As an adult, you view growing up, holidays and other special moments somewhat differently than you did as a child. Throughout your childhood and teenage years, you may not see the value of traditions and taking the extra time to make these memorable. You don’t realize the big picture and reasons why certain things are done. But, when you get older and things change, you have those realizations. You see the love your family put into making those days and events extraordinary. As we go through the holiday season, I can’t help but think about this notion and reflect upon my childhood Christmases. Yes, the holiday is celebrated somewhat differently, but looking back, I can now see the magic my mom’s efforts added to the celebrations.
Christmas started early in our house. The weekend after Thanksgiving was always our time to decorate. Christmas trees were put up throughout, the halls were decked with garlands and lights filled the rooms. For the most part, our decorations were traditional and remained the same year after year. We made sure to put the stuffed dolls and animals from the Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer Christmas special in the bay window on top of snow and set the precious manger scene out on the living room coffee table. My sister and I each had our own small Christmas trees, personalized with our own ornaments. Gifting ornaments and writing the year on their backs was an annual habit in our family.
Once the house was decorated, the customary activities started. Our calendars got filled with readings of Christmas tales, shopping, wrapping gifts and watching our favorite movies. However, there were also events we made time for each year. It wasn’t Christmas until we went to Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights, usually on the night of Thanksgiving. It wasn’t Christmas until we baked and decorated dozens of gingerbread and sugar cookies. It wasn’t Christmas until we crafted our gingerbread houses, and if we were feeling energetic, gingerbread village. And lastly, it wasn’t Christmas until I hosted my family party for my mom, grandmother and sister with our dog sometimes attending. Of course, I had help with planning this occasion. Together, these experiences made Christmas complete. December was a month of commemorations and ended with beloved festivities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
For Christmas Eve, my family also celebrated with an early dinner with great aunts, uncles and cousins. Then, it was off to our Moravian Lovefeast service. For the next hour or so, we welcomed the birth of Jesus Christ through food, singing and lighting the morning star. Once home, it was time to open presents. Hot chocolate was made, and the presents were sorted. All of my family gathered by the Christmas tree and fireplace in the living room and took turns opening our gifts. Christmas Day was spent with extended family and the usual celebrations. After all the jubilee of the holiday was complete and the decorations put away after the new year, it was time to count down until the next time.
As I go through the Christmas season as an adult, some of the previous merriment has changed as schedules have gotten busier and people moved further away. I find myself recalling my wonderful childhood Christmases and the driving force behind all of these memories: my mom. Looking back, I remember these years with a magical aspect to them. Christmas became a time when nothing could go wrong. There was a sense of stability and comfort, because of my mom. After working all day and week, she spent time with my sister and I taking part in these festivities, working to create fantastic memories with us. The house was decorated just right to build a festive atmosphere. The presents were wrapped to the nines not just in wrapping paper and a small bow, but with ornaments, elaborate ribbons and more. There was laughter, smiles and maybe a few disagreements over how a cowboy boot cookie cutter wasn’t right for Christmas. Fun fact: this did become a cookie cutter for Christmas, and we now can’t picture the holiday without it. Simply put, there is now magic to these memories. All of these things, from the activities to the decorations and the way our gifts were wrapped were just an example of my mother’s love to make sure the holidays were important for us.
Every holiday was honored in its own special way, but Christmas was something unique. I plan on recreating my childhood Christmas traditions with my own kids someday, while still creating new ones. That is the funny thing – you may never realize the impact of someone’s love and hard work until years later. Not every child is able to grow up with the Christmases I had. I was given the memories and now the love to do the same for others. Let’s all make it a goal to add more magic to the holiday season not just for our loved ones, but to everyone we meet as well. Thank you, Mom, for providing the adult me a chance to realize the magic of Christmas.