There have been so many Christmases that they kind of blur together in my mind. But a few memories are still as bright and vivid as if they were only this past year. Of course, like all of us, there are a few Christmas memories that might not be all that happy, in my case mostly because I was anxious and stressed trying to make everything “just right.” You know, like the pictures you see in magazine (or nowadays on blogs, TV, and websites) that I just couldn’t relax and actually enjoy the holiday. I just wanted to “get through it,” and I couldn’t wait for December 26th so I could take a deep breath and then take a nap. That’s what happens when you have kids whose eyes light up like the pretty colored bulbs on that old fashioned Christmas tree.
When I was a kid, Christmas was important and we looked forward to it, but it certainly wasn’t anything like it is today. I remember getting a new sweater, some new socks, and a board game. We didn’t do stockings (I don’t think so anyway because I don’t remember them) probably because we didn’t have a fireplace in the little house where I grew up. My mom would hang a strings of colorful, blinking lights in our front window, in the shape of a tree, and we would have little homemade “pigs in a blanket” on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas tree was decorated with the large, colored bulb lights, a few hand made ornaments, and tinsel. Lots of tinsel!
We would make some Christmas cookies and share a few with the neighbors, always on a paper plate covered with a towel (which of course we always got back!), and there would be a few candy canes. It was what we might now refer to as a “simple” or “old-fashioned” Christmas. But it was all we knew, so it was just as magical and exciting for us kids then as it is for kids now. But it was much different.
Then, when my “big kids” were “little kids,” it was becoming more popular to go “all out” for kids on Christmas. And, since my own Christmas memories were a bit sparse, I wanted my childrens’ Christmas memories to be glorious! I remember on Christmas when I was about 21 or 22 years old, I only had two little ones to prepare Christmas presents for, so I decided I would make them all on my own. And so I did!
There was the life-size Raggedy Ann doll that I made, including the dress and apron, as well as the red yarn hair and embroidered face. It is about 3″ tall (actually I think taller than my own little girl at the time), and I still have it sitting out in my sewing room. She brings back lots of happy memories. And there was the set of three alphabet blocks that I made for the Little Guy in my life at the time. I made them like really big pillows, stitched the sides together, all in different bright colors, some with alphabet letters stitched on, too, and then filled them with square pillow forms. They were great! He played with those blocks for years, sitting on them, piling them up, knocking them down, jumping on them, and of course, lining them up and trying to walk on them, stepping from one to the other until he fell off.
One year (maybe it was the same year, I think I was very busy that Christmas!) I made a baby doll complete with button hinged arms and legs, embroidered hair and face, and a sweet little dress and blanket. Oh, I almost forgot . . . there was the very big (bigger than the kid if I recall correctly!) black and white furry panda bear. With black button eyes, button hinged arms, and the perfect “body pillow” for the Little Guy to cuddle up with for naptime. That bear was dragged around, wrestled with, jumped on, talked to, and cuddled with for many years. I’m not sure where he is today, but his memory lives on in my heart and mind.
And then there were other Christmases, when I was perhaps not quite so prolific in gift creating, but nevertheless, we still made cookies, candy, yeast breads, batter breads, fudge, peanut brittle, more cookies, and more candy, and more fudge . . . and we gave it all away to friends and neighbors, in town and in the neighborhood, church friends and family. I had great fun painting pretty little jars and decorating boxes and bags to hold all those holiday goodies as we joyfully shared them with everyone we could think of.
There are many more Christmas memories that are in my heart and mind today . . . . we got our Christmas tree up this past weekend, along with a few other decorations that I had wanted to put out last year. But that was the Year of the Flood, and our whole house was topsy-turvey from October until December 24, which is when we finally were able to put up our tree. So this year, we decided to get back on track with our family tradition of putting the tree up on Thanksgiving weekend. It reminded me of many other Christmases, and the importance of making memories, no matter what your circumstances. For some of us, it has been very little, without a lot of hoopla, and that was just fine. After all, what is Christmas really about anyway? I choose to celebrate the gifts of family and home, even in the smallest of ways.
We listened to the song “Hallelujah” the other night. Really listened. I was reminded that there will always be “broken hallelujahs” and we can celebrate those moments and treasure them right along with all the other times of “hallelujah.” I hope you will join me this Christmas season to take time to breathe, relax, and really let your self enjoy the holiday season. And sometimes that might mean you need to stop all the hustle and bustle, have a quiet cup of tea, or just go take a nap. It’s OK. Christmas memories will be made and they will be good.