I love holidays.
Birthdays. Valentines Day. Independence Day. Memorial Day. Halloween. Thanksgiving.
If there is a reason to decorate my house, give a card, create a gift, bake cookies, reach out to people, or toast a friend with a paper cup filled with fruit punch, count me in.
Growing up, my family observed many traditions to commemorate special occasions. When my siblings were young,
our mother baked and decorated a special three-tiered cake for birthdays. Sadly, those pans were lost by the time I came along.
Most days, my family took meals around a table in the kitchen but on holidays we ate in the dining room.
The table would be set with cloth napkins, the good silver, china, and crystal ware. The entire family would dress for the occasion too. Dad wore a smart-looking suit and tie. The boys cleaned up into a button down shirt and slacks. Mom wore a dress accessorized with fashionable earrings and necklace. My sister and I gussied up in our prettiest Sunday outfits. Black patent leather shoes were usually part of my fancy dress attire.
Christmas was (and still is) my favorite holiday.
My parents created a festive atmosphere throughout the month of December with a freshly cut evergreen (my father’s family being German), baked goods, and traditional holiday music on the stereo. My mother, however, had always wanted to incorporate one of her family’s Norwegian traditions into our Christmas Eve family observance.
When I was a preschooler, Dad was willing to give it a go.
A few days before Christmas, my parents set up an artificial tree in the family room. A handful of cheerfully wrapped presents were placed beneath it. The year was 1969, so think A Charlie Brown Christmas, complete with silver aluminum and a color wheel illuminating the tree from a corner.
Christmas Eve was fun.
We’d bake sugar cookies and go to church for candlelight service and sing hymns about Jesus’ birth. But the “magic” happened after I went to bed, vainly trying to sleep so Santa Claus would come. “He” would bring a fresh evergreen tree (filled with lights and decorations) to replace the aluminum one. Stockings filled with candy, fruit, and little toys would be hung on the fireplace. The presents would fill all the space under the tree, spilling out in front.
Our holiday cheer found familiarity in the secular trappings of mistletoe, tinsel, and Rudolph although we did have a traditional manger scene displayed on the mantel. I have wonderful memories of Christmas morning from my early childhood. But in the next few years, my parents would put less effort into making December 25th “magical”.
When we moved from the suburbs to a house in the country (which did not have a formal dining room) our holiday dinners became more casual. Hiding and setting up a Christmas tree in one evening: a laborious chore. Over time, as my siblings and I grew up, our parents divorced, and my sister married. Through it all, however, one important tradition has remained unchanged for my family:
Christmas is a time of to remember those you cherish.