I spent my first years in Washington State, before moving to San Diego where my parents were from and most of our extended family lived.
My Gramps and Grammy (paternal grandparents) loved Christmas and family. They had 2 children, but 9 grandchildren! Each Christmas they would plan a day that we’d come over and drive down to the local Thrifty’s Drugstore in Gramps’ light blue Pinto and we got to pick out gifts for our parents. We each had $5 to spend per parent. If we wanted to buy a more expensive gift, we’d have to convince a sibling to go in with us on it. My dad got a lot of Brut cologne. Mom got various perfume and doodads.
After our shopping trip, we’d head back to their house where Grammy had a wrapping station set up. We’d pick our wrap and she taught us all how to wrap gifts in such a way to utilize the least amount of paper. Growing up during the Depression was never far from her mind. To this day I hear Grammy’s voice when I wrap gifts and I am very efficient in my wrapping.
Grammy also served us eggnog cut with milk and she usually added a little more nutmeg to cover the watering down!
Their house had no fireplace and at some point when my dad and aunt were young, Gramps came up with a false fireplace. I think it came from a play set because he had been involved in Junior Theater. We inherited the fireplace when we moved to San Diego and it traveled from home to home with us for maybe 15 years. It was a basic wood base and every year we’d find this brick printed corregated paper to cover it with. Even though we never believed in Santa Claus or were worried about not having a fireplace, it was another Christmas tradition.
The fireplace was a great place to hang our stockings. I don’t remember having a true stocking until the Christmas of my 4th grade year. My brother and I were going to the local elementary school and somehow we pinpointed as being a “needy family.” Which in some ways we probably were, but our needs truly were met and we weren’t too concerned about how many gifts were under the tree or what they cost.
I remember a few days or maybe a week prior to Christmas a vehicle pulled up next to our condo and unloaded a TON of wrapped gifts for our family. There were basic red stockings with white fur at the top that had our names glued on in cut out ribbon and our ages. I don’t really remember what the gifts were that year, but I do know we used those stockings until just a few years ago.
A few years ago I decided that maybe it was time to let go of these stockings, which were beginning to fall apart I had been keeping them for the past several years. I surveyed each sibling and they were willing to give them up as well. Good memories, but it was time. I want to sew new stockings for all of us, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Another fun Christmas memory involves Princess, a cute cocker spaniel dog. She belonged to some good friends of ours who often traveled at Christmastime, and we got to dog-sit. It was pure heaven for four kids to have a dog to play with at Christmas, even if she wasn’t ours to keep.
When I was in 9th grade, in a moment of weakness we convinced my dad to take us to see some pupplies I had found in the newspaper and we came home with a puppy named Star, because we got her right before Christmas. Star was a part of our family for more than 10 years.
These are the things Christmas is made of in my mind and heart.
Christmas wasn’t made of the gifts on my list or the gifts under the tree. It wasn’t about luxurious vacations or fancy parties. Christmas was made of family, time together and silly traditions.
While Bean and I strive to be able to give our children a little more than what we had as kids, my goal is still for Christmas to be more than lists and gifts. The kids are still young and I’m just starting to feel like I’m coming out of the fog of being a working mom who had 3 kids in 5 years.
But I’m trying to find our traditions. To seek out what can make Christmas about family and shared memories.
What fun Christmas memories or traditions do you have from childhood?