It’s funny how when you look back over the years remembering Christmas pasts, you rarely think about what you received. The treasured memories instead are of special traditions and family members. I’ve been trying to decide which Christmas over the last 47 years has been my most meaningful and can’t peg it down to just one. There are so many traditions and people woven into this special day that it’s hard separating them by years.
One tradition that is changing for my Mom’s side of the family is celebrating Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house. For the last 45 years, excluding the year we went to visit my Dad’s family in upstate New York, I have made my way over the highway and through Laurens Road to Grandma’s. This is our first Christmas without her. Although we’ll still be gathering at the same home, it’s not hers anymore. My aunt has taken up residence there and Grandma will only be with us in spirit.
My Uncle David will also be sorely missed. He passed away suddenly two months before Grandma. It will be difficult not hearing Grandma’s British accent declaring “Horsefeathers!” towards any tale she didn’t believe, or my uncle playing Christmas carols on his beloved guitar. These were common occurrences over the years. The sweet familiarity of family is a gift in itself.
Since my siblings and I are now married and have children of our own, my parents started new delightful traditions at their home. After leaving Grandma’s house we head to Mom and Dad’s. Once there, we unload all of the gifts and begin stuffing everyone’s stockings before we settle in for a long night of fun.
I know this may sound incredibly tortuous for most people, but we then begin opening gifts one at a time, starting from youngest to oldest. With 17 people now in our family, it takes quite some time. But we relish every moment.
One of the first gifts the grandchildren open is pajamas from my parents, even a pair for my niece’s husband. They immediately run and change into them, laughing with delight as they run down the hall. Once settled back down after their fashion show, we start unwrapping again.
Mom and Dad also give each child, their spouse and grandchild a special ornament to open that represents something about that person. It’s amusing to see what everyone receives each year. After all the presents are opened we make a mad dash to the stockings, unwrapping the little gifts all at once. It’s pure chaos, but so much fun.
Once every package has been unwrapped, the kids sing a Christmas carol of their choice into a recordable book, but not before listening to all of the previous years’ songs first. It usually takes several attempts before they’re happy with the final product.
Before everyone packs up to leave, we make sure each family has a photo taken on the den steps. Amidst groans from the husbands, we finally conclude the picture taking with a group shot of everyone. These photos have become precious to us over the years as we’re reminded how much our family has grown.
When we head home around midnight, I breathe a sigh of sweet weariness that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, knowing we will share more precious moments with my husband’s family the next day. I know someday all of this will come to an end, only leaving distant memories. But I’m so grateful for these wonderful moments created with loved ones and look forward with hope toward even sweeter ones to come.
Change is inevitable and sometimes painful, especially during the holidays. So as we approach yet another Christmas, let’s live in the moment and enjoy the gift of the special people God has placed in our life. Let’s put aside any differences we may have and praise God for the love He has given us through others. And if the change you are encountering this year is one that feels greater than you can bear, I pray especially that God will show His love to you in an amazing way; just as He did for each of us on that night of Jesus’ miraculous birth over 2000 years ago.