I know Christmas is quite a few months away. I normally don't think about the Christmas season, until I can't escape the incessant sounds of bells clanging for money, the crackle of frozen tree branches, and the Chipmunks singing "Christmas Don't Be Late". Tonight I found myself remembering a promise I made to one of the MOPS moms. She had requested we write a little snippet about our American Christmas traditions. I suppose it's to be posted in a British Church newsletter about Christmas time around the world. So here are a few of ours... Hope you enjoy.
Christmas time in our house started the day my mom said it did. She was, is, and always be a fan of everything Christmas. We'd pull our boxes of decorations down from the garage rafters. We'd rearrange the furniture to put up our artificial tree. We'd hang the lights followed by scores of handmade and gifted ornaments. It was my little sister's and my job to scatter the tinsel over the "twigs". My mom would have all the Christmas music she could get her hands on playing on repeat all season long. Mom would write our family newsletter with information about what we'd done each year, what our extended family had done, and the length of our hair (we, girls, don't cut or trim our hair). She'd send it to/hand it to people from church, family, our friends and my parent's longtime friends. We were in charge of stuffing the envelopes and putting the postal stamps on. (Except the one year when I was maybe 5 years old and flushed her Christmas Newsletter stamps she'd saved to purchase. I was so mad at her for something. She just sat on the couch to cry. Sorry Mom!)
A couple days before Christmas Eve, we'd help make up decorative plates of peanut butter fudge (my little sister was/is allergic to caffeine), stained glass sugar cookies (raw sugar cookies decorated with a mixture of food coloring, egg whites, and water. They are baked as normal. They come out looking like stained glass windows.), and other sweet treats. My two sisters and I would put on coats, hats and boots to pass out the sugary confections along with our family newsletter (as I recall) to our neighbors. Our grandma's box of goodies and gifts would arrive at our doorstep in Colorado from Michigan. My mom would always take my cousins, siblings and me to the mall to buy gifts. We'd run off in pairs eager to spend our allotment of cash. (I think the mall trip was more for her to people watch kid free. She would talk about the bustle of last-minute shoppers trying to materialize their love through the gifts to be given.)
We'd head to church for our annual candle light Christmas Carol sing-along which always included a stirring three part male harmony version of We Three Kings followed by the congregation singing together Go Tell it on the Mountain. My mom, who collects/collected Christmasy type stories, would get up in front of the congregation to read a couple. We'd have a short re-enactment of the biblical happening of Jesus's birth. Everyone would head to the church basement, after a closing prayer, for refreshments and fellowship.
Christmas Eve would arrive. Dad would order a pizza because Mom was tired of cooking by that point. We'd pass out the presents to our respective seats. We'd find our bibles. We'd gather around the twinkling tree to first honor God by reading from Matthew 1 and Luke 2. We'd go around the room youngest to oldest opening one gift at a time until we'd finished. My parents usually used Christmas to buy things we really needed like new shoes, clothes, and that alarm clock my preschool aged self couldn't live without. When the wrapping paper was thrown out and our plates were cleaned up, we'd watch a Christmas movie as a family. That was a huge treat in our family, since my parents decided not to have a television in our house.
On Christmas Day, My mom would wake us up by enticing us to come eat her yummy homemade cinnamon rolls. We'd drearily wander to the table. Our stockings would be sitting at our chairs stuffed to the brim with tiny wrapped gifts usually including, but not limited to: a pad of paper, socks, underwear, a deck of cars, a toothbrush and walnuts to fill the toe. After breakfast, we'd gather all of our gifts from the night before and our stockings to carry to our rooms. We'd get ready to head to our maternal grandma's and Pastor Grandpa's house.
Their house at Christmas and Thanksgiving always smelled of laundry sheets, roasted/smoked turkey (my grandparents could never decide how they liked the turkey best), and raising dough. My grandparents had eight kids (six girls and two boys) including my mom. All of whom were/are gifted cooks. Each of my mom's siblings would bring a portion of Christmas dinner. We'd often have other members of our congregation join our festivities being my Grandfather was/is a Pastor and had an open door policy for "whosoever will". My humming Grandmother would just shake her head and add another place setting. Some of the best and most loving arguments arose out of those occasions often peppered with a Maurice or Doris. While the aunt's were busy cooking, the oldest cousins would pass out gifts and be munching on pumpkin cookies and other finger foods. Everyone always got at least one gift. Opening presents would take at least 3 hours with the number of the family/church friends. School aged youngsters would open one present at at time starting with the youngest moving to the oldest until all the gifts were open. The adults would banish them next door to my Aunt's house to play while they followed suit in gift opening.
When they were finally finished, we'd eat dinner, clean up and go for a walk in the brisk evening air through the cemetery next door to my grandparent's house. When they returned it was time for dessert and board games. More church members would arrive to hang out. I can't count how many times I fell asleep to the sounds of friendly arguments over the correct answer on trivial pursuit or boggle. My grandpa would always challenge someone to a game of Scrabble. He'd usually win....
|Santa and eight month old Dylan|