The holidays have always been a special time for me and my family. From the time I was a little girl, Christmas was a season where everyone packed into the same house - aunts, uncles, cousins at Grandma and Pap's house.
My memories of Christmas are of delicious food, rounds of laughter, and of watching how happy my grandparents were with giving to us grandchildren. As a kid, I suppose I never considered how lucky I was to be at two houses each holiday full of family, laughter, and love. I also never thought about how it would all eventually change.
It's been a slow metamorphosis, drifting away from the holiday at my grandparents house to being holidays at my parents' and my husbands'. As my oldest daughter now starts her own life, I realize things will soon be changing yet again.
Despite the changes, there are things I hold onto or do that began with my grandparents, and possibly with my great grandparents. The most elaborate is the village I do under my tree. While a lot of people, my childhood friends included, put their gifts "under" the tree, we always put ours "around" the tree. The reason is the full winter village that began with my grandmother making one gingerbread house for under one of her first trees. She told me once that her kids (my mother and aunts and uncles) liked it so much she continued to add to it each year. The houses changed to styrofoam structures that could be reused with small plastic people on tiny plastic stands, then to balsam wood with full figures of people. Mine is a village of balsam wood buildings I made from designs I came up with myself.
There has been a year or two where I considered not putting the many hours it takes into building my village but I heard quite loudly "you have to do the village" from at least one of my kids.
Then there's the sugar cookies that we can only make with certain cookie cutters that can no longer be purchased, so I have to borrow my mom's each year. The stockings and Santas are a must, but also a lot of work, first to get them shaped just right, baked, then painted with colored egg white then quickly covered with colored sugar and tapped to shake loose the excess. The stockings have three different colors - red, green, and gold.
And then there is Christmas supper (yes, here we call the evening meal "supper"). It's not ham or turkey - not those alone anyway. My dad's mother always did her "pigs" - pigs in the blanket. That's what we always called them - porcupine meatballs (meatballs with rice) wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a sauce that was mm'mmm just delicious. She always had a bit of vinegar sitting next to the stove in a fancy little flask easy to pour just a dash from. That crystal flask now sits on my kitchen windowsill, a treasure I will remember for always as being a part of Christmas.
This holiday I remember with great joy the smiles of my grandparents, of the parent and friends my husband and I have lost, and take in the new memories, passing on the simple joys of being with family and carrying on traditions.
For us, it's not about the gifts, but of the family and friends and fun we have together, not just on Christmas day, but through the entire season. I will miss those who are gone, and those who choose not to visit this year, but I'm very thankful for the new friends, and all my family.
Merry Christmas everyone! Make this season a good one.