Christmas is for Children
Christmas is for Children
Why Christmas is Special
I remember when I was little, how important the holidays seemed. Christmas, to me, still holds some of that childhood magic. I'll admit the other holidays, like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween have lost their luster. I'm not sure why; maybe it's because commercialization has diminished some of these occasions enchantment. On Thanksgiving the retail stores are urging shoppers for Christmas. I lost interest in Halloween when I realized perhaps it is not the right thing to honor. Easter is important to me but as a church day and not a "Bunny" day. With Christmas, it's different. The enchantment of Christmas is tradition. The traditions of family, sharing, and of love.
While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced in Their Heads
What was your favorite Christmas Holiday memory?
Mother decorated the Foyer to the Fullest
Welcomed Seasons Greetings
Aunts and uncles, cousins and family friends would visit our home; the days at Advent were spent welcoming visitors. Some of them would come bearing gifts, usually, some kind of home-baked sweet. At our front door, stood a boot brush and coat tree. The window was filled with a great pine wreath. Its ribbon would hang so long that whenever the door was swung, it was liable to get caught. Mother decorated the entryway lavishly. Draped down the staircase were garlands of pine with red bows strategically placed at each swoop. A set of electric plastic candle sticks at the landing window held tiny red and green light bulbs. Every holiday greeting card ever received hung from the molding around the room. The crowning touch in the hallway was the ball of holly strung from the chandelier. She said, "It's the first place anyone sees, even if they don't come in."
Home for the Holidays
My Mom must have made Thirty different kinds of cookies
As each guest arrived, the festivities began with the kiss under the mistletoe. A crystal punch bowl sat nearby filled with eggnog to cheer the spirit of the day, while songs of the season softly played in the background. It didn't matter which one of us greeted the door, we made a game of who would make it to the door first, happy to open our hearts to anyone who came. Smiles were abundant.
Straight-ahead was the kitchen; its counters brimmed of every type of Christmas cookie, dessert bread, pie and cake. I swear, My mom must have made thirty different kinds of cookies, alone. There were raisin filled, chocolate chip, and peanut butter with and without chocolate chips. She made Short breads cut into Christmas shapes, Russian Tea Cakes, Finnska Kakors, and Date Nut Coconut Balls. But the dessert table's centerpiece was her German Chocolate four layer cake. My cousin traveled far and wide to come for Christmas. He claimed it was to get a huge hunk of that cake.
Dad set up aluminum folding tables around the sides of the dining room and that was no easy feat, since the room was only eleven by twelve feet. The windows were surrounded with Mom's exotic curtains she made with the green and red tropical floral print. The metal tables fit over the radiators while the heat drifted up, warming the food. Luckily, an archway lent length into the living room.
In the middle of the dining room was the table, an antique lion-claw oak table, with all five leaves it stretched well into the living room. Covered with my grandmother's damask white table clothes and napkins, my mom set each place with special attention. She had name cards slipped into little glass frames and stood them upon each person's salad plate. The dishes shined from the candles reflections. For days before hand, we spent polishing the silverware and serving platters.
Dinner was served. Dad carried out the platter holding the prime rib; it was done to perfection, medium rare on the ends. Mom and my sister carried the side dishes of creamed onions, green beans, Harvard beets, mashed potatoes, and winter squash. My brother was given the responsibility of delivering the specialty sides like scalloped oysters. I was at the end of the line with the pans of Yorkshire pudding.
Bringing out the Food
Through the archway, in the living room, sat all those that were part of our lives. My grandmother, a typical turn of the century schoolteacher type, was very matriarchal in the way she held herself. Across from her sat my grandfather, a very easygoing character, as long as he had his pipe. Placed upon the floor were the children, who with each year renewed their alliance, content to play among themselves. The year before, the youngest at the time had been only three when they met. Once they were cast upon the carpet, their common bond of a "Barbie" doll broke any barriers of shyness. Adults had priority seating, so my Aunt sat on the couch next to my Uncle. My cousins and their wives arranged the straight-backed chairs into a conversation pit with my sister and brother. Dad stood up most of the time, that way he could move about to the different areas of interest. Even with Mom in and out of the kitchen, she still managed to keep up with my aunt's accounting events since they had last spoken.
Up against the living room's inner wall stood the year's offering, the Christmas tree. Although it was simply trimmed, the tree seemed perfect. My Dad had strung the lights and Mom hung the more delicate decorations. The honor of the finishing touches was given to us kids; we slung strands of tinsel and crowned the top with the star.
The Christmas tree
After what seemed like hours, those who could fit went into the living room. Finally, it was time for presents. My sister played Santa and passed out the pretty wrapped packages, so that everybody received one. But only one person at a time could do the opening; it was a pretty slow process. The men passed around pen knives to women, so that the taped paper could be gently undone. A picture of each prize was taken, the star being the beholder. Snapshots of the table before and after dinner were mandatory. Photographs of the tree and the other decorations were done at the beginning.
When all was said and done, the adults sat back around the twenty-one foot table. It was time for coffee, dessert, and more chatting. This was a tradition that allowed time for their stomachs to digest from the feast. The children played again on the carpet with the newest additions to their toy collections.
Christmas Coming to the Close
Steamy windows and the clanking radiators exuded the warmth of the room. The smell of snow sifted in, as the first of our guests opened the front door to leave. The house grew quieter with each group that departed. It left a funny feeling deep down inside me. The Christmas carol Silent Night always comes to mind with that feeling.
Norman Rockwell Famous for Capturing New England Christmas
- Artist and Studio
photo of Norman Rockwell painting "MAIN STREET STOCKBRIDGE"
Great Minds Think Alike
Now a days, I don't have all that much family but try to share the shadows of my Christmas past with my children and grandchildren. Through them sharing traditions, the magic will be carried on. I only hope that their memories will be as pleasant as mine. In closing, I want to add a personal note. Any writing that I have ever done, is always based on my experiences and observations growing up and living in New England. My parents were older than most of my peers' parents, so it gave me a unique outlook for someone my age. I used images by Norman Rockwell's hand simply for the aesthetics he is able to create with his brush. Norman Rockwell is one my favorite artist for a few reasons but mainly because of his ability to capture feelings and memories which are typically reminiscent of New England. It is my intention to accomplish this same result by using a different media form, my writing.