Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You're all going to hate me for saying this out loud, but I'm almost done my Christmas shopping! I can't tell you how satisfying it is to know that I can avoid the December mall mayhem entirely this year. In fact - I've skipped malls altogether in my 2008 shopping. As I settle into my "Ma Ingalls" phase, I'm making many gifts and trying to buy the others from small businesses (like our local Mennonite market). It feels good to support the little guys and to have pride in giving my own creations.

Adam has told me I am absolutely not allowed to decorate before December 1. I think I'm going to work on him to start decorating this coming weekend. I'd like a full 30 days of Christmas spirit in our big old house before Santa arrives! I just can't wait to pick out a tree and have that beautiful pine smell waft through my house. To bring out all the gorgeous decorations people have given me over the years. To set aside a whole day just to get my Christmas baking done - this year with my little sous chef in tow!

I'm already getting excited about Christmas with Hayden. He's two now and is starting to understand the magic of the season. He stares slack-jawed at snow falling, laughs uproariously when I "ho-ho-ho" like Santa, and points and yells "pity yites!" when he sees any sign of Christmas lights in the neighbourhood.
I think this year, I'll bring him to a Christmas service and have him help me to donate gifts or food to the needy so he knows the reason behind the holiday as well.
I'm also eager to share our family traditions with him...
When we were small, every year we would read two books on Christmas Eve: Twas the Night Before Christmas and Santa Mouse. We were often allowed to open one present on Christmas eve. Every year we would wait with baited breath as mum and dad selected a special present for this early opening. I remember every year I would wish and wish that the present chosen for me would be a special toy I'd asked Santa for. Funny enough, every year it was pajamas, but I never lost that hope!

In our house, we didn't have stockings, we had Santa sacks. We would carefully hang them on the end of our bed about two weeks before Christmas. I remember checking that sack every morning to make sure Santa hadn't messed up his calendar and left me an early present. And I know my siblings did the same. I remember sneaking into their rooms (or in my sister's case, we slept in the same room so it was a simple step away) and I'd put random things in there like a can of soup or a ball of dirty socks. It never failed to send me into hysterics when they'd awake, discover a bulge in their sack and then tear into it to see what Santa had left!
But on Christmas eve, as we slumbered in our beds, Santa would carefully fill up those sacks with small gifts (all individually wrapped). Many times, I would wake in the wee hours of the morning and sneak with my sack and my sister in tow into my brother's room and we would quietly squeal as we unwrapped our Santa sack booty. Then we'd tiptoe back to our room (if we didn't wake up my parents in the process) and I'd sleep with my Santa sack wrapped in my arms until the sun came up.

While gifts from our relatives were put under the tree as they arrived, all presents from mum, dad and Santa were saved and appeared magically sometime on the eve of Christmas after we'd gone to bed. On Christmas morning, the hallway to the living room would be gated off. Mum and dad would go in before us to turn on the tree, play soft Christmas music and get the camera ready. Then with great flourish, the gate would be removed and we would scramble to be the first to see our gift-laden tree. It never failed to amaze us. Even in years when times were tough, there always seemed to be a mountain of beautifully wrapped presents. And mum and dad always carefully counted to make sure we had exactly the same amount of presents to open. We were allowed to look at the presents, but not open them until everyone had eaten breakfast. Every year, dad would announce that he was going to make himself a big egg and bacon breakfast and we would protest and extol the delicious benefits of a quick bowl of cereal! (As we got older (and slightly more patient) breakfast became a big part of our Christmas morning. We would all sit to enjoy a bounty of scrambled eggs, back bacon, sauteed mushrooms, toast and tea.)

Christmas dinner was always a big turkey with all the trimmings. We were each assigned to eat a single Brussel spout. It was a race every year to be the first to sit down and carefully slide that gravy covered Brussel under the table to feed to the dog. She'd only eat one, so you had to be the first! We always had Christmas crackers as well. You know, these things:

Before anyone ate, we'd pop the crackers and don the paper hats within while we told each other the lame jokes and tried to figure out the crazy, tiny toys. (We still do this every year!)

All of these simple memories are what made Christmas special for me. While I can't remember most of the presents I received as a child, I do remember the magic, the anticipation, the smiles and laughter of my family, the togetherness, and the little touches that my parents worked so hard to recreate every year. Thanks mum and dad - you showed me the meaning of Christmas. And now 30 years later, I'm sharing them with my son.

1 comment:

The W.O.W. factor said...

Except for the Christmas dinner “crackers” & brussel sprout thing, and Santa Sacks (we had stockings) I’d say your parents were related to mine!! Identical scenario all the way to the pj’s on Christmas Eve!!
Thank you, WM, you definitely brought a warm feeling to my heart reading this…my memories!
~With many Hugs, Thank you!~