I’ve loved Christmas for as long as I have a memory. Our family holidays were enveloped in love and warmth, lots of laughter, cookies and other delectable delights. Growing up we were lucky enough to have Norman Rockwell Christmases—or as close to as a real family could get.

I am a completely sentimental, teary-eyed sap who wishes Peace on Earth were our daily reality and not just words to a lovely song. This season, I wish for joys and blessings to everyone and that the holidays fill you with kindness and gratitude.

My younger brother and older sister help me remember childhood Christmases when we were only three, six (and a half) and seven (and three-quarters). Some parts of Christmas stayed the same for us for decades. Given that, I hope we made it special for the youngest of us, born 12 years after the oldest.

Jackie, RM, Joey, mid 1960s
Jackie, RM, Joey, mid 1960s

We’d Wake Our Folks

One of us little tots would wake up, run through the house and check: Santa came! We’d wake another kid, wake another kid, and dash into our parents’ bedroom. Were they asleep with those toddler-sized feet running around?

We’d yell with glee, Santa came! They’d respond, “Okay. Wait in the kitchen, no going in the living room!” We’d stand in the archway, looking in wonder at the tree and the colorful packages. Maybe we’d glimpse the edge of an unwrapped gift that signaled it had come directly from Santa.

One year, Jackie or I woke up at two-thirty in the morning. Wojo was too little to have done this. There wasn’t a brightly decorated tree when we’d gone to bed. But there it now stood along with gaily wrapped gifts. Together, two little girls in their Dr. Denton’s tiptoed into our parents’ room. We each took a parent and shook a shoulder: Santa came! Groggily, we got a response, saw a glance at the clock, a moan from one of them. “Okay, girls, get your brother up.”

The Best Christmas Gifts

Our parents made the holiday special. Not the quantity or monetary value of Christmas gifts, but because of the sentiment, thoughtfulness, and honesty surrounding the giving. In 1968 I got a rabbit’s foot—and wrecked my first two-wheeler while wearing it. What a variety of Christmases over the years—gifts given with thought and kindness, my parents made Christmas remarkable. It was so much more than getting the guitar I wanted or the label makers we sisters still have. Our gifts involved laughter and joy—filling us like the stockings we got every year. It was traditions of cookies for breakfast, turning Christmas lights on upon rising, whether it was three in the morning or six.

Our Christmas Tree Joy

The village arrayed under the tree held competing churches—Mom’s religion and Dad’s religion. From the moment the platform was setup with the train and trees and Ivory Flakes for snow, the churches would battle for attendees. One morning all the cars would be at Mom’s church. By the evening they migrated to Dad’s. I wonder now, how did that running joke start?

Amid this fun, it was important to our parents that we understood the meaning of the day. They taught that it was about Christ’s birth, not the Santa Claus legend. There was never any confusion in our minds as the day unwound. Christmas Carols would resound as we’d play album after album. We’d go to church, we’d hear a homily about Christ’s birth. I remember being filled with wonder at the thought of this baby being born and changing everything. This still provides joy—more so as days pass and the importance of a relationship with Christ becomes more clear.

Missing Our Parents

Without that core of our parents, our Christmases have changed with one consistency: Shared love. 

This is a joy-filled time of year. For the fun of Santa Claus, for the humility of Christ … for the pleasure of giving gifts and the grace to receive them. Christmas gives us the freedom to be gushy and sentimental, to give a tiny gift with lots of thought. It gives us a chance to pause and think about the blessings we received this year and why.

I wish joyous holidays to your family and friends. What are your holidays like? Then and now?


*Read, More about Christmas