Growing up my parents always made a big deal out of Christmas. My mom didn’t have much growing up and I know they both wanted to make sure we knew not only how much we were loved, but also what the true meaning of Christmas was.
Christmas was always so special in our house. We’d decorate early and the whole house would get the Christmas treatment. From knickknacks and candy dishes to stockings and mistletoe, the whole house was transformed during the holiday season.
We always had a real tree growing up. When I was really little my dad would chop down a tree in the woods around our house. We lived on 10 acres and I still remember my mom telling a story about when we were babies. She remembers watching Daddy climb to the top of a pine tree, now in my mind I always pictured this as a very tall towering tree, and mom would explain how Daddy would be at the tip top of this pine tree with a saw in one hand swaying back and forth, back and forth.
My fondest memories though are of going to a Christmas Tree farm in town. This was a large farm where you would walk through several acres of trees searching for the perfect one. With three children we’d always fight a bit over who would get to pick the perfect tree. My dad would then saw the tree down and drag it back to the main house of the tree farm. They’d shake the extra needles out and anything that may be dwelling in the tree before helping my dad tie the tree to the top of the car. We’d always get free candy canes too.
I also remember as a child how Daddy would always have a fight with the Christmas tree trying to get it upright in the stand! It’s not as simple as it appears in the movies and they also didn’t make stands the way they do now. Some years, he’d have to saw part of the trunk down and one year he actually roped the tree to the wall!
After Daddy finished his job of getting the tree upright in the stand, he’d help us with the lights, which were always multi-colored. Once the lights were on the tree, he’d go off to relax while the rest of us set to decorating the tree.
My mom loves decorating the tree. Her thing was always bows. We had to make sure we got all of her bows on the tree before starting with the ornaments.
We were never perfectionists about the placement though and it was a more eclectic tree. We’d have some Christmas balls, lots of hand made ornaments from school and random ones that were gifts over the years.
We also always had an Angel atop our tree. Each year we’d take turns putting the Angel on top of the tree. When we were little of course, Daddy would hold us up so we could reach. My mom kept this random box top where she kept track each year whose turn it was, this way we didn’t fight over it!
Christmas Eve was always extra special and full of Hanson (my maiden name) Family traditions! We would go to a Candlelight service at our church and then pile back into the car. My dad would drive us around town looking for the best Christmas lights. While driving and looking at Christmas lights, we’d take turns picking our favorite Christmas carols to sing. In our adulthood and adding family members like husbands to the mix, the Christmas carols transferred to sitting around the Christmas tree.
Once home, we’d open ONE present on Christmas Eve. But, we always knew what this one present was, pajamas! We’d go to change into our new Christmas Pajamas and my mom would get a picture either in front of the fireplace or in front of the Christmas Tree.
We always had a Birthday Cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve. We’d light the candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before eating Chocolate Chocolate cake. I don’t know why we started having Chocolate Chocolate, but it stuck.
Then we’d sit in the living room around the Christmas Tree while my dad read the Christmas Story from the Bible.
Then we’d head to bed…
The next morning as children was always crazy and magical! I’ve heard a rumor since my childhood that there are kids in the world who actually sneak down and open their presents before waking their parents up!!
But, we would not sneak to the tree. We would get up extremely early to go wake my parents up, sometimes so early, that they’d tell us to go back to bed. Usually around 6:00 am or so they would get up, but my dad would drag his feet to taunt us.
We would be kept in the hallway (holding area) while my dad would say things like, I need to take a shower first or I need to make a pot of coffee first while we would whine to be let into the living room.
My mom would get her camera and wait in the living room hoping to get pictures of our excitement upon seeing our Santa presents for the first time.
In our house, Santa gifts were unwrapped and waiting for us under the tree.
After the excitement of our Santa gifts wore off (with ample time to play) we’d eat breakfast, then begin to open the family gifts. As a child, we’d just tear through them. Or, correction, I’d tear through them. My older sister, of course, would take her time. Then I was unfortunately the obnoxious whiny younger sister who’d cry that I didn’t have presents left. I am mortified to tell you that and honestly, Melanie, please forgive me!
When we got older, to make Christmas morning last as long as possible, we would actually have each family member take turns opening one present at a time and we’d all watch. This really extended things! I remember when my sister was dating her now husband and he called around noon to talk to her and she had to tell him that we were still opening presents!
And, yes, we got Santa gifts until we graduated from High School! My baby brother was born when I was eight and my sister was twelve, so officially we kept it going for him, but secretly we liked still getting Santa gifts as teenagers!
In our house stockings were always last. There was something fun about opening all your gifts and then remembering you still had stockings!
By the end of the day everyone was exhausted. You’d either pass out and nap or hide in your room playing with your new toys!
Things are a little different now as we are all grown ups, married and my sister has three children of her own. We all go to my sisters house and do presents there. We still take our time, but instead let everyone open one gift at a time simultaneously. It still lengthens Christmas morning, but not as long.
I remember my husband and I’s first Christmas in our apartment, then in our first house. Since then, we now live in a different city and are now in an apartment, but we still carry on our own traditions.
We read A Christmas Carol aloud every year and try to watch the George C. Scott version before Christmas. We usually watch Elf on Thanksgiving night and It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas night. We open our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve morning, this way it’s special just the two of us.
I’ve also grown my Christmas Village over the years. Putting it together every year is one of my favorite parts of the Holiday Season.
Christmas, for me, is all about family. Even though I personally love giving and getting gifts (it’s one of my love languages), I honestly would be happy as long as I can spend it with my family.
I would like to wish all of my readers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
What are your Christmas Traditions? Please share in the comments section below!