Christmas has always been important to my family.
Every year Hannah, my mom and I put out cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve (something we still do today even though we’re in our 20’s). We’d bake cookies, or maybe just give him a store bought one (Santa doesn’t discriminate with cookies), and we’d write him a note with last minute requests. Hannah and I would fight over who got to arrange the plate and glass. And then we’d be sent to our rooms to “sleep”. Of course we’d just lay in our beds talking about what we thought Santa would bring us this year, and wait to hear the reindeer hooves prancing on our roof or the jingles of the sleigh bells.
Sometimes we’d sneak out of bed, but mom was always ready to send us back to our room. If we caught a glimpse of Santa, he’d probably take all of our presents away (and that would be the worst thing in the world). On Christmas morning we’d find bites taken out of the carrots and crumbs from the cookie and a hand written note from Santa (we’re super special).
For years we’d visit family in Petaluma on Christmas Eve. They lived in a farm(ish) town. I don’t remember much, but I know we had to drive through fields filled with cows and sheep to get there. The drive always took forever (probably not more than 2 hours). I knew we were close when we drove up the big driveway to the house on a hill (pretty sure it wasn’t a hill…) I loved visiting Petaluma for 2 reasons:
- There were always mass quantities of food and presents
- That meant Christmas was the next day – one more sleep and I’d be playing with all my new toys
I can remember one particular evening in Petaluma, my older cousin took all the younger cousins outside to look in the sky for Santa. She pointed to Santa’s sleigh (a plane) and said, “There he is!” I cannot think of a time where I was more excited. We ran into the house screaming that we’d seen Santa in the sky and I just knew that was going to be the most amazing Christmas ever. I peered out the car window as we made our trek home, hoping to see Santa’s sleigh one more time.
My grandma Mary Lou often lived with us during the holiday season. She’d help us decorate and make us delicious spaghetti sauce. Christmas was her holiday, and she made sure to make Christmas special for Hannah and I. In high school I loved Abercrombie and Fitch (LOVED it). I’d gone to the mall and found the sweatshirt, the one I had to have. It was expensive and nice and had fur lining and I just knew all my friends would be jealous. Well, grandma made sure to have that waiting for me on Christmas morning. She’d be sure to pick out the perfect gifts and have them neatly lined up under the tree. And then she’d give us wads of cash… just in case she missed something. Many of my greatest Christmas memories are ladled with memories of her.
8 years ago my family experienced a deep tragedy with my grandmother’s passing. It was just a few days before Thanksgiving when I received the phone call. This could be a heavy time for our family, but we know she’d want us to celebrate with the same vigor she always had… so we do with memories of her and even a stocking.
Someone asked me the other day if I like the Christmas season.
I think Christmas is a special time of year. It allows us to remember loved ones lost, and celebrate the new ones in our lives. We get a chance to spend extra time with our dysfunctional families and share in the joy of the season together. It’s a cozy time of year. Christmas and togetherness go hand in hand for me. I equate this time of year with spending time with my family and closest friends. Where would we be if it weren’t for those special people in our lives?
As I get older I’m noticing the shift. As a kid I cared about presents, now… I’m starting to care more about the company I’m privileged to spend my holiday season with.
So, Christmas is my favorite time of year because I get to love those that I already love, just a little bit more. Because I get a chance to hang out with my family. Because I get a chance to decorate my house. And because I’m reminded how rich and full of joy my life is.