Monday, December 17, 2007

The Post of Christmas Past

Nothing quite compares with the excitement a child feels around the Holidays. Candy and sweet crazed, scouring the department store catalogs and advertisements for gift list ideas, anxiously waiting in line to sit on Santa's lap, school holiday concerts, putting up the day's advent token on the calendar, counting down the days left until Christmas, and sneaking peeks to see if Santa has arrived before finally drifting off into a sound sleep the night before Christmas finally arrives.

I have a treasure trove of memories from my childhood surrounding the Christmas holiday, some of which I would like to share with you on this 17th day of December as part of the Blog Advent Tour. Come along, and watch out for the mistletoe!

As a child, Christmas began for me the day after Thanksgiving when my mother, brother and two of our friends would pile into the car for another family adventure. After my father retired from military service, we had settled in the town of Sacramento, California. Armed with treats, hot chocolate, blankets and dressed for cold and rainy weather, we would find a spot near the Capitol building to watch the annual holiday parade. In later years, my brother's friend would be in the parade, marching with the high school band. I loved those frosty mornings, my nose and hands chilled. Seeing Santa riding his sleigh at the end of the parade was the signal that Christmas had arrived at last.

Another favorite family tradition was touring the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights. Some people would go all out with the decorations, while others, like my parents', would keep it simple. My mom would pop in a Christmas music cassette and we would ooh and aah at the colorful and creative light displays.

There was the annual Christmas party for the regional Camp Fire Girls and Boys, in which we all played games, including exchanging gifts, and then we would hit the neighborhood, candles in hand, to sing Christmas carols. How I loved those nights! Even as the chill air stung my skin and the hot wax threatened to burn my fingers, I sang my little heart out.

And I will never forget the Holiday pageants and concerts from grade school up through my college years. I especially remember the many performances my high school show choir held, visiting several different venues. I often ended up being the chauffeur, driving my fellow choir members around in my parents' mini van. The high school choir had a Christmas tree lot in which we each had to volunteer to work, helping people find the perfect Christmas tree and then carrying the trees to their cars. The goal was to raise money for the end of the year trips and new costumes.

Every year before Christmas, my father and I would set up the nativity scene. There was a little table we would clear off and then lay out a blanket before taking the various parts of the set out of the box and arranging them just so. It was a special tradition I treasured, one between just my father and I. After my first semester of college away from home, I remember the sadness I felt at having missed out on that tradition for the first time. By the time I had come home for the winter holidays, my brother had carried on in my place.

When my Grandpa John was still alive, our Christmas cookie tradition was quite the event. Every year shortly after Thanksgiving, the relatives would gather together to bake and decorate the holiday cookies, a recipe that was much like gingerbread cookies, but not quite. I was one of the decorators, banned from the kitchen where my mother, grandmother and aunts would be slaving at the counter and oven. I did not mind as I loved to frost the cookies and add the glitter and little candy pieces. There were all sorts of shapes from reindeer, snowmen, Santas to angels, Christmas trees, camels and wreaths. My grandfather, brother and I would get right to task as the women in the house carried the trays of cookies to the tables.

It was more than just your average cookie making event. We made hundreds of cookies. They were laid out on the dining room table and multiple card tables that had been set up throughout the house. Not a room was without a table full of cookies by the time we were done. The cookies would later be collected into tins and onto plates for friends and neighbors as well as for each of our own families.

After my grandpa's passing in 1989, the family tried to carry on the tradition, but it never was quite the same. Those early memories are among my most treasured.

On Christmas Eve, I often would call my childhood dog to my side, and we would settle on the couch where I would read her the Christmas story about Jesus' birth. Her ears would at first perk up, and then she would curl up on her afghan and listen with her eyes closed, the tree lights blinking. It was by that light I read. There were occasions though when she would much rather play, but I always kept reading anyway.

Christmas Eve also meant phone calls to and from Grandpa John to check on the status of Santa Claus and th reindeer as they traveled around the world delivering gifts. When my father was working those nights, he would often call as well and let us know that his radar system had picked up Santa's location, warning my brother and I to hurry to bed soon or else Santa might skip our house.

My brother and I would set out cookies for Santa and carrots and celery for the reindeer. Most often we would also put out a glass of milk, although occasionally we set out a can of soda instead. My poor mother was always afraid that my brother and I would check the kitchen for signs that Santa Claus did not really eat his treats, and so she made sure that there were nothing but crumbs left each morning.

With the coming of Christmas morning, my brother and I were always the first up in our house. Early on my parents had set a rule that we were to wait for my parents to wake before venturing beyond the invisible line that separated the bedroom hallway into the main part of the house. During the years when my father worked the night shift, our signal that we could come downstairs would be when he arrived home in the mornings. The older I got, the earlier I would rise so that I could be completely dressed, hair brushed and in order, just in time for photos. Oh, how I hated being photographed in those later years!

