Sunday, December 18, 2016
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy
Traditional Christmas memories
by Julie Carter
My lifelong Christmas traditions were fostered in what I recall as simpler times. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything simple about anything in those days, but kids seem to not miss what they don’t know is missing. Ignorance is bliss or something along those lines.
Family rituals that became part of the holidays for the generations that followed have deep roots planted long ago. One tradition at a time. Some were customs my mother grew up with and carried on with her four children. Many were those she added along the way with a love for Christmas that turned our world into a magical place for a few weeks.
I grew up knowing that the Christmas holiday was about the celebration of family beginning with the family who started it all --Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Our celebrating began with the the Christmas tree. It was a family event that rolled my dad’s birthday and the tree cutting into one big party that included aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It always involved a few snow ball fights and bodies rolling down snow covered hills.
Mom only had a few strings of Christmas lights and they all went on the tree. In sharing my Christmas memories with my youngest when he was 10, I realized the huge gap in Christmas then and Christmas in his generation. Already thinking I was ancient, I will share that this is the son who asked if I wrote on rocks when I was in school. Presumably he meant like the Flintstones or Moses.
He questioned the existence of electricity back then and asked what we used for lights on the tree. I assured him we plugged our lights into a socket but told him that in my grandmother’s day they had used candles on the tree. A practical thinker at a young age, he shrugged and said as he walked away, “I bet they burned down a lot of trees.”
The Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog was the center of pre-holiday anticipation at our home on the ranch. Fortunately, we did have indoor plumbing, so it was not required for use in the outhouse. The pages were worn out by the time all four of us kids got our lists made for Santa. We had no shopping malls to entice, confuse or commercialize us and only one channel on the TV, so not much damage done there.
I remember my mother working tirelessly to create the perfect 10-foot Christmas tree, the exact same number of packages under the tree for each child and making at least 15 different kinds of cookies and as many kinds of candy.
For my Dad, once the tree was cut and standing in the bay window on a stand he’d made, he was pretty much done. He knew when to make himself scarce. He did spend a designated amount of time every year teasing us about scaring Santa off with a shot gun and our stockings being left empty. It might have psychologically scarred us if we had known that it could.
Midnight mass, participating in the church program wearing a bed sheet for shepherd’s clothing, setting up the nativity and always knowing it was Jesus’ birthday that we were celebrating -- all part of the forever memories.
I watched my own kids overflow with excitement and anticipation for Christmas as they grew up. They too wanted lots of family around, the tree decorated, as many lights as possible everywhere and some homemade cookies and candy to graze on over the weeks.
They would shake and squeeze packages and hold tight to the image of Santa.They also understood that the season was about Jesus. They learned that the gifts are a symbol for the gift we received with the birth of the Christ and that saying “thank you” for both is essential, not optional.
Christmas memories of long ago dictate what we find in the season today. Those memories, as varied as they are in location, extravagance or lack of it, belong to us. They reach a depth of emotion within us that no other holiday comes close to touching.
What each generation teaches the next about Christmas is critical to Christmas itself. If we let them take the Christ out of Christmas, then “one nation under God” becomes no nation under God. The shepherds had no GPS on that cold night 2000+ years ago. It only took a star.
May this season be the star shining bright for you and yours. Merry Christmas.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org