About three months ago, I was ecstatic to find out I had finally become a great aunt. Our family always had our own Christmas traditions. The five of us kids grew up, had families and created new family traditions. Now this little guy will be a part of another generation and experience his family’s traditions. The old traditions may pass away into oblivion or they may be incorporated into the new families.
Some of my favorite memories:
Decorating the Tree
We always decorated the tree on Christmas Eve. This tradition began when we were all very young. Santa would bring the tree, decorate it and leave gifts after we went to bed. As each child got too old to believe in Santa, they stayed up to help decorate the tree and “play Santa” for the younger ones. We always used a real tree, either cut from our own property or from a nearby tree farm. Dad would untangle and check all the big old-fashioned colored lights to be sure everyone lit. He then carefully clipped them on the tree, moving them up and down so they were placed evenly around the tree, then unscrewing and changing individual lights so we didn’t have the same two colors together. It was quite a production.
I made cranberry chains – later we changed over to wooden beads on long chains and paper chains (except made from fabric). Those went on the tree next, then after the Angel went on the top, everyone pitched in with the ornaments. The unbreakable ones were hung towards the bottom so the dog and cat couldn’t break anything. We all had our favorite ornaments. These were the very old balls and were placed in prominent spots. After the decorations, came the tinsel. Only the adults could place the tinsel, to avoid clumps and enthusiastic throwing.
After the tree was decorated, we would visit our friends who lived in a plat that lined all the streets with luminarias. The church-goers in the family would go to the 11:oopm service (the one with all the singing), then home to bed. Christmas morning started out very, very early when we were young and getting later and later as we became older. The kids would sneak down in the dark and plug in the tree. We were allowed to open our stockings keeping us occupied until the parents woke up. Then the youngest child was in charge of passing out presents to be opened.
We snacked all day, read the new books which were always under the tree, or played with the new games then settled down to the big meal in the evening.
Christmas books came out the weekend after Thanksgiving. We had a large stack of both children and adult books. Someone could always be found to read the favorite ones aloud. I can still quote most of the stories from the Little Golden Books. From Christmas in the Country “Chop, chop, chop went the secret in the pasture. Stitch, stitch, stitch went the secret in the kitchen”. Or from Santa’s Toy Shop “Way up north in the land of ice and snow, stands a cozy little house…”
and of course.. .
Please let me know what your childhood holiday traditions are. I’d love to hear from you.
“…I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, …as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.”–Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)