Once given the go ahead, my brother and I would pounce on our Christmas stockings to see what Santa had left us. There were always full stockings, even after the mystery of Santa Claus was revealed. We would then settle in for hot chocolate and cinnamon toast fingers before heading into the living room to open the presents under the tree.

It would not be until later in the day that we packed up the family presents in the car to take them to the designated home for that year's festivities. Sometimes we hosted Christmas at our own home and could just settle in and wait for everyone to begin arriving. Christmas was quite the family event, aunts and uncles, family friends, my grandparents, my parents, my brother and I would all gather together around the tree to exchange gifts, taking turns opening the pretty packages one at a time. Dinner would follow, a feast fit for royalty.

When I was about six years old, I insisted that if it was truly Jesus' birthday, we had to have a birthday cake with candles. From that day on, Jesus would have his birthday cake during our family Christmas celebrations.

After the festivities of the day died down and we were back at home, a glowing fire in the fire place to keep us warm, a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies to enjoy, I would set out my Christmas presents and begin writing thank you cards. To this day, I still follow the same pattern: looking at each gift before deciding what to put down in the card, reflecting on the giver and the gift, and then expressing my heartfelt gratitude. My mother is a strong believer in sending out thank you notes, and made sure my brother and I always took the time to write them out ourselves from a very early age. It is a tradition I carry on today.

Let me extend a thank you to all of you for visiting and traveling down memory lane with me today. I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season! Oh, and you might want to be sure you haven't picked up a stray tinsel string inadvertently. It sure likes to cling to clothing!

Be sure and stop in and visit the other blogs along the tour route!
17 December - Stephanie (Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic)
18 December - Dev (Good Reads)
19 December - Callista (S.M.S. Book Reviews)
20 December - Tiny Little Librarian (Tiny Little Librarian)
21 December - Carla (Carla Nayland Historical Fiction)
22 December - Carolyn Jean (The Trillionth Page)
23 December - Booklogged (A Reader's Journal)
24 December - Kailana (The Written World) / Carl V. (Stainless Steel Droppings)

Past Tour Stops You May Still Want to Visit:
1 December - Becky (Becky's Book Reviews)
2 December - Lisabea (Nose in a Book)
3 December - Marg (Reading Adventures) / Lady Tink (Up Close & Personal with LadyTink)
4 December - Valentina (Valentina's Room)
5 December - Melissa (Book Nut)
6 December - Laura (Musings)
7 December - Wendy (Caribousmom)
8 December - Nymeth (Things Mean A Lot)
9 December - Raidergirl (An Adventure in Reading), Chris (Stuff as Dreams are Made on)
10 December - Dewey (The Hidden Side of a Leaf)
11 December -Suey (It's All About Books)
12 December - Chris (Book-a-rama)
13 December - Jill (The Well-Read Child)
14 December - Robin (A Fondness for Reading)
15 December - Alyssa (By The Book)
16 December - Rachel (A Fair Substitute for Heaven)


  1. Thank you for sharing such a great glimpse into your life and your Christmas traditions.

  2. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories. You have some very nice traditions that reflect a thoughtful person.

  3. What wonderful memories, Wendy! Made me feel all warm and fuzzy on this frozen December morning!

  4. Christmas really is for kids, isn't it? I hope my girl has memories she'll cherish forever like I do. Great post!

  5. Oh wow, what a wonderful post, Wendy! Thank you so much for sharing with us! I really enjoyed reading it. :)

  6. What a fun post! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Great post! Your traditions all sound so wonderful and cozy and fun! I love how it was your grandpa that was the anchor for the cookie baking, that is so cool, but sad that it hasn't lasted.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for taking us along on your trip down memory lane! You have so many lovely memories!
    P.S. 'stalkings' did make me pause for a minute. Been reading too many murder mysteries!? ;P

  9. Wendy, I relived my childhood Christmases as I read your memories. As i read your nativity scene ritual, I remembered that my grandma would let me set up hers. I loved that so much, too. Your Grandpa John sounds like he was very much loved by all.

  10. I loved reading this Wendy. I can't believe you and your brother also set out food for the reindeer! How cute is that.

  11. Ditto, Wendy - you had me from the beginning, but the reindeer clinched it!
    - clea

  12. Wonderful post! I'd read to my animals too, especially at Christmas when I would get all kinds of new books. Now I get tons of gift cards to book stores so not too much has changed!

  13. What lovely memories! Thanks for sharing them! Merry Christmas!

  14. Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories with us. They were wonderful. They made me remember some of my own. Thanks again!

