My mother and father began our Christmas celebrations when they got married and had their five children. I was the oldest, born on Christmas, and along came four more, all boys. My mother would decorate the living room, shop, and bake for weeks, right up until Christmas Eve. Brandy soaked fruitcakes, coffee raisin ring, Italian cookies, apple pies and much, much more. My Dad and we children were in charge of picking out the family tree. I remember one year when we were all sick, my Dad got the tree himself for $5.00 and brought it home. It was the saddest tree I had ever seen. It was so short and missing tons of branches. We told him it looked like the "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree. It wasn't until I grew up with that memory that I realized my parents might have been having a hard time financially that year, something we all can probably relate to this year.
Our parents made sure that we always got at least one gift that we really wanted. For me it was usually ice skates or a doll. One year I wanted a record player. It was a tough year, but to make my wish come true under that tree, my dad picked an old, broken player out of the trash and fixed it up like new. I loved that record player. My Dad would also wait until Christmas Eve to get my mother's gift, until I grew older and talked him into shopping a little bit earlier. He and I would go out to dinner and then make the rounds of stores; ending up with two or three "perfect" gifts. And then, on Christmas Eve, he would take out his harmonica and play a lively rendition of Frosty the Snowman or Jingle Bells; but it was Silent Night that was the best. That was when everyone, including the children, would sit ever so quiet for those few minutes as he played. Those moments are now a cherished memory, gone to a better place with my father in 1995.
My mother, brothers and I all live in different states with our own families now. Our own children are grown and parents themselves. To this day, they have all kept some of the family traditions and started some of their own. This year, my husband and I get to be "just grandparents" and sit back while our daughter's family brings out the familiar and the new to our celebration. Of course, I will bring our homemade apple pies, Italian cookies and my mom's coffee raisin ring made from her mother's recipe, to our daughters home and relive memories of when my own children were little. It doesn't seem that long ago, when I was the one baking for weeks, decorating every nook and cranny and playing Mrs. Santa while Mr. Santa procrastinated on MY gift, but time moves on, children grow up. The spirit of Christmas will always be there, as will be the laughter of little children and the hopes and wishes of a world praying for PEACE.
From our house to yours...a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year!