Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice – the Wickeds are sharing our childhood holiday memories. Scared of Santa? Tinsel or no tinsel? Butter cookies? What about stockings?
Edith: I grew up outside of Los Angeles, so when we got a new bike, we could always go outside and ride it. Yes, tinsel on the tree, and my oldest sister (I’m third out of four) wanted the tinsel very precisely hung instead of the way I flung it up to see where it landed. We were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, which was always new homemade flannel nightwear from my mother’s mother. On Christmas morning, we could open stockings – which always had the first orange of the season, plus some whole walnuts – but then had to get dressed and have special cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and bacon before the rest of the gifts were opened. Being a family of readers, the rest of the day was usually spent with all six of us curled up with our new books. Guess, what? Most of these traditions passed right on to my Christmases with my own sons, cinnamon rolls, books, and all. Except we’ve added mimosas…
Liz: Christmas Eve was always the big night with my family. It always seemed magical – my grandparents would come over and we would have a big feast. Sometimes my Uncle Joe would come home from Texas if he could get the time off from his job as a pilot, which made it even more special. My gramp, brother and I would play 45s until dinner was ready. Then after we ate, we’d open most of the presents, save for the big “Santa” gifts that would be unveiled in the morning. Afterwards, we’d have dessert (there was always homemade fudge, among other yummies) and watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman. Lots of great memories.
Jessie: My favorite childhood memories are ones shared with my children. For years I hosted a gingerbread decorating party for my kids, my nieces and friends of the family. I’d bake and assemble houses for each of the kids and then have them ready for them to decorate. Each place at the table was set up with a house, a decorating bag full of royal icing and a plate full of candy. By the end of the party the table was sticky and the houses were gaudy but everyone was filled with holiday cheer!
Sherry: I had one bad experience with Santa when I was about four. He asked if I’d been good and I told him yes. Then he asked if I ate all my peas. I hated peas above all other foods and burst into tears. I was terrified I wouldn’t get any presents that year. My mom made Christmas mornings magical and for me it was all about getting a doll. Mom would make pillows and blankets for bedding for them. She’d sew wardrobes of clothes. I still have a few dolls from my childhood. Shirley Temple is one of them.
Barb: I have so many happy memories of Christmas, at pretty much every stage of my childhood. When I was a teenager, my brother and I had a special, secret ritual. One night close to Christmas, when my parents were out at a Christmas party, we would turn off all the lights and listen to carols (always Robert Gould Shaw) by the light of the Christmas tree. We’d been close when we were little and we’re close as adults, but this was at the age when we were like ships passing in the night on our way to our separate schools and activities, so that quiet pause, in the busy season of Christmas, was especially meaningful.
Julie: I love reading these memories! I have all sorts of memories of Christmas. Wonderful ones as a kid. I have refound joy as I celebrate with my nieces and nephews, and indulge in creating new memories for all of us. One of my favorite memories is just before I became an aunt, when my youngest sister brought her boyfriend up to meet the family. I got us all tickets to the Revels at Sanders Theatre. I was able to get four tickets in the third row. My other sister and I had seats a little further back. At the end of the first act, John Langstaff (founder of Revels, and wonderful performer) would take someone from the audience, and start a “Lord of the Dance” conga line into the transept. He chose my father. For as long as I live, I will remember my father getting up, grabbing the rest of the family, and starting the dance. My future brother-in-law joined right in, dancing up a storm. I knew he’d fit right in. I wasn’t a child at the time, but it is a favorite memory.
What about you, readers? Any special childhood memories?
LOVE the Shirley Temple doll, Sherry!!!!
She’s a cutie, Sherry!
I had many special Christmas memories, but the one that stands out happened for me as an adult. About fourteen years ago my dad’s house was destroyed in a fire. The following Christmas I received a special present from my family. My husband had found a doll in the wreckage of Dad’s house and had it restored. She is a beautiful bride doll that should have melted to nothing, but somehow managed to be not badly damaged. It brings tears to my eyes and reminds me that no matter how hopeless a situation seems, something beautiful will always appear.
What a great story, Kim! I have a bride doll too but she’s only had to survive a bunch of moves, not a fire!
Bride dolls are pretty tough!
My family usually spent Christmas Eve with Dad’s side of the family. We’d open presents and have desserts. Then Christmas morning was at our house with my other grandparents (and sometimes my dad’s mom) as we’d open more presents, including the ones from Santa and Mom and Dad. Then Christmas night would be over at my mom’s parents with her brother up for the evening. As I got older, that changed and we started going to that uncle and aunt’s house for Christmas dinner.
However, an usual tradition we have is sleeping around the Christmas tree as a family. Even today, it’s something we usually do when I am up in Northern CA where my family still lives.
Very interesting, Mark! How did Santa leave the gifts if you are all sleeping under the tree?
I wondered that, too! And does everyone bring sleeping bags?
We usually slept around the tree on the 23rd, so Santa could come the next night. We didn’t start this until I was too old to believe in Santa, but still, the tradition continued even if we already knew who Santa really was.
Hi Edith! Can you imagine children today waiting until after breakfast and opening presents in an orderly manner? Or being excited about an orange? Those were my childhood traditions, too.
Well, not TODAY, but in the last twenty years my sons followed the same rules. Stockings and one present before breakfast. The only thing that slid was “getting dressed before breakfast” – and who cares, really, if everybody stays in their jammies until noon?!
We had a very laissez-faire Christmas growing up, at least when spent with my parents. I went to bed so Santa would come then wake up very early and raid the tree. Two or three hours later my mother would get up and put the turkey in the oven. Sometimes she’d remember to turn it on. My father would get up and read the newspaper. I would go outside and play with my new sled or skates and hang out at my friends houses where I would often eat instead of going home. Nobody seemed to mind. God bless them. It all seemed very normal.
When I lived with my grandparents our Christmas was probably more like other people’s as it was at Auntie-Mom’s. Auntie-Mom and Uncle Michael are coming to visit and take Steve and me out to dinner on their way to spend the holidays with cousins — part of Hanukkah with Cindy in California, Christmas Eve with Little Michael in Texas, and Christmas with Paul #8 in Oregon. Auntie-Mom gets around. She’s our Santa and guiding spirit of hard work, hospitality, kindness, love, and lots of fun.
Not much has changed over the years except that I don’t have to worry about my parents getting drunk and burning down the camp or where I would eat. I’m all grown up and have my own family to do my best for. Our Christmases are quiet table-centered and Hallmark movie-watching affairs. Between the two of us growing up in boarding schools and with relatives, and our youngest children adopted from long stints in foster care we all seem to like quiet, unregulated, yet somewhat traditional–just enough to be reliable–holidays.
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