GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST
This picture (to the left) was taken in 1954; location – Japan when my parents were stationed at Tachikawa with the Air Force. My impression has always been – what a sad tree! I believe this was the only type of tree that would work as a “Christmas” tree – short of buying an artificial tree from the Base/Post Exchange. I hadn’t been born yet but my sister and brother were the children who had “visions of sugarplums” for that year’s Christmas.
This picture (to the right) was taken about 1968 when I was a little over 7 years old; location – the house I grew up in east of Dayton, Ohio. I obviously have some teeth missing! Those pants were not purple – from what I remember – but blue. This is the artificial tree we used – it was only a year or two old because I remember having live trees when I was very small. Mom used this artificial tree at least until the time I was 18 years old and then I think she gave it to my cousin. This tree is set at the corner of the living room and formal dining room. From what I remember, this was the same location it was set year after year. During my childhood, Christmas dinners were always at our house. Those who attended included my maternal grandparents, my sister, her husband, and two kids, my brother and his wife (and later their son), and sometimes my brother-in-law’s parents.
This photo (to the left) was taken in 1991 either before we left or after we returned from Christmas Eve services at our church. This is one of the very few pictures I have of our family by the Christmas tree. Boy, my husband and I look so young! Our youngest was a few months shy of two years old and our oldest was a month away from 10 years old. Our second daughter had just turned eight and our son was six and a half. Over the years, our tree has moved “around” the living room. We had it in this location for a few years and for the last 10+ years it has been in the opposite corner. Our Christmas tradition since this photo was taken has rarely changed. There were some years that we went looking at Christmas lights after church. We’ve always had a meal of “finger food” late in the evening – I’ve made sausage balls, cheese and crackers, stuffed shells, deli meat sandwiches, fresh vegetables and dip, and more. The last couple of years we have had Wing Stop chicken wings and tamales from our local tamale factory. The first year we decided on wings, the restaurant was open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve so we picked up the order as soon as church was over. Last year it closed early, so I had to go pick up the wings and fries and try to keep them warm the rest of the day. The french fries did not fair very well – so I don’t think we’ll do that this year. On Christmas Day we’ve had the traditional dinner – turkey (and sometimes ham), dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade giblet gravy (and turkey gravy from a jar for those who won’t eat the other kind), green bean casserole, Christmas cauliflower, scalloped corn, and pies. There were years that I started making cookies in the middle of December and other times, I just don’t bother! I’ve made homemade chex mix for gifts to friends and family. The last two years one of our daughter’s has had us to her home for the Christmas dinner. Our oldest daughter hasn’t been able to be with us for Christmas in over seven years. For the last 5 years, we’ve enjoyed being with all four grandsons.
The only picture of our family with my mom was taken at my sister’s home in 1999. Our kids ranged from almost 10 to almost 17. That year we had Christmas dinner at my sister’s home and my contribution was my Christmas cauliflower and something else! See the red plaid skirt that I’m wearing? I wore this at almost every Christmas from 1978 until just a few years ago!
GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Although this photo was taken in 2008, this could be a photo from today. The Christmas tree is in the same spot – although our present tree is a new artificial tree – and I haven’t added any garland to it. This year I will use strands of beads as garland. Our Christmas this year will begin on Christmas Eve when we attend our Worship Celebration at our church of over 20 years. Then we’ll come back home and eat our “finger food” dinner, culminating in the reading of “The Night Before Christmas” (a tradition since the children were all small) and the Biblical Christmas story. We’ll set our presents out under the tree after the grandkids go to bed and then later, Santa will arrive. He’ll find a cold glass of egg nog in the fridge in case he’s thirsty and a couple of cookies with a note to him on the kitchen table. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday – the first one in six years – so our morning will be very early! I have always had a family breakfast before presents are opened and this year, I think I will have a crock pot breakfast casserole that has cooked through the night. After we eat, it will be time to dig into gifts and take pictures. At 10:30 we’ll be at our church, celebrating the real reason for Christmas. Then it will be home to finish cooking the dinner. Hopefully, I’ll get the turkey in the oven before we leave. One of our grandson’s might not be with us that day – perhaps late in the evening. The kids will be playing with new toys, probably have new movies playing on the TV, and the aroma of delicious food cooking.
GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME
In the future, I hope that we can still enjoy our grandchildren – and further into the future – our great-grandchildren – and our children and families at Christmas. Wherever we are, we’ll still decorate a Christmas tree – big or small. Some of our traditions may continue and some will be replaced with new traditions. We’ll still have some of our tree ornaments – especially the really nice handmade ones that the kids and grandkids have made. Pictures will still be snapped and food will still be eaten. I may prepare a traditional Christmas dinner, yet I see myself changing it in my golden years – especially if there are only my husband and I sharing the holiday together. No matter the year, we’ll always remember the joy of Christmas’s past and the true reason we celebrate the season!
(written for the 113th Carnival of Genealogy: A Charles Dickens Christmas)
all photos – digital and print – held by Wendy Littrell