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A Family's Christmas Tradition and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Updated on December 16, 2010

This Christmas is going to be hard this year, my husband passed away in May and this shall be the first Christmas since his death. It is already December 16th, and no tree is put up, no Christmas cards sent out, no decorations set out, not enough money to really do much this year, and nothing is done. And I was sitting here today thinking that I really should get in gear and get some of this done, but sorrow fills my day. It is the anniversary of his death today, and that is all that I could think of as I sit here in the sadness, so I decided to take myself back to happier days, wandering through the corridors of my mind, trying to find a past of long ago. Much like the story, The Christmas Carol, I went to find my ghost of Christmas Past. To a happier time when life was easier, when life seemed that it was full of joy and not worries about finances, and the mounting bills, it always appeared to be so carefree back then. I would always anticipate Christmas with such excitement!

And my ghost of Christmas Past stopped all those years ago when my Aunt and Uncle would host an open house on Christmas Eve. My grandmother lived with them, for my grandfather, her husband had passed away before I was born and lived with my aunt and uncle. And grandma had six children, and many, many grandchildren, too many to go and visit on her own, so they would come to her! Christmas Eve is also my dad’s birthday, so we always had a double celebration. And before we were allowed to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s, we all went to the Christmas Eve pageant at the church. And then it would be time to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s!

Their home was opened up for Christmas Eve, never knowing who would stop by. Family, aunts, uncles, cousins that you may only see once a year, friends, friends of friends, stopping and wishing a Merry Christmas! Tables laden with wonderful food, all those delicious snacks laid out like a feast, and drinks galore! My aunt would bring out this wonderful punchbowl set reserved for this special drink that was made once a year, putting my uncle and dad in charge of making Tom and Jerry’s. A frothy concoction that the two of them would always put way too much liquor in! If you have never tried this “punch”, I will leave you the recipe, all you have to do is adjust it to the size of your group!

6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup rum
1 cup brandy
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups boiling water
Serves 6

Separate eggs. Beat egg whites until stiff, and then beat yolks until thick with the sugar. Blend whites and yolks together and add the rum and brandy. Add spices and gradually add boiling water, stirring the mixture until well mixed. Serve in the cups with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

There are raw eggs in this batter, so make sure you use pasteurized eggs.

Now back to the rest of the story, I remember grandma would sit in her chair like the royal matriarch of the family, receiving her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren friends, and more friends. Everyone loved Gram! And she always had a smile for everyone and loved babies! If there was a new baby just bring it to Gram to hold and kiss and love! She truly was the Gem of our family. She would sit in her chair and humbly open presents, thanking everyone, and always smiling. And in between she would be back and forth in the kitchen, ensuring everyone always had enough to eat, and yelling at the men to quit putting so much booze into the Tom and Jerry’s! It was always a night of celebration, and family and memories, stories told of the past, laughter, loads and loads of laughter! If you knew our family, you would know exactly what I am talking about. It would seem as the night went on, laughter would grow louder, stories a little bit more exaggerated, and drinks flowing! And then as the night wore on, people would start leaving to go home and prepare for their own day tomorrow, until finally it was just my Aunt, Uncle, my cousin Paula and Gram, my mom, dad, and my two brothers, my sister and me.

Bellies were stuffed; the fireplace was crackling with its warmth, and voices mellow and the night late. And the last tradition of the evening, my dad would always make my cousin Paula play the organ and sing Christmas carols. I think this was his favorite time of the night. He would sit with her on the bench while she played, and we would all sing those lovely songs of Christmas, Silent Night, Joy to the World, O Holy Night, The Little Drummer Boy, so many of those lovely traditional Christmas songs. We would all sing with him, our family praising that loved time of year with voices, some on-key, some off-key, but beauty in the way of family together, creating warm memories of love and song combined.

And then the grand finale!

My father would make Paula play his favorite song of all time, The Battle Hymn of the Republic! As I sit here with my ghost of Christmas Past, I remember my father sitting there while the tune was played, and he would sing those words from that song, with tears streaming down his face, just as mine are now.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

We didn’t always know the exact words to that song, he might have, but it really didn’t matter. What mattered was that our family was there, tears brimming in our eyes, singing that song with my dad, and living our Christmas tradition. Our legacy to carry us into our futures, never forgetting those moments, never forgetting every time I hear that song, or think of Christmas Eve. So now it is time for my ghost of Christmas Past to leave and my ghost of Christmas Present to take my hand, and embracing those memories to allow me to live in this time, this time now, blended with the past, and hopeful for the future.


I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! And may you always have memories to keep you warm!




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    • LaurieDawn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Yes Paula, it will always remind me of long ago and Christmas. I play it every year, and always remember you sitting there with Dad on the bench, and once he started to cry, so did we! All of us! And I know that it was very sad when your organ burned with the church. A sad day. But just think of all the beautiful use it got while it was here!

      Love you!


    • PookieB profile image


      7 years ago

      I never fail to play that song at some point during the Christmas Season, Laur. He insisted I turn the drums on and pound out the rhythm on the foot pedals...I've yet to find anyone else who is reminded of Christmas by the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but it's truly a treasured memory of our family. The day the church burned down was extremely emotional for me, not just because of losing my lifelong Church, but because my beloved organ was lost in the blaze as well, and never again would I be able to pound out, with snares and drums blaring, the Battle Hymn of the Republic. But I still hear it in my heart, and my fingers can still remember those notes, no sheet music necessary. Love you.

    • LaurieDawn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Ohhh I am so sorry UlrikeGrace. What a tragedy to have happen so sudden and so soon to the Holidays. My condolences go out to her and her family, to you for the loss. And yes that is some comfort in the time of grief to know that they have went home to be with our Lord.

      May you have a wonderful Holiday.

      Blessings and hugs,


    • UlrikeGrace profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      THank for this Laurie, we have just had a very dear friend lose her husband but 3 days ago and we are all still in a state of some shock. I needed to hear this as my heart breaks for her as she and their family spends this Christmas, so soon, without her dear one. He is safe and sound in the arms of the Lord, but for her the grief of parting so suddenly hurts so bad just now. Thank you, I don't know what else to say.

      Blessings to you

      Ulrike Grace

    • LaurieDawn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Awww Darski! You bless me with your joy and you "stopping" by to see me! We can march and sing at the top of our lungs, singing our own songs of Holiday Cheer! It is people like you and the wonderful friends and family that make this life worth experiencing all that there is!

      Thank you for your support and your kindness! A wonderful gift my Friend!

      Blessings, hugs and love to you also!


    • LaurieDawn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hugs for you my Sweet Lady Pooh! We all have our memories to bare and our memories to cherish, and what makes them what they are, are the people we share them with. I am glad that I have friends like you in this great big world, friends who have touched my life, and brought a smile to my heart.

      Blessings, hugs and love sent to you this Holiday Season.


    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Well you can share Christmas with me, I don't have a piano but I do have some drums, we can march around and sing your dad's song and I am sure you husband will be here with us as he LOL...I wish you the very best and this Christmas will pass as life changes for us all, year after year. With my love and goodwell, your friend darski ho ho ho

    • Poohgranma profile image


      7 years ago from On the edge

      Ah little Laurie bird, you have sung a song so sweet it took my heart and broke it all to pieces. I cry for no memories like yours and I cry for no husband with you now. How uneven life is so full and so bare.

      Love and hugs and memories old I wish for you.


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