Do you know what I remember about Christmas as child, teenager or even in my early adult years? I guarantee you, it’s not the presents.
Oh, OK, maybe there are a few that stick out – like the apples and oranges that always filled our Christmas stockings each year or the year I got my Easy Bake Oven and baked cakes for everyone or maybe the roller skate printed handmade sweatshirt my mother sewed for me that may have been a tish too small or maybe my purple record player with it’s white lid adorned with the most gorgeous picture of the Bee Gees (yes, I said the Bee Gees!). So yes, I guess, a few presents stick out in my mind.
PICTURE: Not a great picture but this is my sweatshirt my mom made.
PICTURE: My dad testing out my new record player.
But do you want to know what I remember even more than the presents?
It was the weeks leading up to Christmas and Christmas itself. Oh, it was so magical.
For those who know me now, I haven’t always been such a bah-humbug kind of Scrooge as I am now.
I remember spending an entire weekend taking down all the knick-knacks and putting up the decorations, including our beautiful, fake Christmas tree with gold garland, red, green, blue and gold painted glass Christmas ornaments, a few homemade decorations, colorful blinking lights and of course, it was always topped with this plastic-y star with flashing, pretty lights and silver tinsel.
And then there were all the actual Christmas decorations – so many trips up and down the stairs from the basement bringing up all the boxes. There were the reindeer, the snowmen, the Santa Clauses, the Christmas stockings, the plastic poinsettias, the snow globes and of course, the créche, which is what my mom always called it. For those not familiar with that term, like me, it’s more commonly known as a nativity scene or crib. She loved it and was always so proud of it.
And I can’t forget about the Christmas baking. Again, another weekend would be spent preparing all the Christmas goodies. We would make dozens and dozens and dozens of treats, some were the same each year and some were new and different. But no matter what, we always had to bake frosted sugar cookies for my sister, Donna, and my brothers, Mike and Steve; Russian tea cakes for my sister, Karen; chocolate crinkles for my brother, Charles; marshmallow caramel crispies for my dad; fudge and peanut brittle for my mom; and I just ate it all. No matter what was made, I ate it. My sweet tooth was more than satisfied during the Christmas season. My mom would often send a tin of goodies to my brother, Alan, who was in the Air Force and didn’t make the trip home for Christmas. (Like me, he’s not a fan of Minnesota winters.)
PICTURE: This is the cookbook we used every year.
But the baking and the decorating are just the tip of the iceberg.
My most favorite memory of all was when all my siblings were home for Christmas, well almost all. Back when my family used to actually celebrate Christmas on Christmas, we would most often get together on Christmas Eve and then sometimes, my siblings would stay overnight and we’d all be together on Christmas Day, too.
My five oldest siblings are between 12 and 20 years older than me so I didn’t really grow up with them, well, during years that I have memories of. By the time I was 5 or 6 years old, they were all out of the house and on their own so when they all came home for Christmas, it was so special to me because they were my idols – they were the ones I looked up to, the ones I wanted to be when I grew up. And because I didn’t spend that much time with them, I was so excited to see them all for the holidays . We would sit around and visit, eat all the fantastic appetizers and of course, all the sweets. We’d play games, eat and visit some more. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it was.
And as much as I probably whined when I was little and sighed and rolled my eyes as a teenager, one of my most favorite memories ever was singing Christmas carols before we opened presents. Again, it may not have seemed like I enjoyed it, but I’m telling you, it is one of my most treasured memories. The guitars would come out, the keys of the organ would light up and music would fill the living room. All of our voices – some better than others – blending together as one big happy, blended family. It actually brings tears to my eyes to remember those moments. Moments I will never have again.
Times have changed. People are busier. There is more hustle and bustle and not enough time. Everyone is rushing here and rushing there. Our family has grown. Now, my siblings all have their own families, their own kids AND their own grandkids. They have their own lives. Everyone celebrates on their own.
The Christmases of past are long forgotten and are but a distant memory. But if I could, I would go back. Back to a simpler, more family-oriented time when the presents really didn’t matter, but the time spent together with family did.
PICTURE: Yep, that’s my Bee Gees record player. Gosh, I loved that thing!