Childhood Christmas Memories

Once again we’ve arrived at the last post of the year! In lieu of my more typical editorial style, I thought today it might be nice to share some favorite Christmas memories. My apologies in advance for the photo quality – these pics are 40-50 years old and have been under plastic in an album.

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As a child, I grew up in a suburban Cleveland-area home and lived with my parents and maternal grandmother (no siblings). Our holiday tradition was to have an all-white meal (fish, potatoes, etc.) for Christmas Eve followed by church. The all-white meal is apparently a Swedish tradition, although I never knew anyone other than us to partake in it.

Christmas Day, like most kids, I’d wake up at the crack of dawn, check to see if stockings were filled, and then run like a banshee to wake up the rest of the family. We’d open our stockings and then have a breakfast of cinnamon rolls, juice, etc. before heading to the Christmas tree for gifts.

Later afternoon, my paternal grandparents would visit for appetizers and dinner along with a few close family friends. We always had a fire in the fireplace and I’d often read or play with new toys next to its warmth before guests arrived.

Some notable childhood Christmas memories include:

The Barbie Year

My mother is an accomplished seamstress and one year she surprised me by decorating the lower branches of our Christmas tree with a bunch of different Barbie outfits that she’d sewn. Hard to see in the photo below but the wedding dress and veil stand out.

The Little Drummer Boy

When I was quite young, maybe four or five, I watched the Drummer Boy for what I’m guessing was the very first time. It was on right before we were to leave for Christmas Eve church service. Well, when the scene came on where Baba the lamb gets run over by the chariot, this little tot LOST. HER. SHIT.

I was hysterical. Completely inconsolable. And can vividly remember my mom trying to put on my Mary Janes as I wailed and repeatedly kicked her in the face. My parents somehow got me to church and once there I calmed down. I loved when all the children were called up front to hear the Christmas story and then later when we got to hold candles and sing Silent Night.

The next year I learned that Baba was actually OK once the Drummer Boy played his drum for the newborn child. But boy, that first viewing really stuck with me!

Buying My Own Gifts

These days it’s not unusual for parents to buy their spouse a somewhat lavish gift “from the kids“. And there’s nothing wrong with that – every family has their own way of doing things.

When I was growing up I was encouraged to buy or make all my own gifts. My grandparents typically got something handmade, a cross-stitch or some type of needlework craft. My parents, however, got gifts purchased with money from my allowance, special extra chores, or that had been gifted to me by someone for a birthday or other special occasion. Two purchases stick out in my mind.

The Lamb

The first memorable gift was purchased when I was quite young, probably 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother took me to our local Woolworth where I found a little plastic lamb for my mom’s nativity set. She loved her nativity! It was a Hummel (very popular in the late 60’s-70’s) and a gift from my grandmother. I wanted to contribute to it not realizing that my little plastic sheep was nowhere near the quality of the rest of her pieces. But into the nativity, it went. In fact, it still gets placed there each year to this day! I was so proud of buying something on my own that contributed to something my mom loved so much.

The red arrow marks my little plastic contribution!
The Air Popper

For the second gift, I was a little bit older. This one was for my dad, who loved to snack on popcorn at night or while watching sports. He made it the old-fashioned way in a pot with a little oil but this year a great new hot-air popcorn popper became available. I think it cost about $30, which seemed like a fortune to me. I did odd jobs and finally was able to buy it. Once again, I felt the incredible pride that comes with doing something yourself.

The Christmas That Changed My Life

The year I was ten, Christmas got off to a bit of a slow start. It was the first year that I slept in, instead of bolting out to the living room at the crack of dawn. I was older and knew that gifts weren’t from Santa but instead from my parents. The magic of Christmas was fading just a bit. UNTIL!!!

We’d finished unwrapping gifts and were cleaning up the detritus when my parents asked each other if they hadn’t forgotten a gift for me downstairs. Someone ran to the basement and came back with a white Bonwit Teller box with a red bow on top. I removed the top lid (just like on a soap opera) and there was the cutest stuffed dog I’d ever seen in my life!

But when I went to lift it out of the box, it moved. It wasn’t stuffed but a REAL dog! From that day forward and for almost 20 years after, my Taffy became a treasured companion to all of my family.

A Dicken’s Christmas

My mom and one of the family friends that always celebrated Christmas with us loved to take cooking classes in their spare time. One year they decided to recreate a Dicken’s style Christmas complete with roast goose and a plum (well, they actually opted for ginger) pudding. They went out and bought all these special ingredients and even a fancy steamed pudding mold.

While it turns out that goose is a pretty oily and tad stringy bird, the ginger pudding with hard sauce turned out incredible and we ended up making that for a couple of years!

I hope you enjoyed this little get-to-know-you session! Please feel free to share some of your favorite childhood memories in the comments below.

As always, I’m so grateful for the support you’ve shown me over the years. Wishing you a very happy holiday season and a new year filled with good health, happiness, and fulfillment.


With love,

4 thoughts on “Childhood Christmas Memories”

  1. Hi Betsy. This was such a nice way of getting to know you better, through the sharing of your childhood memories. It so interesting to read about your family traditions. Have a very Merry Christmas! xxx

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