Christmas traditions are made for sharing, handing down
Monday, Nov. 26
Some gifts seem to never lose their appeal, and scale-model trains have stood the test of time. Photo by Polka Dot
By Ray Finefrock
Times Community Media
Christmas is a time of tradition.
As children, my younger sister and I always looked forward to the reassuring rituals that came with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
On the night before Christmas, we would dress up and go to the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church. The message was always the same: The Christmas Story about the birth of Jesus and peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
Following the service, my dad and mom took us on a tour of dozens of houses around town decked out in holiday finery. Gas was cheap in those days, so my dad didn't mind driving for miles and miles.
Next we returned home to enjoy “reindeer drinks,” a special concoction that was served only that one time during the year. As we drank, my parents asked us what gift we most hoped to receive from Santa Claus. Then, it was off to bed.
My sister and I would always pretend to go to sleep quickly, but one of us would stay awake, and in the wee hours of the morning we'd both go out into the living room to look at the gifts around the tree, hoping to see one shaped like that special gift we had requested.
One year, all the tags were reverse so we were actually looking at each others gifts.
There was always one “big gift” hidden away until the very end.
When I was 11 years old, I had spent the entire year hinting that I wanted a model train or a chemistry set. I was conflicted as to whether I wanted to be a train engineer or a chemist when I grew up.
After all the gifts were opened, my dad excused himself and came back with my sister's “big gift.” She opened it, and I was happy for her, and hoping my big gift would be one of the ones I had requested.
My eyes grew wide as my dad brought out my “big gift,” but that year it was two big gifts. I received both the train set (a full-scale Lionel) and the chemistry set. I can still remember that day like it was yesterday.
I became neither a train engineer nor a chemist, but many of our family traditions were mingled with those of my wife, and were carried on for our children. Now they carry some of them on with our grandchildren.
Since this is the era of social media, I asked my Facebook friends about their memories of the holidays. Some of the responses are from local people and others are from as far away as Arizona, Washington state and Afghanistan.
See if you can identify with any of these memories or traditions:
• We have our two kids guess the date of the first bona fide snowfall. They must pick the date by Thanksgiving and write it down on a paper slip. Whoever is closest to the first snow date gets all the change in a jar that we have been accumulating all year – usually $25 or more. – Elizabeth
• One of my favorite things was going as a family to the various Christmas tree lots and inspecting each tree from various angles in search of the perfect tree. The anticipation, the pine tree smells and being together as a family made it so memorable. – Donalyn
• My sons love to decorate the tree. They usually send [my husband and and me] on a date. It's their joy and ours to see their gift to us. – Doray
• My son and I sleep in front of our Christmas tree the first night it is completely decorated, lights and all. – Tina
• My favorite Christmas tradition is actually being home for Christmas. I've been deployed for two of the last three. – Jack
• I get together with all of my husband's family on Christmas Eve. There is no gift giving, but we have a traditional Cuban meal of pork, rice and black beans and yucca. – Leslie
• As soon as my youngest brother turned 13, we started opening Christmas presents as soon as the clock struck midnight so we could all sleep in on Christmas morning. That tradition is now seven years old and is something we still do even though my oldest brother is now married. – Amanda
• As children, my siblings and I had to go wake our parents and wait until they were ready to see if Santa had come. Now, 50-plus years later, we still all congregate at the top of the stairs together as a family with coffee and cameras in hand to go into the living room together. I also used to love Christmas caroling in our neighborhood when I was young. A few friends and I would go from door to door, often being invited in for refreshments – Johncie
• I would sneak down in the wee hours of the morning to my stocking. The room with the tree was locked to keep this snooper out, though a keyhole and unlocked window were often put to good use. Before a single present was opened, our family gathered for a traditional breakfast of stollen, followed by the reading of Matthew and Isaiah, the singing of carols and prayer. The fun of the celebration never overshadowed our understanding of the greatest gift ever given, our Savior, Jesus. – Selene
No matter where you celebrate the holidays or with whom you share the time, I wish you a Merry Christmas.