Every Christmas I faithfully bake the fruitcake that Mom and Grandma baked. I religiously buy the ribbon candy and mixed nuts that were holiday treats for Mom and Dad. These traditional foods make us feel like Mom and Dad are still with us even though it has already been almost seven and nine years that they have been gone.
I am also fortunate to have the story of her childhood Christmas memories towards the end of the Great Depression that she wrote in 2001 for my son’s classroom project. To this day she feels close to me as I carry on some of these family traditions and read the story she wrote for my son:
“My mother was a great cook and everything always tasted good. When I was a young girl, many years ago, I remember the sight of beautiful deep red cranberries popping and spitting in a tall pan on a wood-burning stove. I can hear the popping of the cranberries as the hot syrup caused the berries to make small explosions that splattered and spit at us as I watched by the stove. I remember you had to jump back quickly. The burn from the cranberry syrup was tiny but intense. My memory of this is vivid to this day.
I liked the colors of Christmas. We went to the Nativity play at the First Baptist Church on the corner of Broad and Rhone in Webb City to see the Nativity play where the birth of Christ was retold. The children dressed in costumes and they used a doll for the Baby Jesus. I remember the pretty blue of Mary’s dress. Afterwards the children got paper sacks filled with colorful Christmas candy, an apple and an orange. This was a real treat. The colors were important for me. This was a time when we were all coming out of the Great Depression. Most of us had little and the items called for worn things and drab colors. You cannot imagine how brown everything was in our homes. At Christmas my world became brighter.
The colors made me feel thankful and there were so many colors to absorb. Christmas would not be Christmas without seeing lights on a fir tree in our house. We did not always have a tree each year because some years Pop couldn’t always afford one. One year when I was ten, my Mom let me have my heart’s desire having all blue lights on our Christmas tree. I think now she must have understood how much I loved the beauty of this holiday. This tree was my favorite. It calmed me and gave me peace. My appreciation and happiness of that moment has never been forgotten.
Christmas brings back memories of ribbon candy, the hard Christmas candy each with its own special flavor, and the candied orange peel my Aunt Jessie always made. She also brought minced meat pie. We were not crazy about the pie because it had real meat in it, but it was part of our Christmas tradition. I remember applesauce cake made from a seventy-five year old recipe. It was always so good. Mama only made her special cake twice a year – at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It had black walnuts in it – ones we gathered off the ground after the first frost in the fall.
I remember the fun of making paper chains, stringing popcorn and singing Christmas carols. We sang the same songs you sing today – “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Deck the Halls.”
The stories, including “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” reading about Santa Claus and his reindeer filled my imagination. I remember laying in bed on Christmas Eve waiting to see him fly through the sky and land on the housetop. I always fell asleep before it happened. I wrote a letter to Santa Claus about my wish list. My brothers and sisters and I would go through Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs to figure out what we wanted. My list was not so grand. Skates. Dolls. Play dishes. Yet we knew, and without resentment, there might not be any present waiting for us on Christmas morning. It did not matter because I loved the wonder of what might be. It’s like watching a Christmas parade. You’re not a part of it but you still find it enjoyable.”
This Christmas give your family members the priceless gift of sharing your Christmas childhood memories with your children or grandchildren. You can write about your most memorable Christmas and add some of your childhood pictures to your story. One day your descendants will enjoy reading how you and your family celebrated the holidays and will cherish the stories that you left them.
If you are blessed to be with your parents and/or grandparents this holiday season, sit down with them and use the voice memo on your cell phone to record their stories .
Today, grab a paper and pen or open up your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your traditions.
- What Christmas decorations did you put up every year?
- What did you do on Christmas Eve?
- What was your Christmas dinner and whom did you share it with?
- Describe your favorite Christmas present .
- What did Christmas morning feel like when you were a child?