Christmas memories

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Christmas has always been a big deal in our family, starting with the gifts. 

Growing up, Mom would give me $3 for each member of the family to help buy Christmas gifts. It was a wonderful idea because I did not have much money besides what I received at birthdays, from the tooth fairy or from Grandpa for eggs.

A few days before Christmas, my mom, sisters and I would do a Christmas shopping extravaganza. Mom attempted to get most of her Christmas shopping done in that one day, which never quite worked, but the time crunch added to the intensity and efficiency of our search.

Shopping all together made for a delightful number of secrets. You would sneak around the store, trying to keep stuff covered in the cart without looking like you were shoplifting, while simultaneously trying not to betray what department you had just been in.

The decision-making was intense. One had to budget carefully. I remember sitting and looking at a throw blanket that cost $4 or $5 while debating and debating because it was over my $3 budget.

At the checkout, double-bagging helped keep the newly purchased treasures cloaked in secrecy.

As the day wore on, shopping would always go late with one last store we would sneak into for that final gift or two. That night, milking would be late.

One year, the minivan broke down in the country on the way home with all the gifts. This was before any of us had cell phones, so Mom and one of my sisters walked to a house and called Dad who came for us in a little Saturn. Somehow the six of us and all the Christmas presents piled into that five-seat, compact vehicle.

I am blessed that my siblings always came home for the holidays, even during the four years when my sister lived overseas. I counted down the days for weeks as I looked forward to her making the 24 hours’ worth of travel home.

Our family celebrated on Christmas Eve, so in the morning, Mom would milk cows and then go in the house and make a giant dinner. As we got older, someone else would do morning milking for Mom so that she could get a head start on her smorgasbord.

At the feast, there would be green bean casserole — the only hotdish allowed to be called a casserole — homemade buns, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pickles and olives, Jell-O salad and some main course meat, often ham or a roasted chicken.

In the afternoon, we sisters would put on a program with the story of the first Christmas for Dad and Mom, and afterward, we would open gifts.

In the evening — still somewhat full — we would skip supper and go outside and do chores. Inside the house, my sister would spend the evening making hors d’ oeuvres. With chores complete, we would come inside and enjoy a decadent meal while we watched a movie or show.

There is always a meal or more worth of leftovers from each meal eaten, so on Christmas Day, we would just eat leftovers, relax and enjoy our gifts.

Now as adults, many of the traditions are the same. There is the excitement of gifts and good food. Instead of shopping together, there is an extensive number of group chats, each excluding certain members of the family to talk about their gifts.

More happiness has been added to our celebrations lately by the new little people in the family who bring a child’s joy of Christmas to us. Since I am safely single with no kids, I can get my siblings’ children any obnoxious, fun toys I want without worrying about instant retaliation.

Now, I can even begin making my own memories. Buying a first Christmas tree of my very own and finding Christmas decor for my apartment has brought fresh excitement to me this holiday season.

No matter what stage of life you are in or what memories of Christmas you have, I hope this season brings little moments that give you joy.

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