Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

Christmas was always the big family event of the year, with Christmas Eve as the most exciting part for me.  Soon after Thanksgiving, we would go to a tree farm and buy a fresh cut tree, usually eight to ten feet tall to set up near the front window in the living room.

We fussed with the strings of lights because all the bulbs had to be good for the string to light.  My sister Jan and I decorated the tree with many colored balls and dangling ornaments, and strands of icicles.  We had a special antique angel for the top.  The family was completed when my aunt Viva pulled in the driveway a few days before the big day, honking the horn to herald her arrival.  Christmas Eve tradition began with kidney bean stew for supper.  The stew was made ahead, so Mom wouldn’t be tied up in the kitchen.

Our gift giving tradition was to “fish” for small inexpensive gifts.  Mom said that Grandma started the tradition during the Depression when there wasn’t much money for gifts.  All the wrapped gifts were piled on the pool table in the front room, and a sheet tacked up over the door.  We tied a string on a “fishing pole” to throw over the sheet.  Someone would hook a gift on the string and call for the recipient to come “fish” it out while everyone watched to see what they got.  With many small gifts, the giving could be stretched out for the whole evening.

The gifts also became a tradition.  I always gave Mom a box of #2 lead pencils and packs of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum — individually wrapped, of course.  I tied the pencils in a long string.  I always gave my sister Jan a can of cashews, and Daddy a bottle of after shave lotion; usually Old Spice or Bay Rum.  Daddy got paperback books, and Zane Grey westerns or Agatha Christi mysteries.

We vied to see who would notice the passing of midnight, and be the first to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  Then we hung our stockings on the mantle over the fireplace and waded through the mounds of wrapping paper to go to bed.  Christmas morning I was up early!  I snuck out to once again try to shout “Merry Christmas” before someone else did.  First stop was to see what goodies were in my stocking; maybe a candy bar or a small jackknife.
Mom was already up preparing Christmas dinner for the midday.  Normal days we ate in the kitchen, but today we ate on the big table in the dining room.  Mom usually boiled two of our own chickens, and dropped dumplings on top of them.  I loved those dumplings and gravy! The rest was traditional, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert.

Finally, it was time to clean up the Christmas Eve mess.  We gathered all the torn wrapping paper still piled in the living room, and put away our gifts.  The tree stayed up until New Year’s Day.  Either Christmas Eve or the end of Christmas Day, or both, Mom would sit down at the old upright piano, and we gathered around to sing Christmas carols.

Sigh. Christmas was over.  Now, the long wait until next year.  The wonderful memories lingered as we ate leftover chicken and pie and kidney bean stew.

What special memories of Christmas do you have from your childhood?

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

4 thoughts on “Christmas Memories

  1. Ruth S Baxter

    Many traditions in our family. We were allowed to open 1 present on Christmas eve after the Christmas eve candlelight service at church. We then would have home made oyster stew. > We still hold to tradition

  2. Irene simancek RN

    I loved the small plastic dolls with the most beautiful and amazing homemade dresses my mom would make. Loved the idea of fishing for gifts Bob. Merrry Christmas.

  3. Aileen Chinen

    One memory, one tradition (for a few years only): My father did much on Christmas when we were kids. He’d pick out a beautiful 7 or 8-foot Douglas Fir pine tree and decorate it…and wired colorful light bulbs throughout the house. All gifts under the tree had to remain unwrapped until after Christmas. So, us 3 young tots had to keep the gifts untouched. Why? We’d have a Christmas dinner party with several friends & relatives on Christmas Day to also celebrate my sister’s birthday (yup, she is a Christmas baby). My father wanted the gifts remaining untouched under the tree as decorations until after the party. And that meant we had to wait until the 26th to open the gifts. Beyond our own gifts, my father would buy and wrap little gifts for the guests, but they were like little grab bags. Actually, my father would have “lucky number” drawing near the end of the party. Each person had a number and a person would pick a number; a person holding that number would then win a prize (one of the grab bags). That happened for about 7 or 8 years of our young lives. Those days were fun (except we had to force discipline on ourselves to NOT open the gifts). But, my brother would try to find ways to peek and guess what was inside his gifts (I don’t think he was ever successful, tho’). Imagine his having a few pukas (holes)…and if my father did find out…(oh boy, what spankings he’d get). Those days were fun…and to add a note…back in those days, homes were built with very high ceilings, so that’s why we could place even an 8-foot tree (and with a large bright star as a topper).
    (A 2nd note to add…only my sister had her birthday celebrated. My brother and I never had birthday parties. We were too poor for such extravagance, so Christmas was uniquely extraordinary.)

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