Small Beginnings: Christmas traditions that warm my heart

I suppose we all have childhood memories of Christmas. Some of them look like a Norman Rockwell painting and others look like a scene from the Griswold’s Christmas! I have interesting Christmas images that to me are fond and fuzzy though to someone else might be a bit zany and strange. I always presumed that the way we celebrated Christmas was the same for everyone else. Of course as a child you assume many things that you later learn are inaccurate. Still, my snapshots from the scrapbooks of the seventies as I grew up are filled with good moments that help me look forward to the season with pleasant anticipation.

Our family always understood the significance of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. The manger scene was always a focal point in our home and we spoke of the birth of the savior while we made our lists for Santa. My Nana always encouraged us to pore over the Sears wish book and bend the pages or mark items with our initials to create a list so she could shop. Looking back I am pretty certain this was a distraction technique that guaranteed her a half hour of peace and quiet while we were visiting more so than a genuine interest in my greedy mile long wish list. It was genius, I must admit! My brother and I loved going over that catalog, mangling nearly every page in the toy section!

I remember one year in particular I had taken great pains to write out my list in detail, including page numbers and descriptions. I had advanced from the simple circling and initialing system and wanted something more official to be my list. Upon completion of this arduous task, I proudly presented my scrawled list to my Poppop and declared, “This is what I want for Christmas!” True to form, come Christmas day when I opened up my packages, in one very special box I discovered that very Christmas list returned to me. Very puzzled and confused, I looked at the adults all over the room who were snickering and chuckling and finally my Poppop said, “Well, you told me that was what you wanted, so that’s what you got!” This is the sense of humor I inherited. Sarcasm and literalism rolled up in silly!

In addition to practical jokes, our packages were often laden with just plain practical items. I know this will sound curious to many of you, but for us it was commonplace to receive tubes of toothpaste and bottles of ketchup, boxes of macaroni and cheese, cereal or cheesits for gifts! I also thought this was common to all people and only realized after growing up, that most families did not exchange grocery items for Christmas! After heading home and unpacking, we basically restocked the pantry with all the goodies from the day and found it to be quite the blessing!

I am still a very practical gift giver, however I must say that when it comes to the kids I do not want to be known as the mom or aunt or grandma who only gives socks and underwear. I seriously do want to be the favorite so I try to mix an awesome present in there with the deodorant and the body wash. That’s why I believe in lists. I request lists from all my kids not so much so I can purchase precisely those items as to have a bit of a theme or a hint as to what the gang is interested in. You can begin to read between the lines of lists and interpret the trend and then get creative. For instance, my son has comic books on his list every year. My son is a grown man, but yes, he still enjoys comics. He inherited this from my husband who subscribed to several comic books well after we were married. Anyway, I may not actually purchase him comics, but I can see his quirky interests and springboard that into creative shopping choices that I hope will surprise and delight him. So Christmas for me is a mixture of goofy and charming. Perhaps next week, we can talk about another favorite aspect of Christmas – the menu!

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