Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?
My family must really be home bodies. Having been blessed with being raised within a 15 min drive of all 4 of my grandparents my entire childhood, we never had any occassion to travel long distances and none of my immediate family traveled over the holiday season either. I have to admit, that as much I love to travel, I’m grateful that we didn’t have to for Christmas. I don’t like long car rides, traffic, and winter travel conditions. The closest I’ve come to traveling for Christmas, was traveling to Seattle 2 weeks before Christmas for my best friend’s wedding.
Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?
I am, unfortunately, unaware of any charitable work that my ancestors might have done at Christmas time; however, my mother did put great emphasis on volunteering when I was growing up and I have claimed that importance as my own now that I’m an adult. We never did anything specifically for Christmas, but made sure to give of our time all year ’round.
Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?
This is one of those areas that I feel guilty about not doing anything with, too. Every year, I think, “I should…”, but I never do. I think this year I’m going to start by doing something simple like finding a recipe for Finnish Christmas cookies, and start doing research so I can do something bigger next year. Stay tuned!
Do your Christmases have an ethnic flair to them?
What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?
My favorite gifts I’ve given have always been ornaments for my mom. She collects bird ornaments, so it’s always fun to search for the perfect ornament. I live out in the country, but there’s this great ornament shop that’s an old converted house that I go to every year. I’ve never seen so many ornaments in one spot. Think the Tim Taylor of ornament collections. The shop is run by this really sweet widow (who lost her husband just a few years ago). I really enjoy going in and talking with her each year. She remembers me each year and knows why I come in, so she often has suggestions for me upon seeing me come in.
While I’m not a “gift” person when it comes to Christmas, hands down my favorite Christmas gift was 2 years ago. My best friend got married 2 weeks before Christmas (tomorrow is their anniversary actually) in 2010, so as a combined birthday (which is in September) and Christmas present, my dad and step mom paid for me to fly out and spend a week there. A week in my favorite city, my best friend’s wedding, some of my best friends, and meeting new friends… it was definitely the best week of my life. I, unfortunately, haven’t been back sense, so I’m very over do.
Unfortunately, I’ve never really thought about asking what gift giving was like years ago in my family since my thoughts aren’t very “gift-centeric”, but we do have a neat tradition at my mom’s parents. A few years ago, my grandma was trying to figure out what to do about Christmas since she only had 2 grand children under the age of 18 (which is her cut off for gifts), but she also had a great grandchild that she wanted to give a gift to. So she came up with the idea of giving everyone a small amount of money, a candy bar, and lottery tickets while Hayden (her great-granddaughter) would still get a “kid gift”. Boy did that go over well! As the years have passed and no one has struck it rich, grandma wonders every year if she should continue it, because she thinks of it as “wasted money”, but no one else seems to care and loves the idea of a gift with maximum surprise factor.
Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past.
I’ll always remember Christmases with my dad’s parents. We always spent Christmas morning with them. It was a small gathering: My grandparents, my parents (and after the divorce, just me and my dad), my half brother, and my aunt and uncle with their two sons. As the years went by, my cousins both married. My oldest cousin even adopted his wife’s son and they had another. Unfortunately, as the years went by, we also lost my grandmother. Since then, my other cousin has also had a sweet little girl.
What’s your favorite Christmas past memory?
Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?
Christmas cookies were the one thing my family did, not with my parents, but with my grandparents. Dad’s mom, prior to her getting sick, always had cookies… or at least she thought she had to have cookies. There were a few years that they didn’t get done by Dec. 24th, and she’d fret to no end about it. But even if it had to be January, there were always cookies at some point. I loved going over to her house in the winter months in the morning (I went over there a lot since they lived right next door and both my parents worked long hours), because thanks to the vast number of cookies in the house and my grandfather’s sweet tooth, I was always allowed to have a Christmas cookie for dessert after breakfast. In spite of my grandmother’s perfectionistic feelings about the holidays, she always welcomed the slightly over done cookies because she liked to dunk them in her coffee. While, I don’t like over done cookies, you can often catch me dunking sweet things in coffee now.
The tradition with my mom’s mom didn’t start til I was a teenager and it’s happened much more infrequently and sparatically. I do remember one year very vividly that we still laugh about. My favorite are chocolate crackles and mom’s are molassas so we made those. There’s nothing I like more than a warm crackle so as soon as I wouldn’t burn myself, I took one. They were good, but they tasted odd. I looked at my grandmother strangly and instantly we all knew it. We had managed to make, drop, and bake an entire batch of both crackles and molassas cookies without realizing it! It’s then that I realized that powdered sugar is Christmas magic. While I do prefer chocolate crackles, the molassas crackles were actually quite good, considering I don’t like the regular ones at all.
Do you have any Christmas cookie disaster stories?
Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?
I remember my mother going to work holiday parties, but I’m not sure if my dad ever went to any. We never threw a Christmas party, but we did try throwing a New Year’s Eve party one here. Mom worked so hard getting ready for it, she was asleep on the couch by 9 and the festivities didn’t even cause her to stir. That’s the last time we hosted anything.