Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Traditions, Part One

When I was little I loved Christmas for many, many reasons.  As I mentioned {{HERE}} we only received one gift each year.  Suffice it to say, that while I cherished that one gift each year, that wasn't the reason I loved Christmas.  Looking back, it's the things we did as a family -- the traditions my mother incorporated into our Christmas that made me look forward to that magical time of year each year.  Some of the traditions were traditions from her childhood and others were ones she and my dad started with us.  (And while I'm sure my dad had a hand in some of the traditions, I mostly mention my mom here because she was more the "enthusiast" about them.  Dad did best to smile and nod and let her have her way, hehe.)

In no particular order, they included...

The wake-up contest.  When we were really little my mom used to wake us up on Christmas morning by playing her Christmas records.  Then after we got an organ, she used to play Christmas songs on the organ.  (Which, by the way, is not my favorite thing to wake up to at 5:30 in the morning, haha.)  As we began to get a little older and a little more anxious about waking up early, she told us when she was little, she and my Uncle Jim used to wake up before their parents and jump on their bed yelling, "Merry Christmas!"  Well, that sure sounded like fun to us.  So, it became a contest.  If Mom woke up before we did, then she got to play her Christmas music.  If we woke up first, then we would commence with the jumping on the bed routine.  My Dad did set the rule, however, that no one was allowed up before 5:30am.  (I guess he wanted to "sleep in" a little.)  Since the contest began, I think the kids "won" just about every year.  Usually the oldest sibling, Naomi, would wake up way before 5am, and get the rest of us up.  Then we'd wait patiently on the stairs until  about 5:29, sneak into my parents' room and began our jovial hails.  Although, looking back, I'm willing to bet that my parents were already awake, laying there, waiting for us to come in and "win".  :)

Christmas Waffles.  One year my mom received a waffle iron for Christmas, and this wasn't some rinky-dinky little waffle iron either.  This was a very nice, very large waffle iron, that made LARGE waffles.  We had nice, fluffy waffles for breakfast and thus began the tradition of fluffy waffles every Christmas morning since.

Boiled Custard. Just about every other year, we'd pile into the van and make the 10-hour journey down to Paris, Tennessee and visit with Grandpa Ray & Grandma June, as well as our FAVORITEST Aunt EVER - Aunt Glenda and her hubby, Uncle Wayne.  They lived next door to each other, which always made it fun.  The "older girls" (which included me) would get to sleep over at Aunt Glenda's house while Mom, Dad and the "little kids" stayed with Grandma & Grandpa.  Aunt Glenda was (and still is) a riot.  She would tell us the crazy stories of her life, take us "after-Christmas" shopping, teach us new crafts, and she made the best candy!  I can almost taste her famous fudge, nut logs, and cinnamon crackle candy just writing this!  Mmmm-Hmmm!  One thing she introduced us to was Boiled Custard.  (Or if you're from the south, it's pronounced "bowl'd custard", tee hee.)  Anyway -- it's a drink and can either be served warm or cold.  To me, it's waaaaay better than egg nog.  You can buy it down there during the holidays in the dairy case, or you can make your own.  We love it so much that my mom got the recipe and began making it every year for us too.  Now, I make it for my kids.  :)

Youngest-to-Oldest.  Because the youngest usually have the hardest time with patience in opening their gifts, my parents have always had us open our gifts, starting with the youngest child, in turn, making our way to the oldest and then my parents took their turn.  A few times we mixed it up and went from oldest to youngest, but for the most part, that has been our tradition.  Even now, at the Annual Miller Family Christmas Party, gift opening begins with the youngest.  This is a tradition I've passed on to my kids as well.

