We all have different reasons to love Christmas, but most of those reasons can be traced back to memories from our youth.

Aside from the religious aspect of the season, many people enjoy Christmas because they get to relive memories with their family through traditions, from putting up the tree and nearly falling off of the roof while decorating the house, to cringing each time the drunk uncle starts to open his mouth. From watching their favorite Christmas shows to hearing Bing Crosby croon his Christmas best, Christmas memories can come from the simplest of things, even socks and a square hamburger patty.

I was Face-timing with Shannon this morning as she was getting ready to spend the day decorating her tree in Pittsburgh (and nearly burning down her kitchen as she tried to cook a turkey – imagine all doors and windows open despite it being 35 degrees, to try and get the smoke out of the house, but that’s a different story). She started talking about some of her favorite memories of Christmas….

I love Christmas.  I love it for the memories that fill my heart from when I was small to the new memories created each year by those around me.  My memories of Christmas for as long as I can remember were filled with the excitement of Christmas morning, and all that lead up to it, including getting to put Baby Jesus into Mom’s hand-painted nativity set.  To this day, the traditions of Redmond family Christmas still bring a smile as well as nostalgic tears.

One of the “traditions” was our stockings.  The Redmond family Christmas stockings were my Dad’s socks.  We would put holes in the top to put the ribbon in so it could hang at the end of our bed or the doorknob.  We would wake up before the sun on Christmas to find stockings full of treats, always having an apple, an orange (Uncle Walter would ship these!), nuts, chocolate and some small gifts.  It wasn’t until later that I learned the reason behind this tradition. It centers around the Great Depression, when money was tight and it was a luxury to find things like an orange or walnuts in your stocking. Also, I have family roots in the North and oranges weren’t as plentiful so this sweet fruit was a true treat in itself.

I also realize now that the stockings were put in our room so we could take some time to go through them,as this gave my parents a little of bit of extra shut eye before we all piled into their room so we could all go together to see what was under the tree.  It was a lot of work for Santa to take care of such a big family and my parents were very involved assistants to Santa.

I love the belief in the magic of Santa.  I loved that when we were small my Mom would take each one of us separately to go shopping to get gifts for our brothers and sisters.  This included my Mom and I getting to go out to dinner at Wendy’s (square hamburger AND a frosty!).  I love that we all had to line up in the kitchen and go into the living room together, where the tree lights were twinkling, the fire was roaring, and there were presents piled high.  I love adding to the memories from getting to go with my Mom to see the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center to incorporating the Falcon family Christmas Eve traditions.

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting - Photo by Shannon Redmond

I love that I get to see the magic through my nieces and nephews eyes and the different traditions they are starting.  I love my own tradition of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” as I decorate my tree and the meaning in the movie.  I love that there are still some of my Dad’s socks floating around, misshapen from having oranges stuffed in them, having Christmas ribbon still tied to them.

 

As a child, Christmas was about Santa and gifts. Today, it is about all of the memories that were created and the new ones.  For me, it’s about Love. It’s about Kindness. It’s about Family.

Family Christmas - Photo by Shannon Redmond

I am going to cry those happy tears now as I decorate the tree with ornaments that are all associated with a memory (thank you Louise Lambert for helping me carry on this tradition).  - Shannon Redmond, from her forthcoming memoir "Christmas at the Compound - Memories of a Good Life".

These are Shannon’s memories  - what are yours?

For me, it had to be the Christmas Eve gumbo! It wasn't just the gumbo, it was the gathering centered around the gumbo. As we were growing up (there were 8 kids in my family), we would do Christmas Eve with my Mom's side of the family (she had 10 siblings), so we always had a house full, with aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. My cousins Jay, Randal, Ginger and Tommy would keep us in stitches. Uncle Jay would have his little Igloo with some Pabst Blue Ribbon or Pearl Lite beer, and someone usually brought over some pretty bad whiskey to go with the 7-Up. Inevitably, someone would make a fireworks run, and  we would go into Mrs. Betty's empty lot next door to light them up. Great memories.

I know that for many around here, time spent in churches (which are heavily decorated for the season) hold a special place in their heart when they recall Christmas memories.

And, sadly, for others, Christmas may bring memories that don't feel as good as the ones  I described above. I can understand why this is so: my mom died a few days before Christmas, and my dad died on Christmas day. I can understand how this could bring a state of depression for some, but it doesn't happen to me.  Here's my secret: I don't allow the memory of their deaths to cloud up my memory of their lives. I remember their words, actions, teachings and, most importantly, their love; many of the things that make me thankful during the holidays.

Sweet Christmas memories. What are yours? Do you try to include your favorite Christmas memory from childhood in your current celebrations? Is it the trip to the Christmas tree lot to get the tree? The  decorating of the tree? The smell of the tree when you step into the house at the end of a long day? The gathering of friends and family? What's your favorite part of Christmas?