Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Memories

My parents are Christmas People. They can barely wait ‘til after Halloween to start listening to Christmas music. They put up the tree (always a REAL one) the weekend after Thanksgiving. They’ve sent out literally thousands of Christmas cards over the years, and give gifts to everyone, including all the neighbors and the mailman. I am so grateful to them for instilling in their children a love for the holidays. There is no feeling better to me than the Christmas spirit.

Even when I was a child, I loved Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. Of course I loved getting all the great gifts, but for me the FEELING of Christmas was better than any brightly wrapped gift. We weren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and some years I know my parents struggled financially especially around the holidays, but every Christmas was wonderful and memorable because the emphasis was never put on the gifts as much as the traditions and doing things as a family. This post and the next few will be about the holiday traditions my parents introduced and encouraged and my own childhood amalgam of Christmas memories.

Over the River and Through the Woods

The kickoff of the holiday season in my house was always Thanksgiving. Most Thanksgivings while I was growing up were celebrated at my Grandma’s house in Ogden. We traveled over I-15 and through most of four counties, but there were no rivers or woods to be found. My dad’s brothers and sister and their respective families always came too. I remember getting into Grandma’s sewing room closet with my cousins in search of games to play as we waited for what seemed like eternity for dinner to be ready. I don’t remember much about dinner itself, just the family all being together and getting to play with my cousins.

With Grandma at her house - 1980 (Lyn, Brandon, Joel and Emily)

After Thanksgiving dinner, we would wait for darkness to fall and then pile in the car and travel to downtown Ogden to “see the lights”. Since 1962 (it’s older than I am!!!), Ogden City has been transforming its downtown park into Christmas Village from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. This was a very important tradition in our family. The “village” is beautiful and fun and full of cottages with animated elves and other things children adore. We had to bundle up like we were literally visiting the North Pole because one does not drive through this display. One WALKS. After wandering through the village and seeing everything there was to see, we would get in line for Santa’s Castle. This was the best “Santa’s Helper” on the face of the earth. After sitting on his lap and whispering your Christmas wish in his ear, he would give you a candy cane, and I swear that those candy canes were made with the best peppermint in the universe... peppermint grown deep under the ice at the North Pole, and harvested by specially trained peppermint elves.

As a child, the Christmas Village was simply magical. A city park transformed into a Christmas paradise! The best part of the Christmas Village and Santa’s Castle (for the parents, that is) is that it was completely free. The generous people who put this whole thing on did it for the community and for the sake of tradition. They didn’t even have the sale of “professional” pictures taken with Santa Claus. If parents wanted pictures of their kids on Santa’s lap, they had to remember to bring their own cameras and take their own snapshots.

When I was a teenager, we started having Thanksgiving dinner at our house just for our six-member family instead of going to Grandma's house,and for the first few years it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Eventually, I adjusted to the change (man, I hate change!). We still went to “see the lights” in Ogden sometime during the holidays though. I even took my older two children once when they were small. I’m definitely going to have to make the trip this year with my younger kids.

More memories tomorrow…

1 comment:

Amanda said...

I love that! I'm in FL so it's not so holiday-ish here... but we manage :) I'm taking the boys to the local mall this next week where they have a snow-like substance pumped out of the Christmas tree in the center square every hour for 10 minutes.

Weird, but it'll do :)