Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Favorite Christmas Memories

Gosh that was really heavy. Let's do something light today.

The Santa in a Car

In my hometown, there was an elderly gentleman who, for 50 years, set up a vintage red convertible with a mechanical waving Santa saying "Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas!" with music. Generations of children in that town remember driving by it at night as one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Looking back as an adult, it's wonderful to think of that man, year after year, putting up a beautiful and happy display, knowing that children in the area were delighted by it and traveled from neighboring counties to see it. That's the Christmas spirit in action.

Stockings in the Morning, Wrapped Presents in the Afternoon

My mom's family had an odd tradition of doing stockings in the morning and waiting until late afternoon, after Christmas dinner, to unwrap gifts from family. As a child, this was perfect because Christmas wasn't over by noon. It also gave a more magical feel to the Santa myth because it wasn't meshed in with family gifts. 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I like this even better than A Charlie Brown Christmas. Like millions of children I always got frustrated by the commercial break right when the Grinch was peering over the mountain in his sledge. Parents, don't curse your children with the "real life" monstrosity; stick with the traditional, complete with the darling cartoon dog and the delightful "you're a foul one, Mr. Grinch."

The Christmas Program at church 

My parents were super congregants - they participated in everything, and if the church doors were open we were there. From the time I was 3 to about 12 my mom was in charge of the children's programming on Sunday nights (Protestants typically go to two services on Sundays). This meant she was also in charge of the Christmas program/ pageant every year. Those of you who escaped this rite of passage need to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is right on point. Our church was much smaller than that congregation, so we couldn't have a "angel choir" - all the participants were required to sing regardless of (lack of) ability. Since we were hard-core, it was required that we memorize all the verses to multiple carols, which meant rehearsals started in November. Oh the angst. We had a broken piano we practiced on which had a bad habit of crashing its top on people's hands; we had homemade costumes complete with itchy halos stuck in your hair with pins; we had misbehaving kids. I was not among them - since my mom was in charge, she would have roasted me on a spit if I'd been a problem. There was one infamous year in which all the boys decided they had Tourettes or something and really put on a performance, complete with lying down on the stage and shredding their garments. We always sang Away in a Manger, which, as the author of "Christmas Pageant" puts it, always sounds like a bunch of mice at the beginning because it's been pitched too high. And we liked to do "Go Tell it on the Mountain" because it has pizazz, and because we liked to drag out the end of the verses ("was born on Christmas mo---orn!"). 

Community Christmas Music Programs

My hometown was great about having Christmas parades, and the symphony orchestra always put on a great show. As a kid one of the highlights was sitting in the community center listening to the same soloist male who always did O Holy Night and encouraged harmony amongst the audience. 

Getting the Tree

And decorating etc, but the best part was going to the same place in the city every year, knowing the men who prepped it for us, having the same arguments about height. Children love rituals so much more than novelty - except for - 

That One Year it Snowed

My generation in the South remembers the '93 snowstorm as the one year we got our annual Christmas wish for snow. It was the first time I'd seen snow and the only Christmas I've made a snow-man. We were driving to my grandparents' as it stormed; my parents were worrying about adult trifles like tire chains, but I recognized this for the God-sent magic it was. Southern children spend every winter thinking "maybe this will be the year!" and that time it really was.

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