Today is Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. A day for the world to come together, to celebrate and give thanks. When I think about Christmas, I think about years past. The many, many Christmases celebrated at my maternal grandparents tiny home in the mill village of Bibb City, Georgia. I remember my grandmother’s hands, her washing them every few minutes as she prepared the traditional foods for our Christmas Day. I remember the apron she wore, and I recall the delicious, tempting aromas of pies baking in the oven. The country ham, covered with cloves, pineapples and cherries.
Although our family was not rich, we lived in a community where people looked out for one another. At Christmas time we had foods delivered to us from our neighbors. One little lady within in the community was famous for her pound cakes. Every year, she delivered a freshly made pound cake to our door. Another lady made pies, especially homemade apple pies. Grandma baked custard pies and sometimes, she made homemade lemon meringue pies. She always made her delicious, soft as a cloud and flaky homemade biscuits. Ham sandwiches tasted so much better when we used a cold biscuit. Christmas time was truly a time to eat…and eat…and eat. Never did we worry about calories.
In later years, Grandma was too weak to bake. Breast cancer had taken its toll on her. I took over as the official Christmas cook. Never did I master Grandma’s biscuits, but I could bake fabulous pound cakes.
Our traditions as a family were simple. We exchanged gifts, most of them purchased at the family owned stores within the Bibb City community. We decorated a Christmas tree, usually just a few days before Christmas. We went to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Early in the morning of Christmas Day, we opened our gifts, rushed to church and arrived back home to finish cooking the Christmas meal. As a family, we held hands before eating, saying the family prayer of thanks.
At seventeen, our Christmas traditions changed, at least for me. I was a ‘grown, married woman,’ but my husband was away fighting a war. My mother and dad had divorced when I was fifteen. Christmas became a sad time for me. A husband away at war, my father visiting ‘just for the day.’
Quickly, the years faded away. My husband and I made our own traditions. Going to church. Attending Christmas plays and musical festivals. Sending Christmas cards to friends and family who lived away from us. We drove around, looking for Christmas lights in the more upscale communities. In 1973, we moved to Charleston. Every Christmas my dad would visit with us and together we built new traditions. Christmas dinner at our house, using the best china and lace tablecloths I owned. We opened presents, watched football, and enjoyed the company of each other.
In July, 1999, I lost my dad. Suddenly Christmas was quiet. Although we have a son, he shares his holidays with the family of his wife. Rarely do we get to see them, or our grandchild who is now 13-years-old.
Phil and I are making new traditions now. We drive to see the Christmas Festival of Lights in Charleston, along with other locations within our community. Tonight, we are going to church, to hear Christmas music. This year, Phil played DJ for me and two of my friends at the Red Hatters Christmas Luncheon. We’ve attended Christmas parties and I have noticed more people are saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
After this discovery, I contemplated in hopes that people are drifting back to the true meaning of Christmas, along with Christmas traditions. So many people are in the belief that Christmas is a time to over indulge. A time to overspend and max our credit cards. A time to over do things. For example, many people must have the most Christmas lights on their home, to show how much Christmas spirit they have. Forgive me, but placing lights on a home does nothing to indicate how much Christmas spirit one has. According to a news report this morning, Christmas was not celebrated in the USA until 1871. I was shocked to hear that statement. No, I haven’t the time today to research it, but I have always been under the impression that Christmas was ALWAYS celebrated. My grandparents shared stories of old when I was a child, how they used candles on the tree, and in the house. I suppose in my childish mind I could not understand why electricity wasn’t used. Silly me.
I lost my grandparents many years ago, but the memories I have are to be cherished.
What are your traditions at Christmas?
This year, we will celebrate Christmas Day at a friend’s home. Perhaps after dinner we will sing a bit of karaoke, and drink a bit of wine. Meanwhile, I will reminisce about my Christmas Days as a child. There were four children inside the house, all tucked in, nice and warm. We would rush to see what was under the tree. Did Santa Claus bring me that special doll? Did I get a guitar? Just what would Santa Claus bring us? As stated, our family was not rich, but Santa Claus never forgot us. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize Christmas is really not about gifts. Christmas Day is a day to reflect and give thanks that we have family and friends who will care for us and spend time with us, during the good times and the sad times. Christmas Day is the day to celebrate Christ and to share that celebration with the world.
Last year at Christmas I was sick. So sick, I didn’t have the energy to cook a Christmas meal. Phil ordered a Christmas meal from Publix. When he delivered it, I realized it needed to be heated again because it was so cold. The meal was dreadful. I told Phil never to order a Christmas meal from any grocery store again. I was so disappointed. Now that I’m well, I wonder, was the meal so bad because I didn’t prepare it, and I STILL had to cook it? Later that afternoon, we drove to some friends’ home to have Christmas dinner. Honestly, I was so ill, I don’t remember much about Christmas 2012. Illness, and a constant cough that refused to go away. May I never celebrate another Christmas Day that ill!
My wish and prayers for you, my readers, is a day of Christmas Thanks and Traditions. May you enjoy the love and caring of your family and friends while taking the time to continue with your Christmas traditions. This evening, Phil and I will be at church. Later, we will exchange gifts, in hopes that we will see our grandchild.
Merry Christmas to all of you!