Thanks to Patience Brewster, an artist of ornaments and holiday designs, who helped inspire me to share my holiday traditions. As the holiday season springs into full gear, I’m reminded of those wintery mornings growing up in Spokane, Washington with my family. Christmas often started off with midnight mass at Sacred Heart parish, one of the few times I was allowed to stay up so late. We didn’t always have a white Christmas, but I remember very clearly one Christmas morning when it had snowed nearly 2 feet the night before. Being the youngest (of 7 kids), I was always the one who woke up first, full of excitement to see what Santa had brought during the night. That particular morning, I was struck by the moonlight on the snow, so clean and crisp, like a blanket had been laid on our yard and trees. We would always wait until everyone was up before opening presents, but Santa always left a few unwrapped presents under the tree. As I got older, I knew it was my father who would always go out and buy a few more presents on Christmas eve. Christmas was his holiday – he loved putting the lights up on the house, and he always decorated the Christmas tree, we weren’t allowed to help. He had his special technique for putting tinsel on the tree, it brings a smile to my face even now, remembering watching him being so careful to make sure everything was just to his specifications. His engineer’s mind demanded perfection. We always had a beautiful tree.
Once my teenage sisters had been rousted out of bed, we would gather around the tree, opening our presents together. They may have been modest, but they were like treasure to me. Whether it was an EZ-Bake oven, or a new Barbie Doll, I would spend the next few days in new toy heaven. After all the presents were opened, my mother, sisters and I would gather in the kitchen to prepare the holiday meal. I always loved being part of a big family, although I may romanticize it now, I treasure the moments we had together, gathered around the table to enjoy a Christmas turkey, or maybe even crab gumbo in honor of my mother’s creole background.
My husband and I have created our own Christmas traditions, drawing on our families’ experiences. Since he only had one sister, Mike’s family would take turns opening presents, so we do that today with our boys. There was no way we could have done that with my family, it would have taken all day to open presents! We also let the boys help us decorate the tree, but they haven’t shown much interest in helping to put the lights on the house. Every year I get a new ornament from wherever we may have traveled, particularly from some of the national parks. We often spend the holidays with our respective families, and now that we all have our own families, it has been fun watching the traditions evolve and grow over time. Christmas traditions keep us in touch with our past, but it has been very rewarding creating new traditions with our boys.