us help decorate her tree. So my Dad brought home the department tree (he taught at the University) when Christmas break began. Keri and I set our tree up in Keri's room and we made homemade decorations by coloring animal cookies with egg-dye paint!

Each year, Keri and I would make (or receive as gifts) more decorations of our own. One year, when I was 8 or so, Dad found another tree (most likely abandoned by a student going home for the holidays) and that year Keri and I each had a tree. After that, of course, precedence and tradition demanded we each have a tree every year and we did! It was delightful falling asleep with the Christmas tree lights sparkling and glowing.

My family always went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service at my parents church. The service included traditional Christmas carols and the reading of the Story of Christmas. Each attendee received a candle upon entering the church. The next to last hymn was always sung by candle light; the final hymn was Joy to the World. Then candles were extinguished and people greeted each other. Christmas Eve service was always early, 7pm, so children could attend.

Neither my sister nor I were early risers. We'd awaken around 9 and savor the moment. I'd turn on my tree. When we heard the other awake, one of us would grab both stockings and join the other in her room where we'd make joyful discoveries until we heard our parents waking up. About the time I was 12 or 13 (?), we added stockings for Mom and Dad as well!

Finally dressed, we'd all troop downstairs to admire the tree and the magical appearance of the packages underneath (as well as the magical appearance of one new ornament, front and center on the tree, that had become a family tradition simultaneously with the stockings for Mom & Dad. Santa works in mysterious ways.)

Our family tradition allowed for one package to be opened by each of us before breakfast. Then we waited (setting the table, etc., as needed) while Mom made breakfast — usually scrambled eggs, toast, sausages, cocoa for my sister and I, coffee for Mom and Dad.

Finally (generally around 11am or noon) we'd gather in the living room to observe the gift-giving ritual. Keri and I sat under the tree, choosing packages and handing them around. Dad sat poised for photo opportunities (of which there were many). We each opened presents while the others watched, thanking the giver and admiring the gift. Keri was generally somewhat annoyed by my part in this process, as I was extremely neat, slitting tape with a pocket knife and carefully removing the paper. Worse, from her point of view, were the (numerous occasions when I would receive a book, as I would promptly start to read it (and no one else could continue until (Vicki!!) my turn was over). I've opened presents this way for years (which more lately haas driven hubby Rich wild instead of my sister), but I've been practicing tearing paper and not saving it. I guess that's a form of therapy.

When all the presents were given and received, we'd relax until dinner time, often reading new books or playing new games, listening to the 24-hours of Christmas music on the radio or local PBS t.v. channel. In my memory, we often had guests for Christmas dinner, friends who had not left town to be with out-of-town family. could be mistaken; those dinners may have occurred at other times during the holidays. I simply recall that Christmas evening was always a relaxing, quiet, peaceful time.

Dinner was usually Turkey Reprise with all the fixins including some special holiday items we only had at Christmas (or Thanksgiving). I especially loved the orange sherbet with cranberry relish. Desert generally included Sand Tarts (delightfully crisp sugar cookies), my mother's variation on Tollhouse cookies (way more walnuts!), homemade chocolate marshmallow fudge, and my Mom's fruitcake. Fruitcake tends to get a bad rap; say what you will about "solid bricks of colored imitation fruit", my mother's fruitcake recipe is different — moist and Very Good..

Christmas Memories, Christmas Traditions ( in category Treasures ) - posted at Thu, 25 Dec, 11:25 Pacific | «e»