My dad was an awesome Santa Claus. He went to great lengths to add surprise and fun to our Christmas. We always visited friends or family on Christmas Eve and got to open one present from family. Sometime during the festivities dad sneakily disappeared to put our presents in the house.
When we got home late, Santa had already been to our house! He hit us early because we lived close to the north pole. My dad also built a faux fireplace so Santa could come down the chimney. This was so fun every year that even after I no longer believed in Santa, we kept up the game.
Imagine my dismay when my own son, age 3, reluctantly agreed to sit on Santa’s lap so long as he could tell Grammy what he wanted for Christmas. That child was a practical, clear-eyed little one.
We created different traditions and crafts figured big in our holidays. Every year we painted cute wooden ornaments, always together. His expertise improved and it is easy to tell which Christmas each group got painted. He still has the whole set.
We made paper chains and hung them everywhere, adding more each year. His early chains were way lopsided. We decorated the entire house with funny homemade decorations. One year I made a funky fabric Christmas tree, and stuffed it with the innards from two old pillows that had seen better days.
Mom and I got 2 bisque nativity scenes and painted them with oil paints. It took us a lot of evenings to finish since I mixed each color and it had to satisfy all of us before being applied. We used those every year until mom’s death.
My sister and her daughter so wanted those nativity sets that I let them each take one. For me, it was the time spent together that mattered. I miss my mom’s presence not her household goods. When my son got married, I let him have most of his grandmother’s things, and they comfort him still. He was Grammy’s boy.
My husband introduced Jesus Christ into our heathen holiday festivities. He took us to Midnight Mass with posole afterward, and his big heart and generosity carried the day. He made sure my son had proper religious instruction and we attended church on Sundays with him. Every evening I said the rosary with whatever children were in the house and my husband added a depth to our spiritual life that I have never duplicated. I am glad to say that my son has raised his children in church.
What I now appreciate about my husband was that he never showed any concern for our disparity in religious belief. He enveloped me with his love and faith both. He was a good man.
My husband embraced my traditions too and always took us on a Christmas lights tour before we went to church for Midnight Mass. He always knew the best neighborhoods and we saw incredible light displays. I am glad my son saw those… who would have guessed at the time that those energy extravaganzas would be gone today?
He started our house light display too. I was the designer but he got some of his cousins together and made it so. We had a lovely old Craftsman home that took well to lights and were featured in the Dallas Morning News one year. We got our own parade of cars every year, but on Christmas Eve we left a cousin in charge and were off on tour.
My grandchildren get to go to the WildLights exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo each year and it is beautiful for sure. Their traditions are a bit different. They go to their aunt’s house for snacks and to read the Christmas story. Their aunt has a nativity collection that we get to see every year. My husband would have loved it. On Christmas Day we all gather at one of three homes and have a wonderful Christmas dinner coordinated by my daughterinlaw and her sister.
No fool she, my daughterinlaw usually arranged her hosting when I was sure to be visiting! I have many years experience cooking big holiday meals and together she and I do our branch of the family proud. She is getting so good now that I am getting relegated to my specialties… sweet! I replaced my own mom as the doyenne and the baton is passed again. We always do a banana-free holiday because her sister’s motherinlaw is allergic. Some years we are peanut-free too depending on who is coming to dinner.
My son grabs the grandkids while we cook and has them help decorate the house with piles of stuff, including his childhood ornaments that make the grandkids laugh because some are pretty messy looking.
My daughterinlaw is the crafter these days and creates one lovely project each year. She has also framed the gkids artwork over the years and they have a hall of fame for the best of them. Current masterpieces hang on the refrigerator, of course.
Now that I have beautiful juniper wood from my own property, I have been thinking about trying to sculpt. I have set some aside to dry and received a Drexel drill set from my son last year. Maybe my first project could be a nativity that will get the grandkids laughing. As I am learning from my own mom, dignity is less valuable than the laughter of short people.
Each and every year has always included friends and acquaintances that cannot be with their own families for the holiday. They enrich our holiday by sharing their own traditions with us. I make something special from their holiday traditions and hope it makes them more at home. Not exactly what they are used to but in honor of home. After all, who could make pie as good as my mother? Not happening.
This year I am not with my family for Christmas and felt sad the whole week. Instead of wild displays for short people, I have toned down to one quiet nativity. Today I am reminiscing and with them all, past and present. Now… off to a bowl of posole that I made yesterday just for me.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, and to all a good night.