Christmas is almost here and I am just now starting to feel more in the spirit. I don’t know why it seemed to take so long this year. Perhaps I have just been too busy with other things to even comprehend how soon it will be upon us. Even though I have been online shopping and hubby has picked up things here or there for stockings as well as online shopping of his own, it just hasn’t really felt like the Christmas season. Warmer than usual weather and lack of snow also adds to the spirit not hitting me sooner as well.
But alas, I have noticed a lot of Christmas themed blog posts out there so I thought I would try my hand at my own. I am sure mine will not be as eloquent as some or insanely hilarious as others. Mine is just me being me. Thinking back on Christmases past when I was a younger, our family all lived in pretty much the same state, with the exception of some cousins and a couple of Aunts and Uncles who lived elsewhere, but visited frequently enough that it didn’t feel as if they lived in another place. We pretty much did the same thing every year that I can recall until I moved away so many years ago. Despite the routine year after year, oddly every one was special in it’s own way.
My sister and I usually put up the Christmas tree, my mom supervised and pointed out the bare spots in the tree where we could tuck an ornament or re-thread a paper chain. I am originally from Boston and every year Mom always wrote to the newspaper Santa because she was a single mom, who didn’t make a lot of money and relied a lot on the system to feed and clothe my sister, my brother and I. I remember her getting a big box in the mail and she would put it in the trunk of her car. I don’t know where she took it, but my best guess is to my grandmothers house to wrap or she waited till we were asleep before bringing it in the house to wrap and hide the gifts. I was not a very nosy child so I didn’t really search things out very much. I was more afraid of getting into trouble.
Christmas eve was always fun. My mom would make eggplant parmesan and she always had what she called an “open house”. Many people worked their regular hours at work or had shortened days but she would call all of our family and her friends and invite them over for a drink and some yummy treats that she had made. She once was a pretty good cook and when I think about the things she made especially on Christmas I am reminded of that. We helped mom clean the house to prepare for guests and set food out all over our kitchen table and on the counters, so that whoever showed up could just grab a plate and have whatever tasty treats that caught their eye. There would be Christmas music playing on the stereo, just loud enough that it could be heard throughout the house but not too loud if you wanted to have a conversation. Friends and family would start arriving around 5pm and slowly more and more would arrive. Some people came and had a bite to eat and to wish us a Merry Christmas and then were on their way to another party. Others came and stayed the whole time, mingling and chatting. When everyone was gone, my mom would send us to bed and she would tidy up the kitchen. My sister and I despite having our own bedrooms would usually confer earlier in the evening and plan a sleepover in one or the other’s bedroom. We were just too excited to be alone. We could talk and be excited together.
When morning came sometimes before the sun even arose, whoever woke up first would shake the other awake and we would go to the living room to see if Santa came. He always did and our stockings would be so full they were lying on the sofa or on top of the coffee table. One of us would sneak into mom’s room and wake her. She always seemed so tired but she got up and made herself a cup of coffee while we got to explore our stockings. Inside were individually wrapped little gifts. Almost always we got a new toothbrush, mini versions of toothpaste, shampoo and other toiletries. There were what we consider now, “dollar store” toys like a paddle ball, jacks, or a Chinese jump rope! If we got these we were in heaven. There would also be chocolate shaped like Santa, and gold foil chocolate coins (those were always a fun favorite).
When mom had sufficiently caffeinated, one of us would crawl under the tree and pluck out gifts and pass them around. We opened them and made a huge pile of wrapping paper off to one side. When everything was opened my sister and I would have to get a bag and pick up all the wrapping paper and stuff it inside to go out to the trash. Then mom would head off to the kitchen to get more coffee and make phone calls while she was making meatballs to take to her sisters house that afternoon. She always called her mom and sisters and brothers and wished them a Merry Christmas. They would chat about how well we liked our gifts and what she got. We would get our gifts and make our own area under the tree and organize our gifts claiming the space for the next day or so. The day after Christmas it would all have to be put away in our rooms but it was fun to just have everything out for the time we were allowed to.
Christmas day we would just spend playing with our toys and deciding what we wanted to wear of the new clothes we got. You see, every Christmas day about 3pm we would all head over to my aunts house. She always hosted a get together with so much food, there was barely a place to sit your plate to eat it all. There would be turkey, ham and roast beef for sandwiches. All of these were cooked by her that morning. My mother would bring her sauce and meatballs and she always made an extra pan of eggplant parmesan to bring over as well. Cousins would pour in and all the grown ups seemed to congregate in the dining room with a beverage, adult or otherwise. The kids seemed to all bring one toy that they got to show off to the other cousins. We all played together and told each other about the things ‘Santa’ brought us.
People trickled in bringing more plates of treats to share. Some family, some friends but all welcome just the same. After it seemed like all the children had arrived my Aunt would blurt out, “What was that noise?” She always said it loud enough that one of us kids heard it and we would alert the others. Someone would go see what was going on and she would summon us all to listen. First we would hear a sort of light tapping and then we heard the jingle bells. I remember all the grown ups acting surprised and asking if we thought it might be Santa showing up at our special family gathering. The doorbell would ring and usually an older cousin would answer the door. My aunt would come to the door and welcome ‘Santa’ inside out of the cold. He would ask if he was in the right place and we would just stand and stare, shaking our heads. My Aunt would fluff the cushions of a big chair in the living room and invite Santa to come in and sit down. He always had a huge bag he was carrying so he would set it down beside him. As I got older and watched younger cousins marvel at Santa in my aunt’s living room it was so awesome that my aunt pulled this off year after year. Santa had a gift for each one of us kids and a little something for the adults too. Once all the gifts were handed out, Santa would leave and we would commence our family time. My uncle’s birthday was December 26th, so we always had cake for him during the get together as well.
When everyone was full, everyone would fill up plates of goodies to take home and help clean up some so that my aunt wouldn’t have to do it all. We would say our goodbyes, thank you and Merry Christmas and head out into the cold air and go home. The plates of food were put into the refrigerator and we would all just change into our pj’s and relax. Depending how late we stayed would depend if we had to go right to bed or not. Most times we went to our rooms and played with a new toy until we fell asleep. Dreaming of the great fun and family time we had that day.
Now that I have my own family I have carried some of these traditions over into my life. In my first marriage I wasn’t fortuitous enough to have a spouse who shared in the same desire to entertain friends and family. But, my husband now enjoys doing this so with the exception of this year, we have had a yearly holiday get together. We open up our home to all of our friends and put out lots of great food and drinks and just spend time visiting with everyone. It is something I am glad to carry on and hope that someday my children carry on a part or their own version of the traditions I have tried to impart to them.
Thank you for reading till the end. I know it was long but as I wrote this I felt as if I were a child again, marveling at the snow falling, and the wonder and joy that Christmas brought to me.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!!