Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. The fact that it happens in the winter, my favorite season, has a lot to do with it. But, more importantly, I think it was because of my childhood. My family embraces all aspects of the Christmas season with gusto — gift giving, music, food, decorating, worship services, candles, advent calendars etc. I know lots of people who get frustrated and stressed and depressed this time of year and seem to thrive on grumbling through it all. I have never heard this be the attitude in my family, though. Yes, there have been years when money was tight and when that caused some stress, but Christmas was still Christmas and it was a joyful time to be celebrated.
We are having some people over this evening to help decorate the house. We will share a meal (cheesy meatball soup and crackers) and then have some sugar cookies and snacks to keep us fortified. I have been tidying the house and putting the tree together and preparing so things are ready when our friends arrived. I just bent over to get the advent calendar, Christmas tablecloth and placemats out of the hutch and had a huge sense of nostalgia. The hutch belonged to my grandparents. I can still smell candles, Grandma’s hand lotion and Grandpa’s pipe tobacco when I open the drawers and doors. Some of you know, my grandmother passed away in early December last year. She LOVED Christmas and especially the decorations and having the family around. As I breathed the scent of her a few minutes ago, it brought back so many wonderful memories of the part this hutch has played in my Christmas’ past and now in my present and future. Grandma always had Christmas cards and little figurines and candles on top, the bread and pies on the shelf, and there was always a can of peanut M&Ms that we knew how to get into. I remember her reaching down in those same doors I just opened for another candy dish, plate or candle stick.
Grandma’s tree always went up the day after Thanksgiving and was always full of light and ornaments from years past and those that the grandchildren had made through the years. I remember there were always unwrapped gifts under the tree that Grandma would place there after she received them from the people at work. Her boss would always give her ribbon candy and I thought that the strangest looking (and tasting) stuff. It definitely is not chocolate. Opening presents at Grandma’s took literally hours, as we each did them one at a time and oooohhhhed and aaahhhhhed over each thing. Christmas was definitely about us kids – even once we were adults and many of us were married.
I love remembering the years that our whole family would sing around the piano after the presents were opened. You haven’t really heard the 12 Days of Christmas until you’ve heard it done with each person taking one day and singing it in the appropriate spot. Just deciding who is going to do what can take five minutes.
I miss Grandma a lot, but I think this year is going to be harder than last year. Last year we were still numb from the shock and were just happy to be together as a family. This year there are new babies in the family that Grandma never got a chance to shop for or prepare to watch the joy in their eyes. We’ve had time to grieve and get back to our lives. There is definitely going to be a void in our preparations and celebrations this year. Grandma spent a lot of thought on how to make Christmas special for us. I hope I can continue to build these memories for my children. To be joyful and embrace every aspect of the season, and to put them first so they can build their own memories of Christmas past.
As we go through this season this year, I’m prepared to have some tearful moments. I know, though, they are tears of thanksgiving and blessings and joy given from the memories of my Christmas’ past.