Ahhhh Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. I love the holiday, not because of the gifts, but because of the overall spirit of the season. Sure there comes stress and grumpy folks to deal with, but the joy seems to melt that all away.
I’ve loved Christmas ever since I was a little girl. I think I still get as giddy now, and I’m closing in on 40! Even when I was a child I enjoyed more than the presents. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for Santa to come and make my wishes come true. I sat down and studied that Sears Wish Book as soon as it came in the mail and made my list; Easy Bake Oven, Strawberry Shortcake and Friends, board games, anything Wonder Woman … and I wasn’t thrilled when I didn’t get a Cabbage Patch Doll the first year that they came out, but I survived. What got me through it? The traditions.
Visiting Santa, decorating, baking cookies, going to see Christmas lights, Christmas Eve mass and getting up close to the manger for a visit and lighting a candle, hearing my aunt and uncle’s voices stand out in the choir, and knowing that family would all be together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Every Christmas Eve, without fail, my sister’s mother-in-law (probably need to put into perspective here that my sister is 20 years older than me) would leave a gift for me on our front porch. It was the one gift I’d open that night. Most of the ornaments on my tree now are from her, and each year when I decorate I think of her as I hang each ornament. Angels, Snoopy, Paddington Bear, Santa with a Cell phone … so many memories. So blessed.
Something always smelled fishy, literally, on Christmas Eve and carried over into the next day. As I type this today, on Christmas morning, my house smells of last night’s feast of the fishes. My Italian Mama would make baccala and spaghetti with alici (anchovies) and hot peppers. I always had plain spaghetti with butter, but as an adult I wised up and realized what I was missing. Now that my Mama’s gone, my nephew and brother-in-law do the cooking.
Then on to Christmas day … Buon Natale! Zeppoles for breakfast and some hot cocoa, gift opening and then all of the family coming over. My Irish father pretending to be Italian. Antipasto all day. Meats, cheeses, olives, peppers, stuffed breads. And then Mama’s Chicken Cacciatore and pasta of some kind. Followed by cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. Pizzeles, chocolate chips, butterballs, sugar cookies, struffoli. Food. We know how to do food. And games. FIERCE competition. Trivial Pursuit and whatever the latest game is that Santa has left.
It’s not the same without my parents, and by not being married or having children of my own it sometimes saddens me that I don’t have anyone to share all of these lovely, crazy traditions with and to pass them down to. But I do share. With my sisters and brothers that are still in town. We celebrate in my home, which is where we grew up. I share with my nieces and nephews, and especially hope that the young ones one day understand what wonderful people their grandparents were and that they enjoy the rich traditions that have been passed down through the generations. I share with neighbors and friends and those who may not have anyone to be with on the holiday.
It’s the moments and the memories that we create together that make Christmas so special. Giving to others and sharing and loving one another, that’s what I enjoy the most. That’s what Christmas means to me.
Whatever makes the holiday special for you, I hope you enjoy it. I hope your memories are as rich as mine, and when you look back on Christmases past you are filled with joy and love.