In light of my recent conversation with son #2’s wife (whom I choose to call daughter) about Christmas, I made the startling discovery that Christmas is less than three months away. It made me hearken back to Christmases of my childhood and my children’s childhoods. I love the memories, and I love the traditions.
I grew up in a family that consisted of two older brothers and my parents. Both sets of grandparents lived in a city about 3 hours away and we would often see them near Christmas. I would save money all year and carefully select or make their gifts (I was a good seamstress) in the delightful secrecy of my room. Then I would buy the prettiest wrapping paper and ribbons I could find to wrap these special packages. Mom used to say it was a shame to open them. Often I would buy small gifts for special friends. It was easy to love Christmas. Coming up with 10 great gifts was a breeze.
Dad would always save a few last gifts to buy for Mom on Christmas Eve afternoon. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t procrastinating, because he never bought much that day. He’d let me go with him to select these last few precious gifts for his sweetheart, and while we were out we’d deliver gifts to my friends.
As a teen I started sneaking some extra gifts into Mom and Dad’s Christmas stockings. To this day I don’t know if they figured out who did it. It was so much fun to see their faces as they opened their stockings to find things that they knew the other had not put in there. I hope I was a good enough liar (not generally a skill I was practiced in) to get past their questioning.
When our children were smaller and there were fewer of them, the budget was really tight – not that it’s changed all that much now – and again, many of the gifts were homemade. One year I made a teddy bear for our oldest son. I chuckled the last time I helped him move – just last year – because he still has his teddy. Teddy is now 32 years old. Often the gifts were practical – homemade PJ’s, bathrobes, sweat pants and sweatshirts – all made from fabric that was on sale for half price and patterns I had used so many times I could almost cut the shapes without the patterns. We’d try to get the kids each one fun gift from their Christmas list. I loved the secrecy. I loved the planning.
One year when we had the first four boys – probably aged about 3, 7, 9, and 11 – I had been in a car accident and had really messed up my back and neck with whiplash. There was no way I could sit at the sewing machine for more than about five minutes without ending up in excruciating, burning neck and back pain. I had taught the older three boys some basic sewing machine skills. They so desperately wanted the tradition of bathrobes and PJs to continue that they worked together to make everything, under my supervision – and then they pretended to be surprised when they opened them Christmas morning.
Now, the gift giving is simpler. So many just ask for gift cards and I am happy to oblige.
Christmas morning is loaded with traditions. Christmas Eve is often filled with games and a trip to see the live Nativity Pageant. Christmas morning always has a huge breakfast, with lingering and laughing over gift giving as we watch each gift being opened. If kids are coming home for Christmas day we might even have a potluck Christmas dinner.
I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas traditions.