I am often envious of those who have wonderful Christmas memories from their childhood. I was raised in a dysfunctional home where my Mother had a serious mental illness and my mean older sister was allowed to rule. I do have some good memories although they are mixed in with some very bad ones. Our family did have some Christmas traditions that I continued to carry on into the lives of my own children. These are the things I like to remember.
We moved to Tucson Arizona just before my first Christmas. Living in a desert area you learn to adapt some regular traditions to what is available. Live Christmas trees, although available, were almost impossible to keep alive until Christmas morning. The air was too dry and it was still warm in December so after the first year my Dad went out and bought an aluminum Christmas tree. Yes, I said aluminum! It came with a color wheel which you aimed at the tree and when it was on it would cast the colors of green, red, yellow and blue onto the tree. The tree would then illuminate the room in the various colors.
My Mother found the Indian culture of the area fascinating and she especially loved the turquoise jewelry that was made here. When it came time to paint the outside of our home it was white with a turquoise trim. So, she brought those colors into our Christmas decorations. The aluminum tree was decked with turquoise colored ornaments and garland. We had white tinsel on the tree. Even the lighted star at the top of the tree was turquoise. One year she made a large wreath to hang in our oversized front windows. It was an old hula hoop wrapped in white garland. She inserted a string of lights inside the hoop and covered each bulb with a silver aluminum pan that came from the pot pies we ate. Of course, the lights were a turquoise color. My Dad would string white and blue lights along the edge of our flat roof and drape some inside the huge Century plant in the front yard.
Inside the house, we would remove all the pictures hanging on the walls and wrap them like presents, complete with bows. The large Nativity scene was placed atop the Television and candles were placed everywhere.
Every year we would make sugar cookies and decorate them with M&M’s. We would then wrap them in saran wrap and hang them from the tree. Guests could remove one and eat it when they came to visit and on Christmas Eve my sister and I got to have one along with hot chocolate. We were also allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve; of course, it was one that was specifically wrapped for that purpose!
I remember the last Christmas that we spent in Arizona when I was almost 12 years old. I got a new bicycle and a one-piece swimsuit. I put on the suit and jumped on my bike and rode around for hours. When we moved to Missouri a few months later some of the kids in my class were asking me questions about AZ. When I told them I was excited to actually have snow for the Holidays they asked about Christmas in Tucson. When I told them about the swimsuit and bike experience they called me a liar. They couldn’t fathom how it could possibly be 79 degrees on Christmas morning!
Passing along the traditions that we had while growing up is important to the cohesiveness of the generations. It connects us to the past and helps us to share our reasons for these traditions. Spend some time thinking about how you celebrated the Holidays and then write them down. Future generations will love them!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.