So many people can’t remember their childhoods- I think it’s like any other memory: if you can touch one, you open the path to another, and another. When we lose those memories of what makes the holidays special, we’ve lost the best part of them, and our ability to put those parts into how we celebrate the holidays as adults. It’s worth putting some effort into it: Jot down one holiday memory from your childhood- just until the end of the holidays. See what comes back. Christmas Cards, Christmas Dishes, the Tree, Christmas in School, Cookies, Christmas Eve, Stockings, Caroling, … what do you remember?
Here’s one memory (then I’ll make links and separate pages for others, below):
Decorations- Dot Chassi’s Sugar Cube Village
One of my holiday memories from when I was a kid was sugar-cube villages on the sideboard in the dining room. It occurs to me as an adult that there may have been only two, or maybe three of them, but in my memory, they were every year.
My mother’s friend Dot Chassis made them and brought them over to us. Lot’s of little houses- made with sugar cubes, cemented by royal icing, decorated with assorted candies and populated by little candy people (or was that only in my imagination?).
Of course, we weren’t allowed to nibble on it until after the holidays when it had to be destroyed. Of course, we did, surreptitiously- never suspecting that Mama would notice.
Part of me doesn’t even want to bring this memory into a more accurate focus because I love it so much the way it has developed into a sort of Santa’s village with real little people living in it, as they can in imagination. (Later, in high school, I build a sugar cube castle, probably because of those memories.)
Another memory must have been from when I was about eight. The tree was up in the corner of the living-room, having displaced the TV from its place of honor (temporarily in front of the nearby window). Boxes of ornaments had been brought down from the attic and were on the coffee table, the couch, the footstool in front of chair by the fireplace. I heaved a great sigh of happiness in anticipation of the wonders of the season. And my mother remarked that I was never so happy as when surrounded by mess.
The years have proved her observation mostly correct, but I don’t think it was mess so much as potential. Those boxes contained all the wonders of both the Christmases before, and the many Christmases to come. How could that not make one overflow with happiness? Anticipation is always more satisfying than even the wondrous reality of Christmas.
2 Christmas dishes and music
3 (hannukah- mostly as adults)
4 Decorations- door wreaths, candles
5 Krampus Night
6 St. Nicholas Day (Feast of Brothers and Sisters)
7 Visiting Santa (at the firehouse)
9 Wrapping and preparing gifts
11 The tree (ornaments)
13 Santa Lucia Day (and buns)
17 Holiday Specials
19 Candy, Gingerbread houses, the Kitchen tree (guy fawkes toffee)
20 Mother Night
26 Opening Presents- (“Greedfest”) Traditional Stoning of the cats
27 Christmas Dinner (bachelors)
28 Boxing Day
29 Dolls Christmas
31 New Years Eve Hogmannay fireworks feast of small things
32 New Years Day
33 12th Night
35 Taking Down the Decorations