Gingerbread Houses.  The last town we moved to growing up had a well-known Amish style Restaurant, "Das Dutchman Essenhaus".  It still exists, and it's still just as tasty.  It's a definite tourist attraction and I think I was in about 4th grade when they decided to expand their operation to include a candy shop, a toy store, a bakery, an inn and a Bed & Breakfast.  For the holidays the bakery would host a Gingerbread house contest, open to the public.  There were various categories, including "edible" and "non edible" for all sorts of age groups.  My mother decided that we would each make our own gingerbread house and enter it.  The first year we each did simple square houses.  It was fun and cute and because there were 7 of us kids, we had a better chance of having a winner among us.  (Not to mention, there weren't many kids who entered.)  Over the years, our entries became a little more elaborate - including farms, 2-story houses, and one year even an igloo.  Even though it made a huge mess in the kitchen, and even though it probably took a lot of time for my mom to draw the templates, then bake the "wall"s and then help us put them together, it was something we did every year - all 9 of us.

Decorations.  My mom would always haul the boxes from the basement the first of December and transform our living and dining rooms into a Christmas Showcase.  She had sooo many Christmas nick-knacks and paddy-whacks, it was impressive.  Many of them were items from her own childhood.  My favorite is the kissing Mr & Mrs Claus (which has since been passed on to me!).

Christmas Eve.  My mother would gather us around every Christmas Eve and read the Christmas story from the Bible.  I remember laying on the floor in the living room, in my pj's, listening to her read.  I didn't even always understand the words, but I knew the gist of it, and it was something I looked forward to every year.  This is something I have also incorporated into my own Christmases with my kids.

Movies and Sledding. Because we didn't live very close to my mom's side of the family, and because my dad's family was so big that we had a separate family Christmas party on another day, it was usually just the 9 of us on Christmas Day.  As some of us began to get a little older and become teenagers, my mom discovered that the Movie theaters were open on Christmas Day. So, after opening the gifts and eating our waffles, if there was snow on the ground, she'd take us to the nearest sledding hill and we'd play for a few hours.  But if there wasn't any snow, she'd take us to the movies.  It was fun, because we'd stuff our pockets with the candy from our stockings and we were usually the only ones in the entire theater.  While I loved sledding and making snowmen, I'm not gonna lie -- I used to secretly wish for no snow just so we could go to the movies.  After I had my own children, I used to take them to the movies on Christmas Day.  However, over the last decade or so, it seems that everyone else has caught on, and now Christmas Day is crowded.

There were other things that we could always count on around Christmas time.  My mother would get out her Christmas records and play them all month long. We would gather around the TV as a family and watch "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life".  She would hang the Christmas Cards we received in the mail - usually around the archway from the living room to the dining room - for all to see.  We had mistletoe and loved to catch visitors underneath.  She always filled our stockings with an orange, a candy cane, other candy and a small gift or toy.   I am sure I am probably forgetting a tradition or two -- but these are the ones I remember the most, and these are the ones I have the fondest memories of.

Thanks Mom, for making sure we had Christmas Traditions and that our Christmases were extra special!


Ruthykins said...

It's funny how we all remember different things about Christmases past. It must have been after you left for college that Dad had to implement the new rule: no waking the parents up before 4am. I don't even remember the records being played. I think this year I may try to make the boiled custard. I haven't had it since forever. I remember trying it at Aunt Glenda's when I was really young and I didn't like it, so I never had it again. I think the time has come for me to try it again to see if I like it yet. I haven't passed on too many traditions to my kids. I don't have many knickknacks or tchotchkes. I wondered where those kissing Santa and Mrs. Clauses went. Jealous! Anyway, I guess I just need to get my own Christmas doohickeys and start going overboard

EmmaP said...

Ruth -- I do seem to recall that Dad said that one year. I was already living in Goshen and when Mom said, "Are you coming for Christmas morning?" I asked, "What time are you guys getting up?" And dad interjected, "Well, not before 4!" hehe. So, we ended up sleeping over so we would already be there. The following year I told Mom to start without us...

okeydokeyifine said...

Ahhhh, the sweet memories.

Puphigirl said...

My favorite knick-knack was the kissing Mr. & Mrs. Claus and I wondered where it went.

I hang my Christmas cards around and archway too.

I remember waking to Christmas music. Still to this day I am usually the first one up. I softly play Christmas music, and will even cook some breakfast hoping the smell of bacon will wake the family from their slumber.

greenolive said...

Just yesterday I got a couple more Christmas cards in the mail and I thought, "Maybe I should hang these up in my archway."