My Christmas memories from my little girl days revolve around several things:
We spent Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house. My grandmother cooked a big meal, and my "twin cousin" (we use that term because we're the same age, were always together, looked a lot alike, and dressed alike frequently so people always thought we were twins) and I ate in one of the bedrooms, and then played together in that bedroom all evening until it was time to open gifts. We each received one gift from our grandparents, and all nine of us cousins exchanged names so we got one cousin gift.
I have seen on a lot of blogs, people commenting that they don't really even remember any of their Christmas gifts their parents spent so much money on, implying the insignificance of gifting and focusing on family, Christmas traditions, etc. I do remember some of those gifts. The one that really stands out in my mind though was the year that my twin cousin and I received a large box full of Barbie clothes, handmade by my grandmother. Wow. They had everything, even down to bathing suits and TOWELS to go with the Barbie pools we didn't know we were getting the next day for Christmas. :) I can't imagine how much time she must have spent making all those little clothes, but I know how much time we spent playing with them! It was one of the best gifts ever!
On Christmas Day, our own little family opened gifts at home, very early in the morning. And it wasn't because we kids couldn't wait and awoke extra early -- oh, no, Christmas morning typically began with my dad shaking me awake and telling me I was the bear who slept through Christmas. At like 5 or 6 am. HE couldn't wait!
My grandparents, who lived next door, always came down to see what we got later that morning. Then for the noon meal, we headed over to my other grandparents' home across town, and spent the rest of the day with my dad's side of the family.
Every Christmas was a glorious one, and those cozy rooms filled with family are one of my fondest Christmas memories.
We had a record called "The Living Christmas Tree" that my mother always played in the week leading up to Christmas. I remember "helping" her bake cookies and make candy, listening to that record over and over. The most fascinating thing about it was the picture on the cover, of the choir dressed in colors and standing in such a fashion as to make them look like a Christmas tree. I must have spent hours just gazing at and studying that picture. It's an important Christmas memory to me, and any time I hear any of the songs that were on that album, it takes me back to those days of baking with my mother.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is "O Little Town of Bethlehem", not because of anything about the actual song, I think, but because I remember when I first learned it. I was in kindergarten, and it was part of our Christmas play. I loved it the moment I heard it, and whenever I hear that song, I'm five years old again, standing in the aisle of that church (the one I still attend when I go home).
We had a Disney Christmas tape that has long since been lost or torn up, I'm sure, as I haven't seen it since childhood. It was orange. I wish we still had it, but I think I've found most of the songs online, at least. Those songs are part of my memories of Christmas.
And lastly, there's "Wee Sing for Christmas." When I was a little older, maybe 8-12ish, I was very into making Christmas presents. After all, I had no money to speak of, so making them was the only way I was going to get any. And I loved crafty things. Funny how that didn't carry over into adulthood -- I guess it did, I still enjoy doing those things, I just never seem to have time anymore. Anyhow, my grandmother has a room in her basement that she just used for storage, and a good couple months before Christmas, that was my workshop. I would go down there every day for hours (since she lived next door) and work away, and I had a tape player in there playing Wee Sing for Christmas the whole time. Nobody else was allowed in that room while it was my workshop, so no worries about anyone stumbling upon my Christmas surprises. It was a wonderful wonderful experience, and I'm very grateful to my grandmother for allowing me to clutter up her garage every Christmas with all my junk. :)
My mother had two little booklets with Christmas stories. I still have them. She used to read one every night in the weeks leading up to Christmas, year after year, and those stories remind me of Christmases past. I also remember curling up under the tree or behind it, because somehow it seemed so magical back there, enclosed and surrounded by all those twinkling lights, and reading those stories over and over, and reading Luke 2, as well. The stories spoke of the true meaning of Christmas in various ways, some old-fashioned stories, others modern (for the time period in which they were written), and I loved every one of them. They ranged from the story of a little shepherd boy in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth, to children in an orphanage who prayed for specific things for Christmas when the workers had nothing and those items miraculously appeared at the last minute, to a little orphan girl in a foreign country who told her big brother that she would believe in Jesus if only He would bring her chocolate, like she had tasted once from a missionary -- and when gifts from overseas arrived and were handed out, her box indeed a chocolate bar in it. I always think of this story when preparing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and wish I could include a chocolate bar, but know that whatever the little girl who receives my box truly needs to have will be in it instead.
Those stories bring back Christmas to me.
4) Gifts. Because it isn't Christmas without gifts, now is it? We didn't have a ton of gifts, like children seem to have now, but we did have several each and Christmas certainly wasn't lacking in the gifts department. My favorite gift ever, and I still have it, is a large dollhouse that my dad built and my mother and grandmother made all the little curtains and bedspreads. One of my favorite pasttimes as a child was to go shopping with my dad on Saturday mornings, to the little miniature shops downtown, to pick out a tiny can of Campbell's soup, or a little kitty cat, to add to my dollhouse. That gift became a gift of quality time.
Other favorites are dolls that were very special to me, and again, I still have. Books are also special, and I have kept most of my childhood books to be passed along. I think Little Girl is about ready to start some of them, she is avidly devouring short storybooks now, and I'm giving her a "big girl" chapter book for Christmas to see if she's ready for it. She can definitely read it, but my mother thinks she won't because she likes to read the whole story RIGHT THEN, and not a bit at a time as she would have to do with a chapter book. But I say, give her the chance and we'll see. If she does, wow, do I ever have a ton of books for that child to dig into. :)
So in summary, I'm not going to say that gifts aren't important, and it's all about family and traditions, as I've read in many other places. People keep bringing up "Little House on the Prairie" and how excited those girls were over a doll, or mittens, or a penny and a stick of candy, or a tin cup. Yes, they were, but those were gifts, now weren't they?
I think gifts are important because they are a way to show love. I think many people have gone over the top showering their children with too many gifts, but I definitely think gifts are an important part of Christmas, and a part their children will remember. But instead of purchasing the latest junky fads from the store, maybe next year you might consider what gifts are going to stand out in your child's memory when they are grown. Gifts that involve your time rather than just your money are probably going to be more meaningful.
And don't forget the family and the traditions, or make Christmas so stressful, that those things aren't even fun anymore.
And above all, have a very merry Christmas. God bless us, everyone. :)