Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Remember Whensday: Christmas Memories

Getting our Christmas Tree at the farm

Christmas is a special time of year for children. Family traditions are so important and become the things we remember most over the years. I cannot remember one gift I received in 1962 or 1964 but recall that we always had a paper advent calendar on a window with little doors we opened in turn.

We went to my uncle's farm to select a Christmas tree and decorated it with the same ornaments each year.

Mom baked sugar cookies, shortbreads, marshmallow rolls and Christmas cake and we were allowed two treats a day from a special tray. Grandad always sent us an ornate gingerbread house early in December which we smashed and ate after the New Year.

Christmas Eve was spent at Grandma's house and we each had to perform a song or recite a poem for the extended family. We didn't have a fireplace and Santa left our stockings at the end of our beds.

Dad always read the Christmas story from the Bible before we opened our gifts Christmas morning. We received a toy, a book and a piece of clothing every year. Mom let us make table ornaments for the dinner table and party favours for our guests on Christmas Day.

Decorating candy trees at Grandma's house with our cousins

Our own children have identified their favourite Christmas activities and I am in trouble if I try to alter something which is particularly meaningful to them.

We had a Christmas dinner for patients and their families at the hospital today. Most of them have been with us for months and will not go home this holiday season or ever. A volunteer was playing Silent Night on the piano and I noticed one of my patients was crying. I went to her to see what was wrong.

She held my hand and simply said, "That is a Portugese carol."

The music transported her back to her childhood in Portugal where she had sung that tune with family at a special time of year. I did not correct her and tell her it was written by a German musician. It was a memory from her homeland, the words remembered in her native language, a link to happier times and people she loved.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions?

Follow this link for more Remember Whensday posts.

My mother wrote an essay called "What Christmas Means to Me" when she was a teenager. I copied it in two posts in December 2006. Here are the links to her Christmas memories.
What Christmas Means to Me- Part 1
What Christmas Means to Me- Part 2


  1. So true that family traditions are so much more important than the presents. Our traditions are to cut a tree from the National Forest, sing Christmas carols on Christmas eve, accompanied by pralines, cookies and egg nog, and have beignets for breakfast on Christmas morning.

  2. Mexico Mom10:47 pm GMT-5

    Afraid I shed a few tears in remembering. They were tears of joy and blessing for the wonderful family we had then and still have. Like you I remember more of the traditions than the gifts. Grandma's Christmas scrapbook has something I wrote about traditions of my childhood during the war years.
    Love to a wonderful Christmas daughter.

  3. I love stories of your childhood and how you tell them...very vivid. Our traditions are to open one gift Christmas Eve...(always p.j.'s!), watch White Christmas at some point during the season and have homemade cinnamon buns Christmas morning. One of my funniest memories is my dad nailing the tree to the floor because it kept falling down!!

  4. I can only remember a few presents from the past yet the traditions are still in my memories. The tree was decorated on Christmas Eve and we stayed up late, my parents hoping we'd sleep in. We could open our stocking gifts upon awakening, but presents waited until after breakfast. We always ate duck for the holidays and even us kids got a little cheap champagne with dinner.
    Thanks for sharing your traditions.

  5. I love yr photos. The 2nd one of the girls in same dresses reminds of my childhood.

  6. We've decided not to give one another gifts this year as none of us really needs anything, and truly, the money can be better spent. But, one tradition that always makes me smile is when we gather on Christmas Eve to have our special time together while enjoying my mom's cocktail meatballs, rolls, sausage cheese squares, cocktail shrimp, cheese balls with crackers, Chex Mix, and cookies. I know it's an odd combination, but we so enjoy it!

  7. Thanks for sharing your special traditions. Mom, I added the links to your essay on "What Christmas Means to Me". I had posted it three years ago.

  8. I remember the smells. We always went to grandma's house for Christmas. The smells of dinner cooking would always greet us at the door. She always made a plum pudding in a fruit can. Then when it was served she lit it on fire as she placed it on the table. It must have had alcohol in it. I also seem to remember that we usually had snow. We still have the ornaments that my mom and dad made for their first Christmas together (69 years ago) - made out of wire screen (like used in windows) and cut in the shape of a stocking - with red nail polish on the edges. They didn't have extra money for ornaments back then. These ornaments are still placed on the Christmas tree and will be passed down to the next genereration along with the story. Thanks for reminding me about these memories.

  9. Anonymous8:52 am GMT-5

    I love your second photo; its so Dick and Jane-ish!

