Christmas Memories


As Christmas approaches, I have been thinking about some of the traditions we had when I was a kid and about some of the great memories these created.

I remember starting to get very excited for Christmas around Thanksgiving time. Thanksgiving was always a lot of fun, but, the real excitement grew shortly afterward when we would put up our Christmas tree. I have seen pictures of real trees in our house when I was very little. But, my fondest memories are of the fake tree that my Mom still has. I was quite a production putting this up. First, the branches had to be separated by size, using the little paint blotches on the ends. Then we would put the lights on, then garland (the silver tinsel-ly kind), and then boxes and boxes of ornaments. I loved the end of the decorating when you had to really search for a branch to place an ornament on.

The days and nights leading up to Christmas were lit with the almost magical glow of the lights on that tree. I would sometimes sit and look at the tree and make my eyes go out of focus to blur the lights, and the reflections from the ornaments, making them come together into one multicolored shape. I was a weird kid…I know!

Then there were all of the festivities outside of the home to look forward to. Talking with friends about what they wanted, going shopping for gifts (Daddy, if you up there reading this, I am sorry for all of the Aqua Velva. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have picked something better), and the classroom parties (I mean who DIDN’T want to get the Lifesavers Story Book? I mean seriously!). Watching all of the classic Christmas shows with just the Christmas tree lights on. Does anyone remember waiting and waiting to hear your name included on the list of “good little girls and boys” on the Santa & Friends show?

I was just talking to my Mom the other day about another of my favorite things. Baking Sugar cookies!!! We used to have the best cookie cutters. We had Santa with his bag of toys, reindeer, Christmas trees, and gingerbread men. We would bake the cookies and then decorate (and I use that term loosely) them with an icing made of confectioners sugar, water and food coloring. We would try to be very careful with the icing and make everything just right. But, in the end, the icing just flowed all together and made a very tasty piece of abstract art.

Christmas Eve we always went to Mass at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Old Town. Most of my family would attend the early Mass and then go back to my grandparents house on French Island. There we would usually have our “Christmas” with my Uncle George and Aunt Suzie and their kids. It would be noisy, crowded, chaotic and lots of fun. We would have sandwiches that we made ourselves, salads, pickles & olives, and other great homemade foods that we could gorge ourselves on. We would then unwrap the presents from Uncle George and Aunt Suzie and the extended family and they would unwrap our gifts to them. This is where the phrase “organize chaos” originated. There were usually between 7 and 10 kids and at least as many adults. Paper would fly, kids would get hyperactive, and the parents were probably just wishing for an end to it all.

Christmas Eve was also the night for a very strange tradition, which I will call the “Christmas Morning Wake-up Call Negotiations & Bribe”. I have one aunt who would travel home from New York each year for Christmas. Let’s just say that she wasn’t excited about the early morning hours. So, once my sister and I reached a certain age, she would negotiate the time at which we called my grandparents (her parents) to come to our house on Christmas morning.

Now, at this point, I should explain that I was a rotten little child when it came to the whole sleep thing on Christmas Eve. I believe at some point my parents would induce my sleep using OTC cold remedies (probably where I got my love for NyQuil). I know that, on more than one occasion, I would get up about every hour, go into my parents room and ask “Has Santa come yet?” My poor parents! It’s a wonder they didn’t “forget” me at a convenience store on some distant family vacation.

Back to the “negotiations”. We would start early, she would counter late, and at some point we arrived at a mutually agreeable time…usually in our favor. In later years, the later in the morning we went, the bigger the bribe she would offer. I don’t remember ever receiving the pay-off. But, that’s not what matters.

Getting up Christmas morning was always GREAT! We would go to bed on Christmas eve and there would be a few things under the tree. But, when we woke up the things “Santa” left had usually double or tripled the pile. I have some great pictures of our living room with very little floor space left to walk on. My sister and I (mostly me) would get Mom and Daddy up and then we would call our grandparents and wake them up to come over. Waiting for my grandparents to arrive always seemed like the longest part of the day. All of those presents just screaming to be opened and we waited. It was probably only about 30 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. You know what else I remember? I remember my parents never being grumpy on Christmas morning. I know I personally attributed to their getting very little sleep. But, I don’t recall them ever being surly.

My grandparents would finally arrive and then we would all explore our Christmas stockings and then open the presents. Then things would quiet down a bit before Christmas dinner where my family and extended family would gather again to eat, drink and be merry. We always had turkey, Nana Collins’ stuffing (which my Momand Sister still make very well), Nana Hilchey’s 5-Cup Fruit Salad, more veggies than you could count and then pies, pies and more pies…including REAL Nana Collins’ mincemeat (which uses venison).

I hope, that when my niece gets to be my age, she looks back at her Christmas’ and has as many fond memories as I do.

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About Paul H-C

Just an avid reader in the little town of Bangor, Maine (Yes, that Bangor...home of Stephen King). When I'm not reading and drinking coffee, I sell cell phones by the sea shore.
This entry was posted in Christmas, family, memories, traditions. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Christmas Memories

  1. Anonymous says:

    hi uncle paul .our presents more like triple or quadruple.let alone we have NO floor at all!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Paul, These are great memories! Reading them made so many come back to me as well:__the cardboard fireplace & mantle was one of my FAVs! It would regularly fall down when we put the stockings on it!__reading to the little cousins on Christmas eve at Nana's.__Pampy's salted onions–oh, I still have such fond memories of those! While I don't remember them specifically at the holidays, I do remember them with baked beans and hot dogs…__the pom-pom kissing ball!__the yummy Refrigerator Date muffins that Mum would make and the HUGE bowl of it kept in the fridge overnight!__the wait for the grands was really l=o=n=g for me, too!I agree that Mum and Daddy were never grumpy. They clearly dealt with lack of sleep better than I do! Even Corey noted that I was frequently cranky on Christmas morning–LOL!

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s Your cousin Mike. I just found your blog.This post gave me a lump in my throat. I am so grateful to have these great memories from Christmas at nana and pamp’s house. We still make Nana’s stuffing, we had it this Christmas, I wouldn’t consider a holiday without it. I remember making your nana Hilchey’s five cup fruit salad for our christmas in enfield, it is still the best fruit salad of its kind, it has to be the sour cream instead of the cool whip that most others use.I remember being mesmerized by an ornament on your mom’s tree, it was a nutcracker that had a pull string that made its arms and legs move, I remember that one year she bought one for me.I remember that kissing ball, and the cardboard fireplace! LOLI remember Diane reading us stories on christmas, and with such expression, it made the anticipation of christmas that much more.I remember the ride home on christmas eve, I was always so nervous that we wouldn’t get home before santa got there, I would stare at the sky all the way home, yes I was a weird child, I am the first to admit it!

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