Remembering Christmases of the past

The chill in the air and the lightly falling snow outside my window is a wonderful backdrop to the wonder of the blessed holiday.

There is no other time of year that is quite so wondrous, so magical, so worthy of our wonder.

Christmas is the most important birthday celebration of all time. No matter how sidetracked our society has become in marking this joyous holiday, it is uplifting to realize that a baby’s birth in a hay manger in Bethlehem is so universally celebrated.

There is no denying that far too much of the focus of this holiday season misses this holy gift. Just in my lifetime alone, I have seen Christmas become something it never should have evolved in to, and it is regrettable on so many levels it would be impossible to count them all.

Remember a childhood

It is pleasant to remember a childhood spent loving the Christmas hymns we so joyously sang in our little country church. O Holy Night has always been a lovely favorite. Our Sunday school teachers helped to take the focus completely away from Santa and our little wish lists, placing the importance back on the holy event of the birth of baby Jesus.

I can’t help but realize that even our small wish lists were far simpler then. We were reminded constantly by my parents that the Christmas spirit encompassed sharing the love and joy of being together with our family members, and the tradition of giving small gifts was born of that emotion.

My Aunt Marilyn was known for her wonderful baking gifts, and my sisters and I always enjoyed helping her in the kitchen during the days leading up to Christmas. Dressed in a pretty dress covered with an apron, both sewn by her, she would roll out dough for the traditional cut-out cookies and let us help her decorate them with frosting and sprinkles.

Mayberry RFD

Aunt Marilyn’s date-nut bread was something my father always looked forward to, and as he dunked a fresh slice in a cup of coffee, he would playfully urge his sister to share her secret recipe, which she guarded with equal determination. It was a scene that could have been plucked from the pages of a Mayberry RFD episode, my father Sheriff Andy Taylor, my sweet aunt portraying our very own Aunt Bea.

I felt so big when Aunt Marilyn would let me help her measure, stir and pour all of those ingredients that came together in a delicious treat in the end. I learned not to talk while she was measuring, or counting as she was busy breaking eggs in to batter.

“If I don’t get it right, it won’t taste nearly as good,” she warned.

Piano recital

As Christmas drew near, my sisters and I practiced for our piano recital which was held in the church, orchestrated by my father’s Aunt Virginia who taught hundreds of children piano over the course of many years. Refreshments were served afterward, and I remember so well that feeling of utter relief that our solo piano performances were behind us.

Standing in the basement of the church with so many parents and grandparents who had quietly cheered us on in the much-anticipated recital, it seems those dazzlingly-decorated cookies tasted especially sweet. My very first recital piece, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, at the age of 6 felt like a major accomplishment in front of all those people.

More humble

Life seemed more humble, and our small gifts more humbly shared, during our Christmases of days gone by. I remember sitting in front of our freshly-cut Christmas tree, the mix of enormous colored lights and old, round glass ornaments of various, unmatched design, and thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

We never hoped for much, and it went without saying that we were not to “ask” for anything. The gifts we unwrapped together were only a small part of the much-larger celebration, and we felt very blessed.

Christmas blessings to everyone, from my home to yours.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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