Christmas is my favorite holiday. It was a big deal and a special time in my childhood home on our farm in Iowa. Our family Christmas traditions were sacred.
- My family always had a real Christmas tree. Sometimes we bought one and sometimes my Dad trudged out in the deep snow and cold to find a suitable cedar tree for the honor of being propped up in a metal stand in our living room. It was prominently placed typically in front of the south-facing picture window so everyone driving on the gravel road past our home could see it.
- All seven of us kids decorated the Christmas tree. We loved it when our Mom brought out the old Christmas ornaments and we fought over who would carefully place the most special glass ones on the tree. We also had several hand-made ornaments.
- I think all of my sisters and my brother have stories about trying to find hidden Christmas presents. I know I always tried to peek when my Mom wasn’t around. If she found us peeking we were punished by having to stand in a corner. Sometimes all four corners of the living room had a kid in it facing punishment.
- My Mom baked year ’round but Christmas was an extra special time for baking. Decorating Christmas cookies cut out with the old silver cookie cutters was a delightful time. She also always made the most delectable pies. The crust was so flaky which was possibly due to using the bacon drippings she saved in a can next to the stove.
- For weeks, my siblings and I practiced for the Christmas Eve program at church. This was an annual tradition and the center stage of our celebration.
- Just hours before this church program I fondly remember receiving one gift from our Mother. The gift was new clothes which we would wear to the church program. As the fourth-born child whom nearly always wore hand-me-downs, a beautiful new dress was a dream come true.
- After dressing up and then bundling up, we all piled into our station wagon (yes, all nine of us) for our journey to the Christmas program at our church. For some reason our Mom was always the last one in the car. She was the one who was putting out Santa’s gifts.
- The Christmas program itself was a special time for our family. When I was very young it was one of the only church services my Father would attend with the family (the other being Easter). After the program, all the children received a gift from the church–an extra-large candy bar. It was a real treat for us because we rarely had candy we didn’t have to share.
- Of course when we returned from church, we all ran into the house to find the gifts which Santa had left for us. We took turns opening gifts which took quite awhile since we had a big family. The living room floor was always covered with wrapping paper. My family didn’t have a lot of money but we always had Christmas presents. It was truly a special family time.
- My Mom and Dad usually had a drink and we often times had egg nog. Sometimes we sang Christmas carols and once I remember my brother reading a passage from the Bible. We often got to stay up later than usual (usual was 8:00 pm). It was a loud, fun and joyous time.
I still attend church on Christmas Eve and celebrate the real reason for Christmas, the birth of Jesus, our Savior. Since my immediate family members live in other states, I attend church alone. My daughter and her family always visit her in-laws on Christmas Eve. When I return home from church I outline the sidewalk and driveway at my home with hand-made luminaries. It is definitely a silent night, not at all like the one I grew up with.
What are some of your childhood Christmas traditions?