Every day of December brings an opportunity for unpacking Christmas memories. Through this month most of us have a schedule filled with preparations, events, invitations, and celebrations of every kind. Many celebrations represent traditions that remind us of family history and link us to our culture.
During the past few days, I’ve indulged in reminiscing. It began on December 1 when I shopped for Christmas flowers and plants for the dining room and great room. The bright colours of the flowers brought new energy at this dark time of year. I thought of the various rooms I’ve decorated with Christmas flowers over the years. I remembered trying to keep an especially big and beautiful poinsettia alive for second Christmas. By Easter, it looked good enough only for the composter which is where it went — a memory and a lesson!
Next, I unpacked Christmas linens. I found a surfeit of napkins, tablecloths, tea towels, and hand towels. These surplus linens had escaped down-sizing and purging in 2016. I remembered many dinners and parties themed with certain colours that seemed to require new napkins or new placemats. I remembered people who enjoyed holiday meals at our table. This year some of the matching sets will be re-used; others need evaluation and, possibly, donation for someone else to enjoy.
My husband loves Christmas music. His collection contains favourite CDs plus an impressive vinyl collection. Singing along to Bing Crosby, the Ray Conniff singers, and Boney M helps me move through routine tasks quickly. There is also time for relaxation with Mahalia Jackson’s Christmas spirituals or Leona Boyd’s guitar — beautiful renditions on vinyl that inspire memories.
Last week, my grand-daughter came after school to ‘help’ open and remove decorations from storage boxes. Listening to a 4 year old remember where certain decorations should be placed in the house reminded me that new memories are created with every generation. Her enthusiasm ignited similar feelings for me. We joyfully exclaimed about the merits of various ceramic floor ornaments and glass decorations.
On the weekend, we had the annual tree decorating dinner and party with our family. Each person hung favourite ornaments, even our 6-week old grandson who was held by his mother. The tallest person, our son, placed the golden angel on the treetop.
Many ornaments had stories. Precious antique glass bells, birds, and balls from my mother’s home, homemade stars and god’s eyes from our son’s childhood crafts, beautiful blown glass ornaments received as gifts from friends, along with some tacky, but precious items that we collected over the years, were hung with care. We remembered many Christmases filled with joy; we also remembered hard times, especially one Christmas in Montreal, when as graduate students we raided our coin stash to find enough money for a tree. It looked like a Charlie Brown tree but was an essential tie to the past as we were far away from all family members that year.
Next came the binder of Christmas recipes and carefully transcribed menus from parties. Most the recipes use too much sugar, too much butter, and too much chocolate for our current tastes but looking at the binder brought fond recollections of past celebrations. A special hand-written recipe is for West Indian Black Cake that my mother-in-law sent 51 years ago when I was a new bride determined to create something to remind my husband of his heritage by making food he loved.
I found that my Christmas cookie cutter collection had escaped down-sizing. Those cookie cutters will help me produce cookies in the shapes of bells, snowmen, stars, and wreaths from a simple sugar cookie recipe. There will be a fun afternoon later this week when our granddaughter comes to decorate cookies using red, green and white icing, coloured sugar sprinkles, gummies, and chocolate chips. I suspect the kitchen will need a big clean-up after many tastings and several of us creating designs on the cookies.
Shopping is less of a hassle with online options. I’ve made a couple of trips to the mall but have mostly used my computer to shop for gifts. I’m biting my nails and hoping everything arrives by the end of the week! I used to make gifts. One year I knitted 9 toques and gave each guest at our Christmas dinner a toque as a table favour. Now, I’m happy to finish a photo album of special pictures taken through the year as a memory gift. Thank goodness for over-night photo printing of digital photos!
Traditions for celebrations evolve and change as the years pass. We no longer decorate with outdoor lights that involve climbing on the roof or damaging trees and shrubs. I’ve stopped sending cards and writing long Christmas letters telling about the past year’s travels, accomplishments and losses. I no longer bake three kinds of Christmas cake nor make mincemeat pies and tarts.
Our son and daughter-in-law want to be in their home for Christmas Eve to allow Santa to visit through their fireplace. As we did last year, we’ll have a special evening with them, sleep in their loft, and enjoy Christmas morning presents. Our four and a half-year-old granddaughter is full of anticipation as the BIG day approaches. As an infant, our grandson is oblivious to the excitement except for intent gazing at the lights on their tree. We are grateful to be part of a different family celebration.
Christmas and holiday traditions create happy and sad emotions. Memories often bring back those feelings resulting in both joy and stress. Christmas memories provide moments to cherish, and time to reflect on traditions. Using this opportunity to ditch traditions that no longer fit with current life priorities and bring stress rather than joy allows time to create positive experiences and happy memories.
I wish every postworksavvy reader a happy holiday season with celebrations that honour traditions and create new memories. Merry Everything!