Christmas Traditions

I thought I’d write a post about Christmas Traditions to put myself more in the Christmas spirit.  Unfortunately, I realized that for me, the tradition seems to be to be a bit maudlin on Christmas.  I wrote for a bit, and then I looked for last year’s blog entries, and now my happy mood has turned bittersweet. I think that’s how I am at Christmas time.  I work hard to make everything happy and fun and delightful to cover up the fact that really it’s a bittersweet time of year.  You miss your grandparents…you miss your childhood…you miss your family…that’s growing up, isn’t it?

You might miss your cat too!  Growing up isn’t so great after all.

When I was little, we (myself and my immediate family) would open our Christmas gifts the night before we were going to leave for visiting relatives.  We lived in South Carolina, but my mom’s parents and family lived in Pennsylvania and my dad’s in Ohio, so we would set out for one side of the family, spend a few days, drive to the other side, spend a few days, and drive home.  We did this every year until Carrie was almost born.  I loved visiting my grandparents and cousins.

Note to readers:  I never believed in Santa.  After all, we opened our Christmas gifts 5 to 7 days early.  That would hardly fit the story!  For me, as I grew older the surprise was that other kids actually DID.  I thought nobody believed in Santa!

Last year I wrote the parts in italics:

Feeling a wee bit maudlin this evening…

I’m not visiting my family over Christmas at all.  This is the first time ever that I haven’t seen my family over Christmas at all.

I grew up in South Carolina, and my Dad’s family lived in western Ohio, and my Mom’s family in eastern Pennsylvania.  We would set out for one or the other the day after school let out (usually PA first), spend a few days, drive to the other, spend a few days, drive home.  In between we’d eat lunch at my great-aunt Wilma’s house near the border of Ohio and PA.  She would always make us hot ham sandwiches, oyster crackers with ranch seasoning, and whatever cookies were on hand, which were often not very good.

Wilma passed away this year.

Pennsylvania:  Memories of weirdly bad cookies, playing with cousins, the apartment in the basement, lots of Amish people, church, ice, snow, “Trade hands sight unseen”, riding in the huge front seat of the car with Grandpa driving, Christmas lights, taking forever to get to the exit from the Interstate, singing in the car on the way there.  Ham loaf, Grandma trying to get us to clean our plates, Mom trying to stop us from cleaning our plates, eating in the cold sunroom, playing in the backyard, that steep steep driveway, Grandma watching cable tv, the two chairs in the family room, Grandma saying “ay, ay, AY, ay, ay” and sleeping on the floor.  Matching outfits, sledding, playing piano duets, scrapple, Mom wearing knee-high boots to church, Grandma trying to send sandwiches along on the trip, Grandpa’s pointy ended glasses and saying it was “Christmas Eve Eve” (that’s today, btw—and for some reason that is the memory that sticks most in my head…I believe by the following Christmas he had had his stroke).

I would add singing the 12 days of Christmas, and my uncle Ed’s Christmas tree and the trains in the basement.

It’s hard to believe how long it has been since I have been to my family in that area.  After my grandparents passed away I really haven’t been back.  I miss them…I wish I could have known them longer.

I have many more recent memories of Ohio, since I lived just 2 1/2 hours away for many years.  However, I also have some memories as a child:

Ohio:  Eating so many homemade cookies I threw up, playing in the snow with my cousins, PONG, ping-pong in the garage, the kitties, ice skating on the pond, singing a cappella at church, sleeping in the parlor, fancy dinners, date pudding, mince pie, the cuckoo clock, playing games, snow, wanting to play outside when it was actually 20 below zero and not understanding why, white bread toast, orange juice, “let me get my socks on!”, sitting around just visiting…I actually seem to have less specific memories of Ohio—I think it’s because we did more varied things in PA since it was more of a city-type of place, and more of the same thing repeatedly (i.e. playing with cousins) in Ohio.  But I loved visiting both so much!

I will always have those memories Smile

HannahChristmas 1983

Oh, and I guess I played the violin a lot too!  Look at those KNEES.

1991 changed things:  My mom was pregnant with Carrie (who was born on January 19) and didn’t want to travel.  We hosted Christmas in South Carolina!  After that point, we just stopped doing the two family Christmas as much.  My brother was in college, then I went to college, and well, it just changed a bit.  We started having more traditions in South Carolina—we would play at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and before that we’d have a cheese ball with crackers and shrimp with cocktail sauce.  On Christmas morning we’d have an elaborate brunch, involving cheese grits and cinnamon rolls, before opening our presents.

2004 Carrie folding napkins

2005 Christmas Dinner.  It’s hard to get a good picture of everyone.

One thing that never changed in our family was how we’d open the presents.  Always one at a time, to really savor the moment.  We’d go around the family and each person would open one gift, then the next, then we’d go around again until everybody had opened all their presents.  No mad rush, we would take our time and really appreciate what we received.  (Well, except Leslie, who, as a child, tended to cry a lot during present opening…)

My first Christmas tree on my own—in Charlotte, North Carolina.  That’s a TON of presents I have! 2002, I think.

Then we started to grow up and attend other family’s Christmas gatherings instead of our own.  A few times my parents and siblings came up to Cleveland (it was easy since my grandparents only lived 2 1/2 hours away from) for Christmas, or we’d meet at a retreat in Laurelville, Pennsylvania.


Christmas last year in New York.

This year Chris and I are spending Christmas alone.  It’s our first time ever doing this, and the reason is because we didn’t want to add to the wedding stress by traveling.  I’ve made reservations for Christmas brunch in addition to a fancy dinner two nights before.  I’m also playing a Christmas Eve service the night before.  I think it will be a wonderful weekend!  We have a huge tree that is decorated, and though we don’t have any gifts for each other under it (not doing that this year either) we do have some wrapped gifts under it (for our wedding party!).  I will be sad that we aren’t spending Christmas with our family, but the following weekend will MORE than make up for it, I think.

2005, the year I evidently had curly hair.  Weird.

It’s really nice not traveling over the holidays though.  I look forward to a wonderful relaxing Christmas, my last Christmas as a single lady.

(the last time we were all together at Christmas!)

I wrote this caption for the picture last year on Christmas:

My family the last time we spent Christmas together.  Leslie didn’t have her boyfriend with her at the time, but it’s just as well as she has a new one now Winking smile  Maybe in a year or two we’ll get another group photo!  (serious alert!—) It’s amazing we were all together—later that day my dad left to go up to Ohio to say his goodbyes to my Grandpa, and then the rest of us drove up the next day.

That’s Christmas for you—sad for those who are no longer with you or cannot be together, but happy to be with those whom you can.


3 thoughts on “Christmas Traditions”

  1. I never believed in Santa either!!!

    I can totally relate to your feelings in this. My first year of marriage was HARD around Christmastime as we struggled to figure out the whole family thing. Even though we’ve now got it down and manage to make both families happy, it’s still a little sad to think back to childhood Christmases!

    Enjoy your Christmas this weekend–it sounds nice! Can’t wait to hear about your fancy dinner! Ryan and I are celebrating “our” Christmas tomorrow and heading to Taste. Cocktails.Mmmm.

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