I had originally planned on writing another homeschooling post today, but earlier this evening I finished reading a book gifted to me by a very dear friend. One of the characters in this story begins to talk about how certain sights, sounds, and smells can powerfully evoke childhood Christmas memories. As I pondered this, a flood of recollections of Christmases past entered my mind, and I’ve not been able to think about much else since.
What strikes me the most about these memories is the fact that not one of them is materialistic in any way. Our culture has become so obsessive about consumption and always wanting the next best thing that I find that many adults are passing these ideals onto their children. Lining up outside of toy stores at 3 am on Thanksgiving, spending hundreds of dollars on technology for children as young as 2, and getting into arguments with fellow shoppers over the last Hatchimal have become the norm for the modern holiday season.
If you’re guilty of one or more of the things I mentioned above, it’s okay. Really. I know that you’re trying to make your kids happy, but I do want to call attention to the things I remember the most about my Christmases as a child. I should mention that, as the baby of the family, I was never wanting for anything, and my Christmas mornings were a reflection of that, but as a 42-yr-old (yes, I’m finally admitting that I’m not 29 anymore) my fondest recollections have absolutely nothing to do with what was under the tree.
I know that Christmas is under a week away and most of your shopping is probably already finished, but here’s to hoping I help at least one person realize that your kids don’t need more stuff. They need you.
10 of My Fondest Childhood Christmas Memories
1. Baking cutout cookies with my mom.
Baking cookies was not something we did often. My mom worked second shift from the time I was 5 until last year when she turned 80 (I’m not even kidding), so this was something that was rare and cherished. I remember how excited I used to be when she pulled out the bag of cookie cutters that I only ever saw once a year. I remember the 4-layer metal cookie container she kept all of our Christmas cookies in. And I remember how proud I felt setting those cookies out for Santa knowing that I helped make them.
2. Going into the attic storage room and pulling out the Christmas decorations.
This is one of those memories that is evoked by smell. I used to love the musty, old scent of our decorations as my brother and I pulled them out every year. We used the same ones year after year, and that is what made them so special. They all had their own special place where they belonged, and once everything was out, our house truly felt like Christmas. We used to love surprising my mom with the decorations when she came home from work at night.
3. Moving the mouse in our Avon Christmas countdown calendar.
My mom was always a huge Avon fanatic, so we always had tons of their products all over our house. My favorite was the Christmas countdown calendar. Even when I was in high school, I used to love coming downstairs in the morning to move the mouse in the pocket closer and closer everyday to the 24th.
4. Lighting the Advent candles.
We had a little Advent wreath (also from Avon, I believe), and every Sunday in Advent we would come home from church and light the candles on the wreath. I specifically remember burning myself one year as I did it, but that’s helped this memory to stick even more!
5. Going to Ice City with my dad to see the Christmas display.
Ice City was actually a pool store, but around October, they would always replace the pool accessories with Christmas lights, tinsel, and ornaments. They had one showcase room that was dedicated solely to the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, running train sets, and mechanical elves, angels, and Santas that were mesmerizing, yet creepy, in a Christmas Story sort of way.
6. Going to the Christmas Eve candlelight service.
Every Christmas Eve, the church I grew up in had a candlelight service in which the sanctuary was lit only by candles, and we spent almost the entire service singing Christmas carols. It was magical. (Except for the year I had to light those candles. That’s a different story…)
7. Hanging up our stockings on Christmas Eve.
I know most people hang their stockings early because they look beautiful by the fireplace, but we always waited until right before bedtime on Christmas Eve to put ours up. Every year my parents took a picture of us putting them up.
8. Opening up one present before we went to bed.
We had a tradition of always giving each other one small gift to open before we went upstairs on Christmas Eve. My favorite part was choosing which one to give to my mom and dad. My children and I continue this tradition to this day.
9. Celebrating Christmas with the entire extended family at my aunt’s house.
Shortly before my nana passed away, she told my mom and her siblings that she wanted them to continue getting together every Christmas, as we had always done. My mother’s sister took on the task of hosting everyone- aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, etc.- at her house every Christmas day. She did all the cooking herself- the house smelled wonderful- and it was really crowded because she lived in a row home, but those get-togethers are the source of so many wonderful memories for me.
10. Listening to Christmas carols on the radio in the car.
Every time I hear “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or “Jingle Bell Rock,” I imagine myself as a child sitting in the car on the way home from my aunt’s on Christmas night. I also remember listening to these tunes as we drove around the city looking at all the beautifully decorated houses. To this day, I still love driving around to look at Christmas lights.
My dad and my aunt are no longer here on this earth, but sharing the joy of every Christmas season has seen to it that they are at the forefront of my thoughts year round. Buying things for your kids is nice, but are you creating meaningful traditions that they will remember with fondness after you’re gone? Are you giving them a foundation for how to spend Christmas with their own children someday?
It’s never too late. Start today. Right now.
What are you waiting for?
What are your favorite Christmas memories? I’d love to read about them in the comments!