“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.”
As the years have rolled by, Christmas has taken on many different faces.
Memories of Christmas Eve with my paternal grandfather and my dad’s sister are still so dear to my sisters and me. The lights on the tree, the scent of freshly-baked cookies and nut bread, all seemed to hold magic.
Our aunt enjoyed baking all sorts of treats for us, and she would put great thought in to finding special gifts for each of us. Though money was scarce, I am sure, the surprises to be found under the tree with our name marked on them could surely delight us not only on that magical evening but for months to come.
One gift which I saved for years was a small jewelry box with a wind-up ballerina twirling to music. Aunt Marilyn was so pleased with my happy reaction to that small present. I remember tucking away all sorts of special items in that music box over the years. After our dear aunt’s death at the age of 36, Christmas Eve was celebrated in our own home, with our grandfather visiting.
Christmas Day in my younger years meant packing up wrapped gifts and several hot dishes of good food and heading to my maternal grandparents’ home. It was a small home and it became packed to the rafters when the entire family arrived.
Cousins tussled with glee on the living room floor, happy to see one another, until one of the aunts restored order.
After a big meal which all of the children tried to hurry through, someone would start washing dishes, much to our chagrin. Couldn’t the dishes wait until after the gifts were opened?
Mostly the gifts were such things as new pajamas with maybe a toy or game for each of us. The year I remember with the greatest of grins is the year my dear Aunt Barbie bought me a stuffed monkey.
I had been hoping for a real monkey in the worst way, but the small toy meant the world to me. At least someone was listening!
Daily milking and chores
For children raised on a dairy farm, the reality of daily milking and chores hits with a harsh ring on Christmas Day. Just as the cousins were setting up the newest board game, it was time for us to pack up and head for the milking parlor. I remember wishing we could stay in the worst way, but there was no sense in grumbling about it. We had been raised with the realization that milking was a 365-day-a-year job.
I remember incredibly cold Christmas nights, the cattle with frosty noses, and wishing we could somehow give them a special treat to mark the day.
Right place to be
As I grew older and realized Christmas had been born in a humble, cold barn with the arrival of baby Jesus in a manger, it felt like the very right place to be on a snowy, holy night.