I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the traditions my family had at Christmas when I was growing up, and wondering how to best share and integrate those with the grandchildren. It is a good thing to look back and appreciate those memories once in awhile. Those memories and traditions make us who we are today. If they were good memories, then we take those and learn to grow because of them, passing them forward to the next generation. If they weren’t so good, then we can take those and learn what NOT to do going forward. None wasted, all precious for different reasons.
When my brother and I were growing up Christmas Eve was always spent at my father’s parents house. No deviation, we always went over there for dinner and a few gifts . . . and it always ended with Grandpa laying on his left side, head propped on his hand, in front of the TV, sleeping soundly. It never stopped surprising me that he was out like a light but if anyone even pretended to touch the TV dial he’d be wide awake instantly and frowning at the offending TV channel changer. It almost became a game to see who could get closest to the TV and get the channel changed before he woke up. I honestly don’t think anyone ever managed it! Christmas morning we had certain rules . . . we weren’t to leave our bedrooms until both Mom and Dad were up. Dad had to get his coffee going and a fire built, Mom had to get a little make-up on and be at least slightly presentable. My poor folks. They would get to bed around 3 a.m. after getting everything wrapped and under the tree, and it was inevitable that we would wake up before 5:00 a.m. My brother and I would be wide awake, dancing in place in the doorways to our bedrooms, exchanging stage whispers back and forth in an attempt to wake up our folks without being obvious . . . which made it more obvious. Kids can be so silly, can’t they? Once we were sprung from the confines of our bedrooms, we would all go to the living room and, with the sun not even awake yet, take our places near the tree waiting for permission to start. Stockings were always first. I must say that my mother is the BEST stocking stuffer EVER! You haven’t seen a stuffed stocking unless Mom put it together. I stuff my stockings for the kids in much the same way and I’ll post a picture once I actually buy the stuffers and get them put together. My brother always just dumped his out and went through all the stuff at record pace. I’ve always liked to take one thing at a time out and savor each one. Since nobody was allowed to move on to gifts until the stockings were done, this was sometimes a source of frustration. . .for my brother. I didn’t care – Christmas came once a year and there was too much really neat stuff in that stocking to rush it. My brother survived the wait, just as I knew he would. Once we were done opening gifts we were allowed to play for a little while until breakfast was ready, then we would all get ready, and putting our toys back under the tree, and we would head out for my mother’s parents house. As I’ve said before, going to Grandma K’s house was wonderful in every way – a blessing from the moment we pulled into the driveway, until the moment we pulled out. My brother and I never argued when we were there. We just knew it would hurt Grandma to hear us fight, so we didn’t. She had a teeny, tiny little tree on top of her TV, and a few ornaments here and there. She would wrap up a couple little things for us, but that wasn’t why we were there. No, Grandma and Grandpa’s house was filled with so much love that you could just FEEL it in the air. There isn’t any other way to really describe it, it was pure, unadulterated love in its sweetest form. I miss them. I miss pulling into their driveway on Christmas morning and seeing Grandma drying her hands on her apron, a big smile on her face, ready to hug us close. I knew she’d smell of the powder she wore, and cinnamon. Those days were precious and gone far too soon. My Grandchildren will never have that experience, but I hope and pray that someday when they look back on their growing up years that they are just as filled with nostalgia for their time spent with us as I have for the time spent with my Grandparents. Please appreciate your traditions. There will come a day when, by nobody’s fault, they change. They have to as people change, coming and going from our lives. Living full lives also means not having any regrets when our time here is over.
Poinsettia Day – This beautiful, vibrant plant was brought to this country by Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was the first Ambassador to Mexico and brought the plant back to his plantation in the U.S. He grew the plants in his Greenville, S.C. plantation and gave them out as gifts to friends. According to Mexican folklore, there was a little poor girl who had nothing to bring to church for Christmas. On her way to church she picked some plants by the side of the road. After she walked into the church the leaves at the tips of the branches turned to bright red flowers and became Poinsettias! These beautiful flowers are a well-recognized symbol of Christmas. .
Gingerbread House Day – I’ve never actually made a gingerbread house – which surprises me since I truly think they are pretty amazing. In Seattle every year, at the Sheridan Hotel, local chefs face off in a gingerbread house competition. Amazing works of art, made from gingerbread and candy. It’s quite incredible. I may have to try one next year – it’s just too late for me to give it a shot this year.
National 12-hour Fresh Breath Day – Bad-smelling breath isn’t just an annoyance to the people around you; it can also mean there is a health problem. The toxic fumes could mean dry mouth, gum disease or something else that needs to be checked by a medical professional. Obviously, or it should be obvious, taming the nastiness can be helped by brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth and using breath fresheners. There are a few people who come into my office that I’ve really felt like force feeding them mints – they lean over my desk to talk and it just about knocks me backwards. Awful – it’s a terrible combination of stale coffee, bad teeth and chewing tobacco. They may as well be eating sewage, it’s that bad!
Food Celebration of the Day –
National Ambrosia Day – Not to be confused with the food of the Greek gods in ancient mythology, modern-day ambrosia salad is a fluffy combination of marshmallow, coconut and various fruits. We have it every year at Thanksgiving, minus the marshmallows. The fruit, coconut and whipped cream is enough for us to completely enjoy.
- 5-Cup Ambrosia Salad
- Afghan Ambrosia
- Pistachio Ambrosia
- Ambrosia Oatmeal
- Honey Ambrosia
- Baked Ambrosia
- Ambrosia Sweet Potatoes
My baking day is over, and I won’t have time to get back to it until Saturday, but it was fun! It always feels so good to make the goodies that I’ll end up giving as gifts. I’ll spend some time between now and then planning what to make next. Merry Christmas, God Bless You and I’ll see you tomorrow!