Christmas at my childhood home was somewhat like living in a Christmas “museum.” I guess I should say our home looked a bit like a museum year round but living there 24/7, I didn’t see it that way. My mom was a collector of all things antique and she displayed them all over our first floor from the front door to the smallest details in the bathroom!
At Christmas, the decor would change. Mom would hang Christmas balls from the ceiling in the family room with pins and ribbons. I thought it was really cheerful, not cheesy. We had white, electric candles in every window of the house. A large, fake but realistic tree was finally purchased in the late ’70’s to replace the very old bottle brush tree we had forever. For years we decorated the tree as a family. As a small child, we used tinsel and I loved it! So messy but so much fun, does anyone use tinsel anymore? I guess mom got tired of the mess as we switched to the tinsel that comes in a long boa type style that you wrap around the tree. We had balls of all sizes and colors, the small balls on the top, big balls on the bottom and of course a star or angel on the top! I, being the artist of the family, made an angel in school in 4th grade out of the plaster used for casts. Yes, the cast material for broken bones. That year and for years after, my angel graced the top of our Christmas tree! I also made a kissing ball in school, I’m not sure which year, it is about 6″ in diameter, bright red and lumpy with plastic mistletoe. That too came out ever year and hung in the family room.
Mom decided one year that we would all make homemade popcorn and cranberry strings to put on our tree. Wow, now that was way more work than I think even she imagined. She popped the corn without oil and had fresh cranberries. The four of us kids and mom sat night after night at the dinner table with needle and thread and threaded the popcorn and cranberries. It seemed to take forever. I have no idea how many feet we strung, I guess I should ask her if she knows, but our tree looked so beautiful after all that work. Mom had only white lights on the tree that year, I can’t recall if we had a certain color balls or just the usual mix.
Mom decorated the fireplace mantel with fresh fir boughs, pine cones, ribbons, candles and Christmas balls. The railing coming down our stairs was always wrapped in plastic holly and lights. A huge wreath hung in our front living room window, lit with white lights. Red ribbons hung from our outside lights and the lantern light near the sidewalk. Christmas music filled the air when the tv wasn’t on and the smell of cookies was in the air from the beginning of December to Christmas. My mom made many different kinds of cookies and fudge that we kept in tins in the garage. The garage was cold enough to be a second “refrigerator”, keeping all the goodies fresh for weeks in the tins. When anyone stopped by to visit, one of us would just take a platter into the garage, open the tins and fill it with assorted goodies to share with the guests!
We always had to wait for our parents to get up on Christmas morning before we went downstairs. For years, Christmas morning was a mad house. My dad got tired of everything being over in 5 minutes. He decided to change how Christmas was going to be handled so that it lasted ALL day long! My brother, the youngest, was only about six or seven at the time and very upset at the “new” rules. After mom and dad got up, we all went down to the family room and picked out one gift. Nobody was allowed to open the gift till dad was ready, then it would start with my brother. My brother would open his gift while we all watched, then the next in age, then the next and so on till everyone had opened their one gift while the others watched. When it was dads’ turn, he stalled and took his time to get my brother all frustrated. Then we ate breakfast! How hard do you think this was on four kids? After breakfast we probably opened another gift each. I know it took ALL day to get through Christmas. My dad seemed to get the biggest kick out of his new rules that we did this every year after that.
I always hoped for a white Christmas but it didn’t always happen. It was okay if it was the day after, probably even better as if it snowed on Christmas, our guests probably wouldn’t come to visit. We hosted Christmas every year at our house. My maternal grandparents, maternal Aunt and her family, a Great-great Uncle and my fathers’ cousin all showed up on Christmas. All the adults ate in the dining room and all us kids ate in the kitchen. I wanted for YEARS to eat at the adults table but when my time came, I decided I wanted to go back to the kids table as I missed my cousins! No goofing off at the adult table. Mom always made a ham, pineapple stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and my grandparents would bring their homemade date and nut bread. After dinner, everyone would sit in the living room and sing Christmas carols around the piano that one of us kids would play. We always sang the Twelve Days of Christmas and my grandmother always sang,”five golden rings” because she was always laughing and in the wrong place!
It’s been thirty-three years since I had a Christmas with my loved ones but the memories are still as bright as if it was yesterday. My grandparents have passed, my father, my beloved Aunt, my father’s cousin and our Great-great Uncle are all in heaven now. I wish that my nephews and nieces could experience just one Christmas the way we did as children. Now we are spread miles apart, states apart and everyone has made new memories with their own families.
My brother no longer celebrates any holidays due to his religious beliefs of which I need to respect. Mom has remarried and I’m sure she’s still decorating her new home just as nicely as our old home. My older sister is now a doting grandmother, enjoying making new memories with her family. Me, I married someone who doesn’t like Christmas!