Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Memories (traditions)

Christmas was always magical for us.  Not because of Santa or reindeer or whatever, but because Christmas was a time filled with traditions that made our time magical.  My dad wasn't as busy during that time of the year, so he was able to spend more time with us.  We baked cookies and cakes and took them to people we knew from church.  We spent time at the nursing home with our "adopted grandparents."  (residents who didn't have family that we would go visit once a month and on special occasions.)  Spending time with elderly people who were lonely because their own family abandoned them was a great way to put things into perspective.  I always loved going to the nursing home and singing to the residents, or just bringing a wrapped pair of socks or a bathrobe to a lady or man who needed a gift.

And we would take part in Christmas activities at church, including a drama/music program and caroling the weekend before Christmas.  I loved caroling.  We would all load up in cars or vans, dressed in sweaters, scarves and mittens (even if it was 70 degrees out) and we would visit certain people and sing carols for them.  Everyone had some kind of treat ready for us when we got there, and we ended the night with hot chocolate and doughnuts at the church fellowship hall.

A few weeks before Christmas, we would go over to my grandmother's house (on my dad's side) and help her decorate.  She had the coolest silver Christmas tree and this rotating light that she pointed at it, which would shine different colors onto the silver tree.  It looked like Christmas in outer space.  I loved that tree, and would just sit there and stare at it for hours.  After we helped her decorate, we would go see the other grandparents.  They had a massive real tree every year, and all the local grandkids came to help decorate it.  We each had a ceramic angel ornament with our name on it.  Mine had brown hair and green eyes, and wore a light pink dress.  We would each be allowed to hang our own angel ornament onto the tree.  It was always so special to unwrap that angel and pick the perfect spot for her to sit on the tree.  The grandkids who had to come from far away got to hang theirs on the tree on Christmas Eve when we would gather to celebrate.

We spent Christmas Eve at the grandparents houses.  First on my dad's side, then on my mom's side.  Everyone always did something small for each of the kids, so we left with lots of candy, cookies, handmade items and trinkets, and of course, toys.  As we got older, the gifting stopped, but the spirit was the same.  There was always love and happiness in the room whenever we gathered.  On my mom's side, someone would always be able to play piano, so we would sing carols and read the Christmas Story from the Bible before opening gifts.  And of course, we had lots of amazing food!  A Christmas Feast!

Christmas morning at our house was always an exciting event.  Since Gina and I were so close in age, we often got the same gifts.  One year we both got bikes, one year stereos, etc.  There are so many photos of us in our new Christmas pajamas surrounded by our identical gifts.  Our parents always tried to make sure everything was equal.  :)

After all my grandparents passed away, the traditions changed somewhat.  We don't go over there on Christmas Eve anymore.  We actually meet up with my parents at their house.  Gina and Rob bring the kids and we all open gifts together after eating the same Christmas feast.  This year, I have a new family member to contribute - Jon.  Maybe next year we will have another new family member.  (fingers crossed!)

Just because the traditions have changed, that doesn't mean they are not still magical and wonderful.  Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Not because I get gifts, because honestly I could do without gifts. But because everyone seems a little happier, a little more peaceful, and a little more generous than they normally do.  Because Christmas is a time of singing and spending time with people you love.  Because you have days off from work to spend with people who matter to you.  Because there is an important reason for the celebration - the birth of Christ.  It's just magical.

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