Every year we bring down 6-8 containers of Christmas things. One is this calendar that counts down to Christmas. Why do I have it? My parents had one that Aunt Lydia (a sweet family friend/babysitter to all) made. I have not talked about our Christmas traditions, have I?
When I was very young, living with my Mom, I don’t remember any traditions. Then at 5 I went to live with the grandparents and all I remember was a table top Christmas tree. They were quite old by then so tradition was not there. I usually went to my father’s mother’s house on Christmas Eve. That was fun. We went to church and on the way back we traveled through neighborhoods to see the lights. There is nothing like city neighborhood lights at Christmas. Then we would get back to her house and I would have to go to bed. I barely remember when my Nana would have people over for a Christmas party. I do remember the bells would ring when they left and that meant Santa was here and I had to quickly get to sleep. The next morning I would get up and go to my brother Sparky’s room and tickle his mustache until he woke. We would go down and wait for my other brother, John and Aunt Sarah (my Nana’s sister). Nana usually was up since 4am. We’d eat, then open presents, then we would go get dressed and ready for our uncle, aunt, and cousins to arrive. Uncle Lynn and Aunt Caroline would bring the Turkey. (not talking about my cousin Scott). Usually our cousins Scott and Vicki would arrive with them but in a separate car. Their sister, Wendy, moved away in 1977 to Utah, never to be seen by me again. So, we would open more gifts, talk, eat, have a birthday cake for me, then play a game like air hockey or king in the corner. After they all left then we would play one more game of Sorry or Uno with my Nana. Then it was time to return me to my grandparents. I would then open the presents they got me and then it was bed time.
When I moved to Judy and Michael’s there were all new traditions. Christmas wasn’t just on that day, it was from the morning of the 24th until the night of the 25th. I was also introduced to what a live Christmas tree was and decorating it. There was a story behind each ornament and tradition. They were told every year. While we decorated we played “Christmas is for Children” and “All I want for Christmas is My 2 front teeth” on the stereo and other records (anyone remember those old Vinyl discs played on a record player?) We would go to Aunt Leslie (Boo Boo) and Uncle Jerry’s house for Christmas Eve Dinner, sing carols, (Each person would choose one. That was 18 or so songs we would sing.) and then open gifts from the cousins and aunts and uncles. Sometimes we would go to the midnight service. When we got home we would put on the pajamas that Grandmother (Judy, Leslie and Nancy’s mother) gave us, then came down stairs to put our stockings up and then each of us had an ornament that Aunt Judy made and we put those up too. Pictures were taken for EVERYTHING.
Christmas Day was a full schedule. First we woke up to our stockings next to our bed and full. Next, Michael, David and I run into Mark”s room to investigate contents. We return contents to stocking and run into parent’s bed room where they “seem” sleepy. Show them everything. then we sit at top of the stairs until Aunt Judy says, with moving camera on, that santa was here and we can come down. (we still do this with David’s children and they love it!).
After presents are opened and thanks are given, we eat breakfast (on special china) and get dressed for church or not. Church is very casual and you bring your favorite gift. People go in their Pajamas or whatever. Uncle Michael signed our family up to open and usher, for LIFE. That means until the family line ends, we open and usher on Christmas Day. It is nice to see people who come in their pajamas, and people who have moved away (like us) coming back. After the very casual service and meditation (5 -10 min sermon ), the “who came the farthest” , “who is the oldest and youngest” and who has the most family here (our family usually wins) and singing carols (and happy birthday to Jesus and me – teens think they are embarrassed- HA!), we run back home to prepare for the Christmas Brunch and 25 or so people to arrive at our house.
Then we take an hour nap and get ready to go to Grandmother’s house. At grandmother’s we eat more (burp) and she used to make a cake in the shape of a wreath, Chocolate with chocolate pudding inside. Then we would take all the cookies that she packaged and get in cars to go caroling at the pastor’s doors and other people who may have been alone on Christmas. We come back and sit around talking and digesting and then Santa appears. he comes in telling elaborate stories about Rudolf and the others. He gives out the presents then leaves. Then at night, when I’m all tucked in bed I thank God for sending his son in human form, letting him suffer through childhood and puberty, so as to better understand us humans.
The day after Christmas is what I call “the downloading” day. It’s when we sit around and take inventory of the things we got and the memories we made. We eat the left overs and watch a movie or play a game together as a family. It took me a few years to get used to the traditions but I finally had decided where to spend my Christmas/Birthday. The huge traditions won out. So I would go to my Nana’s the day after and not see my Aunt Caroline and Uncle Lynn for a long time.
Most of those traditions changed. When Nana passed, there was no more Gardiner Family Christmas. When Grandmother and Aunt Leslie Passed the Christmas eve was moved to our house and the family caroling was moved to Christmas night at her daughter’s house. We don’t go to the pastor’s homes to carol like we used to either (which could be a good thing if you heard us sing). Uncle Jerry has moved away and we are all grown up. Nothing can ever replace these traditions and memories. The feelings that children have from these last a life time. It’s when we grow up and some traditions change but those feelings, stay the same, that you know it’s not the traditions, as much as it is the closeness and love of the family that is the best tradition of all.