    My girls love their Christmas stockings and bacon for breakfast, church service on Christmas eve and Christmas dinner at Grammy's.

    Traditions are the best at Christmas.

  10. When we had our first child, we informed our parents we would no longer be coming home for Christmas and we started our own traditions. They are all the same every year and our grownup kids wouldn't have it any other way.

    Our daughter-in-law was totally surprised that everything was so orderly on Christmas morning. At her house everyone dived under the tree and ripped open every package, the whole process taking less than 10 minutes.

    I know that tradition will repeat itself and that when I have grandchildren, I will be the guest and not the host. Ah...the cycle of life.

  11. Wonderful post and I love that last photo at the table. Your memories tally with some of my own and it was always a wonderful time of year and so special. My favorite part every year was going to the candlelight service on Christmas eve and opening presents together on Christmas morning. I miss the family times now that my children are grown and scattered.

  12. Thanks for sharing these special memories.Some of the most simple things are often the most treasured and we think we have to spend alot of money to make our children happy.

  13. Hi Ruth....I love nostalgia....thank you for sharing your lovely memories.....

    I always watched 'the snowman' Christmas morning with the children.....I now do it with my Grandchildren.....
    Toasting marshmallows over a log fire Christmas Eve.....
    Sitting at the table Christmas Day and each of us remembering those that have left us and raising our glasses to them......

  14. We always read the Christmas story in the Bible on Christmas Eve and Santa came while we were out doing chores either on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

  15. You are lucky to have an uncle who has trees for you.

    Our first trees were artificial. Then 10 years later, Mum grew a tree.

    Lots of good memories decorating our trees.

    Again, in the tropics, it doesn't feel the same.

  16. As kids, we didn't have much money. Each of us got new P.J.'s. A new board game was there for everybody to enjoy.
    Our family has grown a few in numbers (has to when there are nine siblings). We now do our family Christmas the closest Sat to the 25th. Children 16 and under we draw names for. 16 and older go into the adult "gag" gift exchange. Gag gifts can be just that, homemade, silly things, money, gift cards. The fun part about this is that if you want a gift that somebody has, you can take it from them. But that doesn't mean you will end up with it. There is this same ugly gift that has made an appearance for years now. You always want to avoid picking that gift. The gift isn't important, it's the fun we have opening them up, cause you just never know what you will get. We have a traditional turkey dinner. We then play games, board games, cards, spoons...we play for hours. Our family gets together weekly, but that doesn't make Christmas any less important and fun. As you know this will be a bittersweet Christmas, one I will cherish.

  17. Old pics are such a joy to remember with! Thanks for sharing...

  18. What a wonderful post! It definitely stirred feelings of nostalgia in me. I loved the matching dresses.

  19. I'm not sure on this foggy morning (in my head) of my favourite traditions, but I enjoyed yours.

  20. Wonderful warm memories, and great photos you've shared! My mother's favorite thing on Christmas morning was to joyfully kick up all the empty wrappings and bows after all the presents were opened. As a little kid I always got a kick out of see a "grownup" act like a kid!

  21. What a nostalgic post. I love your pics - they do take us back in time, don't they?

    Our traditions are cookie and fruit cake baking. Singing carols in front of the Christmas tree, turkey for dinner and I remember angel chimes. I'd forgotten all about those tin angels that went round and round on a carosel. There were white candles underneath the angels, the heat of which made the angels turn.

  22. Yes! I agree! It is the memories of the scents, the experiences, the music, the connection to other human beings, that matter; the gifts are never the things that matter the most. One of my happiest Christmas memories was the Christmas Eve that snow finally came, after a long, snow-less December; it was beautiful: so perfect and idylic. I remember standing at the window, staring out as the gentle, but steadily falling, snow fell, covering everything in my view. My heart was filled with joy. It was much more than just a "white Christmas" that brought the joy, something so much deeper than that.It was truly a spiritual experience, and yet, I cannot say exactly why it touched me so deeply. Yet touch me, it did, that Christmas was 40 years ago, and yet, I remember it as if it were yesterday. Thanks for the reminder.

  23. Christmas Eve celebration has always been a festive tradition in our family. We've had a few occasions when my mother or father found people who were away from their families, homeless or were terminally ill and invited them to celebrate with us.

  24. I miss the getting of a Chistmas tree like we did when I was young. My wife prefers the artificial type and I have daughters with alergies. So that tradition is gone. Oh, well. We will develop a new one.


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