  15. Wonderful memories... thanks so much for sharing!

  16. I don't often use the word lovely in any context, but I have to say that this is a very lovely post. Thanks for sharing your holiday memories. I really enjoyed reading about them, and it's really helped me to think back on my favorite Christmas traditions and get more into the holiday spirit. =D

  17. Beautiful post! What lovely holiday memories! Thank you for sharing them!

  18. Merry Christmas Wendy. I enjoyed reading your memories of Christmas.

  19. What a wonderful post. Such beautiful memories! Thank you for sharing ;]

  20. I love your Christmas cookie memories - our family has a big cookie decorating tradition, as well. I really loved your reading the story of the first Nativity to your dog by the Christmas lights. And the birthday cake for Jesus is really, really sweet! A wonderful, wonderful addition to the Blog Advent event.

  21. Beautiful memories!! I was way late on posting mine today (I just started my new job and didn't want to be late on my first day. BAD etiquette, that would be!!)

  22. I can understand why you're so fond of Christmas, with great memories like these! Thanks for sharing them.

  23. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments! I enjoyed revisiting my Christmas memories and sharing them with you. Christmas these days isn't nearly as exciting or eventful, but it remains one of my favorite times of year.

  24. What wonderful memories. My family also has a birthday cake with candles because my now 8 year old wanted to know where the cake was when she was two. She and my husband make it every Christmas Eve day.

  25. Nikki - It was fun to relive some of these memories in the telling. :-)

    Trisha - That is so kind of you to say! Thank you.

    Karen - Thank you! Writing this post sure put me in the Christmas spirit.

    Chris - I think it holds a special magic for children. Reminds me of the Polar Express. :-) I am sure your daughter will have many happy memories. Maybe she'll be writing a post like this one day!

    Melody - Thanks! I enjoyed sharing a piece of my past with you. :-)

    Wendy - You're welcome. :-)

    Suey - Thank you so much! My grandfather was a very special person in my life, that's for sure. He'll always be one of my favorite people. Unfortunately, my grandmother's health started deteriorating rapidly after my grandfather's death. She suffered from dementia in her final years, and so that was in part what led to the downfall of some of our family traditions. They were both very important people in my life, and I do miss them, but feel so lucky to have the memories of them that I do.

    Tanabata - You are welcome. :-) And thank you for pointing my error out. I think you hit the nail on the head--too many murder mysteries lately. Haha

    Jody - That's so sweet of you to say! Thank you. It sounds like your grandmother is a special person.

  26. Iliana - Thanks! Yes, we couldn't let the reindeer go without treats. They worked harder than Santa Claus, I think.

    Clea - Thank you! There always had to be enough for all of them too! Must have driven my mother crazy. I wouldn't let her peel them--they had to have the green leaves still attached. Not sure why.

    Jen - Thanks! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who reads to her animals!

    Tinylittlelibrarian - Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you too!

    Katluvr - Thank you--and thanks for visiting. I love your nickname. :-)

    Melissa - Thanks so much, and thank you too for stopping by.

    Megan - Thank you for your kind words! After putting the post together, my Christmas spirit definitely returned. It also makes me a little sad though too, knowing that we can't be with family for the holidays this year.
    I still plan on having a great Christmas though!

    Jaimie - Thank you!

    Elizabeth - Thanks. Have a Merry Christmas also!

    Kailana - Thank you and same to you!

    Michelle - Thanks so much. And thank you for stopping by!

    Julia - Thanks! Christmas does seem to be the time for cookies, doesn't it?

    Stephanie - Thank you! I hope your first day went well!

    Florinda - It is one of my favorite holidays. :-) I don't go all out the way my family did as a child by any stretch, but the holiday has always had so many happy memories that it's hard not to get excited about this time of year regardless.

    Bookgal - Another family with a birthday cake tradition! I'm sure your daughter will always look back on those Christmas Eves with her father quite fondly. :-)

  27. You certainly have a good memory! I'm the first to admit that my memory isn't great, which is why I have a hard time recalling stuff like this from my childhood (even though there were many happy memories that I just need to be REMINDED about, and then I'm fine). :)

  28. Such wonderful memories, you take me back to my own childhood. Thanks for a wonderful advent blog post!

  29. What fun traditions! Thanks for sharing :-)

  30. Zandria - My long term memory is much better than my short term memory these days. :-S I think I need more sleep.

    Carl - Thank you!

    Em - You're welcome. I enjoyed writing the post. I actually started writing it a couple of weeks ago and kept adding to it. :-)

  31. You know, I think this is probably my favourite Advent Calendar post so far. Thank you for sharing all these memories with us. I'm not sure if I ever told you this, but you are a wonderful writer! This post felt like a little story. It was absolutely gripping!

  32. You must have a wonderful childhood Christmas memories! I truly enjoy reading your, and felt like I was a child tagging along with your memories. Thanks for sharing it :)

    Your memories sure does brought up lot of my Christmas memories too :)

  33. Nymeth - Thank you so much! I'm blushing.

    Julia - You are welcome! I definitely have plenty of happy Christmas memories. Some not so happy ones too, I'm afraid, but I prefer not to dwell on those this time of year. :-)


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