Chat @ Care-giving: The Root of Tradition

My family calls me the Queen of Christmas, but the real queen is Mom.  She’s the one who started all the traditions I’m a fanatic about keeping.

After my little sister and I were both in school, Mom worked in the retail business.  The ridiculous hours she kept would have been reason enough to scale down the celebration of Christmas in our house, but she didn’t let that happen.  She transformed our home into a winter wonderland, shopped for and wrapped more presents than Santa himself and then served up meals fit for royalty.

Mom wanted us to understand Christmas was the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but she also wanted us to enjoy the tradition of Santa Claus.  She did that by dividing up the celebration.

On Christmas Eve we’d have a private family feast.  For many years she served up shrimp cocktail or broiled lobster tails for appetizers, had prime rib for

dinner and finished up with some sort of pie.  Pecan was traditional, but I loved coconut cream pie and chocolate ice box pie with whipped cream and chocolate curls was a family favorite.  The table would be set perfectly with her Christmas China and woe to whomever did not bring their best manners.

After dinner we’d have the Christmas program.  Back when my parents were paying for piano lessons, they would suffer through my renditions of a carol or two.  Then my little sister would read the Christmas story out of the Bible.  Then I’d finish up by bringing something modern into the mix.  I did everything from present a paper doll show highlighting the different Santa’s popularized by various countries to sharing a Jesse tree which highlights the lineage of Christ.  The most popular “program” however, in spite of all my creativity, was always the reading of The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.  My copy is not as pristine as the one I found pictured on the internet.

Then we’d open our presents.  My little sister was officially the elf.  She’d deliver the packages from under the tree to whomever they were for, but she never had to read the gift tags.  She gleefully monitored the tree every day leading up to Christmas and knew by memory who would get what.  We waited for each present under the tree to be delivered, then we would open them according to a strict regimen.  Only one person at a time could unwrap a gift and we took turns opening one present at a time.  This meant that Mom had carefully arranged for everyone in the family to get the same number of gifts.  I can only imagine what kind of planning that took.

When we were youngsters, after all the presents were unwrapped and the living room was back in order, Mom would send us off to bed so Santa could come.  I’m sure she was glad when we figured out the truth out about Santa, because then she was also able to get some help washing all that Christmas china.

I’m almost embarrassed by the orgy of gifts we unwrapped on all those Christmas Eves, but they were only half the excitement.  As youngsters we would wake up on Christmas morning and rush to discover what Santa brought us.  I particularly remember one Christmas during my Barbie years.  The entire floor of the living room was covered with pink and white boxes of Barbie clothes, just for me.  I have no idea what my sister got.  Forget Christmas, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!  There was a salmon colored Barbie car with turquoise interior and a folding cardboard Barbie Dream House, too.  What a Christmas.

For most of the first eleven years of my life, we lived away from our extended family, so my little sister and I had all of Christmas Day to play with our loot.  Somewhere along the way Mom fed us some turkey and Dad watched the bowl games, but Susan and I tested all our treasures.

I’ve taken over the responsibility of keeping Christmas for our family.  Since my sister has never had any interest in hanging a wreath or putting up a tree, I’ve inherited all of my Mom’s decorations.  My beloved Aunt Edie didn’t have any kids, so I got all of her’s too.  While waiting to inherit all these treasures, I also collected a large amount of decorations of my own.  Maybe I am the Queen of Christmas.

Queen or not, for the next month I’ll be sharing the story behind some of my favorite Christmas decorations and traditions.  I hope along the way, you’ll share some of yours with me.

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