Some of my favorite Christmas memories are embedded in not one particular event, but a tradition. From as early as I can remember (and I’m told I was about 3 when one of the memories I have described to my mom took place) until my grandparents passed away, we had Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents’ house.
The event included dozens of cousins, aunt and uncles, and even my great-grandmother and great aunt. It always started at 7 p.m. My grandmother was never ready – always still wearing her messy “cooking clothes” – and the gifts she was giving were never wrapped, just stacked up in her bedroom. My mom and my aunt usually wound up wrapping them while my grandmother got ready.
She always had a gift for everyone – even unexpected guests. She always bought extra for just that reason. The adults never ate quickly enough for the kids and we, the kids, asked “Is it time to open presents yet” no less than a dozen times.
I love those memories.
I think it’s important to create family memories. They provide ties for families as they grow and change. I rarely see some of those cousins of mine anymore, but we have those shared connections when we do get together.
How can you create shared memories for your family?
Special Holiday Meals
I could probably name off at least half of the items on the menu at my grandmother’s house. They weren’t elaborate, but they were family favorites. Some families have a special breakfast Christmas morning – breakfast casserole or cinnamon rolls, anyone? Others may have a special lunch or dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. It’s the consistency that’s important.
Of course, the extra special meals may create their own memories. I still remember the year that my step-dad’s grandmother visited with us at Christmas. We ate Cornish hens and wild rice on the good China.
The traditions can be big – like the family dinner at my grandmother’s – but they can be small, too. My mom used to let my sister and I open one gift on Christmas Eve. It was always PJs. I always let my sister sleep in my room on Christmas Eve. Okay, okay. It was so she wouldn’t sneak in to see what Santa left before I woke up, but still.
Now that I’m the mom, I try to make sure we have eggnog when we decorate the Christmas tree. My youngest usually puts the angel on top of the tree – a job handed down from her older sister.
Ornaments can create memories of their own. We have the applesauce/cinnamon/glue ornaments that my oldest made with her American Girls troop years ago. Then there are the new Hallmark ornaments that we purchase every year – a special one that I choose for our family and the one the my mom gives us.
We have homemade ornaments that bring back memories for all of us. There are those that the kids made, the one I made in elementary school, the one that one of my best friends made for me in high school, and the one that my 5th grade teacher gave me. My kids may roll their eyes a bit when they hear these stories again and again, but I think they secretly enjoy them.
My family never really went to Christmas Eve services when I was growing up. (We were probably on our way to my grandmother’s house!) However, for the last several years, my family has enjoyed our church’s Christmas Eve service. I hope we’re creating memories for our kids. Other families enjoy Advent calendar activities throughout the Christmas season.
Finally, a great way to create memories with your family is to look for opportunities to serve together as a family. This may mean spending time serving at a soup kitchen, making meals for neighbors or shut-ins, or singing Christmas carols at a nursing home. What you do depends on the personality of your family, but whatever you choose, serving others is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family – any time of year!
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?