It’s early for me to be thinking about Christmas; I normally don’t start Christmas thinking at least until after Thanksgiving. But as you may know, Hallmark Channel has already started their Christmas movie marathon and I’ve been watching as many as I can. A few weeks ago, I saw an older movie, maybe from 2017, called “A Joyous Christmas” and I heard a beautiful Christmas song that I’d never heard before. The song was “Christmas Memories” and it has been on my mind so often since seeing the movie. I’ve watched the movie again since that first time. I was curious to know if the song might be available so I checked the iTunes store and couldn’t believe what I found. It was recorded on a Christmas album by country super group Alabama back in the 1980’s! I listened to Alabama A LOT, but I guess I had not heard their Christmas songs (other than Christmas in Dixie). I’m proud to say the song is now in my music library and I enjoy listening to it. Here’s a link to Alabama singing Christmas Memories if you would like to hear it:
But the song has stirred up a lot of “Christmas Memories” for me. I have memories from my childhood, from my children’s childhood, and now from grandchildren. But I also have fond memories of being an adult and having adult children. When Robin and I were first married all of my grandparents were living and one set of hers was still with us. So our Christmas celebration began on Christmas Eve at my paternal grandparents (Big Mama and Big Daddy). Christmas Day, we went to my maternal grandparents (Papa and Mama Jessie) and then to her maternal grandparents (Clarence and Flora). All three had huge meals and that was a lot of food to consume in a short time period. It was also a time when cousins would come home and we visited with family members that we didn’t get to see except around the holidays.
From my childhood I remember these big gatherings and an additional one at my great-grandmother’s house (Grandma Gilbreath) on Christmas Day. We had many cousins to play with at Grandma’s and one of our favorite activities was shooting firecrackers. There was a culvert in front of her house and we’d light firecrackers and throw them into the pipe to explode. The most vivid memory of that experience was the time when I didn’t get the firecracker in the pipe and it exploded just a few inches from my hand. It hurt! My hand was numb for a while, but then it was ok. Lesson learned: it is not smart to shoot fireworks in your hand.
I remember being so excited Christmas morning to see what presents Santa had left and I still remember some of them: my little red rocker, my camera, and a BB gun. The year we got the BB guns, my brother and I woke Mama and Daddy essentially in the middle of the night- 1:00 or 2:00 am. Then we were so excited we stayed up the rest of the night; poor Mama and Daddy went back to bed for a while.
When our children were young, Santa brought them a trampoline one Christmas. We had great difficulty getting them calmed down enough to go to bed so Santa could visit our house. It was freezing cold and dark in the back yard and Santa made a lot of noise trying to assemble the trampoline. Robin was quick to the rescue, however. She told the kids to get back in bed and she would go check out the noise. She also crafted a note from Santa saying he didn’t have time to get the trampoline assembled and to ask their dad to do it after Christmas was over. On a warmer day when there was plenty of light Dad got the trampoline ready for jumping.
So many of my memories are centered on traditions that we began when our girls were young, and many we still do today. Some examples:
We pick a night for our family to have dinner and open our presents for each other. One of the girls picked out the menu for our meal and we’ve now expanded that to our sons-in-law. Robin keeps the records for whose turn it is to select the Christmas menu and we’ve had breakfast for Christmas dinner, boiled shrimp, Mexican food… many non-traditional dinners. We all get in the kitchen and prepare the meal together in the afternoon. Before we open presents we read the Christmas story from Luke 2, always in the King James version of the Bible. When the girls were younger, we went to a tree farm and cut down a live tree, all of us decorated it together, and we all worked to put out our collection of Snow Village houses. We all went shopping for a new piece for the Snow Village each year.
When the girls were young, we slept by the Christmas tree one night and on Christmas Eve, they would drag cushions off the sofa and make a bed under the pool table; they would drape sheets or blankets on the sides to make a fort.
We save our change for two years and on the years that Katie and Joshua are home from St. Pete, everyone guesses how much is in the jar. We count it out and the closest guess gets the money.
Our traditions have evolved over the years; some are very different. For instance, our Snow Village collection is just four houses and some accessories now. We no longer cut a live tree and of course the kids aren’t here to help decorate. We have held firmly to some like reading the Christmas Story and having our family dinner.
But the important thing is we spend quality time together strengthening our family bond and we always remember why we are celebrating the day. That’s the tradition that I want most to continue in the years to come.