Tag Archives: Christmas Traditions

Christmas–My New Normal

Some traditions hold true.  Some change.  Christmas is no different.  I remember the first Christmas we had after my mom died.  For years, we went to our parents’ home for Christmas, even after she was too ill to prepare the meal.  We three girls brought the Tommi, Maggie, Paige, Danicafood, because my mom wanted us together.  The only time her holiday was changed was the day my sister went into labor in the wee hours of Christmas morning, and delivered the only girl grandchild to my parents.  They already had eight (8) grandsons, and no granddaughters.  That was a nice gift for them.  For my kids, they felt robbed of the day.  A few years later they said the day was not the same.  We all got together, short of my sister and her husband, and then the adult women all ran off to the hospital to see this Christmas baby girl.  We then returned to open all the presents under the tree with the family.  Every year, we went to my mom and dad’s, ate dinner, and had a huge gift exchange with all our family.

Our mom died in August, and all of a sudden we had to come up with a new tradition.  I don’t remember what we did that first December.  Maybe we showed up at our dad’s or one of my sister’s home.  The following year, we sisters decided to have a “progressive” IM001639Christmas celebration.  We loved it, the men hated it, and the smaller kids were okay with it.  We started at my home.  My home was very small back then, so I started with the appetizers, so I wouldn’t have to have folks around the table.  Everyone showed up and were fed whatever the appetizer I selected to make.  We also had to do some sort of small entertainment.  I don’t really remember what I did—maybe lead everyone in a Christmas carol.  After those two things were completed, I gave out my gifts to the family members.  We then went on to the next home.  As we progressed from my home, we went to homes to have soup, salad, main course, and desert.  No one had to drag presents with them because the adults who bought presents for all the kids, delivered them at their own home.  It was a fun day, and it took all day to eat our meal as none of IMG_1307.JPGus lived next door to each other.  After that year, my dad moved to Arizona, and one sister and her husband moved out of town, and also a couple of their kids scattered.  Two of my children made their way to the west coast.  The whole Christmas tradition changed again.  I had since moved to a larger home, and I worked out a deal with my remaining local sister that if she did Thanksgiving, I would do Christmas.  We did this every year through 2011.  Then in early 2012, my local sister was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away later that year.  We once again started a new normal.

I was like my mom.  I wanted Christmas at my home as long as I was healthy enough to celebrate with my children and grandchildren.  I hosted Christmas, even after I married Dennis, and lived 2 hours from my Missouri kids.  That worked every year until Dennis and I decided we wanted to move to Arizona.  Last year we were just snowbirds.  We wanted to leave the day after Christmas, so instead of hosting our children, we went to St. Louis and had Christmas at one of their homes.  We were still all together.

sledThis year the dynamic changed.  It changed for everyone.  One son in San Francisco got married, which changes the dynamic of his holiday, although he didn’t always make his way to the midwest as he had found his new normal in California.  He and his wife shared photos of their celebrations with friends who they love as family.   My youngest son, in Los Angeles, married and has a small child, and doesn’t have much opportunity to travel. My #3 son, his wife, and daughter flew to Arizona to have Christmas with us.  It was not a Christmas with lots of wrapped presents, since most of the grandchildren have grown up.  It is hard to shop for older teenagers when we don’t live near them, and they love to receive cash to do their own shopping.  I kind of miss having all the packages to wrap, always giving a toy, some clothes, and every grandchild would get a pair of warm winter pajamas and a book.  I was the book and pajama grandma!


So, the tree was bare underneath except for a few envelopes.  We did have Christmas cookies.  The consensus of the celebrants wanted grilled steaks, and since Arizona is supposed to be warm, their wish was granted — except, St. Louis, Missouri, was actually warmer this year on Christmas Day than Arizona!  We were fortunate that was the one day it did not rain, and steaks were grilled to perfection.

2019As my other children and grandchildren called me that day to wish me a Merry Christmas, we talked about how this holiday was different for all of us.  My grandson mentioned that this was the first one that not all the midwest family will be together—he will not be with his cousin who he celebrated with for 17 years.  My son, his dad, said that since they sold their home and moved to a new place in November, it was all new to them also, just making the new place their Christmas home.

I was sad to see my kids leave for Missouri.  They had an early flight this morning.  Life goes on though, and they have to get home and back to work and school.  We now have our tree and Christmas decor around the house that will need to come down and be packed away.  

I still think it was the right thing to move here.  Our family is growing and the kids and grandkids have their own busy lives.  I am no longer babysitting grandkids and having them come for sleepovers.  They have school activities, boyfriends, girlfriends, other friends, and even work obligations.  We also have a place that they love to visit.  One granddaughter was here for the week of Christmas.  A grandson is coming with his friends in January during their winter break from college.  I am working on a date for my oldest granddaughter to come visit.  Our home in Arizona is open to friends, but is especially open to our family.  Our Christmases will be different, but that is what happens in all families eventually.  We will learn our new normal.

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Oh, Come All Ye Faithful

How it happened, I don’t remember. I love the fact that every Christmas I have several nativities to put out around my home. I always wanted a nativity scene, but for years didn’t have one. In the mid 90’s I was working at Famous-Barr. How many of you remember that department store? It was owned by May Company, and they owned several department stores, including Famous-Barr, Hecht’s, Filene’s, Lord & Taylor, Robinsons-May, and a few more I cannot remember. At the end of the Christmas season, all the Christmas stock goes on sale for at least half price. In the china department, they had the Holy Family manufactured by Coalport by Wedgwood. It retailed at the time for $90. It was at least 1/2 price, and with my 20% discount, I purchased these three beautiful pieces. It was the start of my nativity. The following Christmas, for some reason, Famous-Barr did not carry the rest of the set.

00 auntieI had always admired my Aunt Mary’s nativity, which was a Lenox painted set. It reminded me of the set I had, except the Wedgwood set was about half the size in height as the Lenox set. Time marched on, and I changed jobs, became more successful, and was having a house built. The following fall, my Aunt Mary called me and said to be expecting a package delivered to my home. She said she found the complete nativity set, and she bought it for me. I told her I couldn’t accept such an extravagant gift. She said that it was a house warming gift, and she wanted me to enjoy it. Every year I take each piece out of its box, and lovingly set it up thinking about my aunt. I remember one year I was setting it up, and I stopped and called her and said I was coming to visit. Aunt Mary passed away four years ago, but every year as I set up this set, I think of all the wonderful times I spent with her. She took me under wing after my mom died. We had many dinners together and watched a lot of movies together. I have told my children that when I die, I don’t care what they do with my stuff—except for that Nativity set—please make sure that someone receives it who will appreciate its beauty and the fact that a very dear aunt filled my Christmas each year with joy!

Somehow, I started collecting nativity sets. I like seeing how different people and different cultures envisioned the nativity. What is interesting is that Jesus was probably born in a cave, and it was primitive. Mary and Joseph traveled for miles while she was quite pregnant so they could pay their taxes. There was no deodorant in those days. I am 00 kidssure the real Joseph and Mary were not in the beautiful dress and robes you see in photos and nativities scenes. Jesus had a lowly birth, but his birth, his death, and his resurrection changed the world forever. No one in history has ever had such a huge effect on our world as did Jesus. Even those who do not believe in him as their Savior cannot deny him historically or that his life on earth had such a huge impact on this world.

00 camelMy next nativity set was one I found walking through a mall. It was made of resin, and it depicted children. It reminded my how a Sunday School Christmas program might look, with the children playing the parts of the Holy Family, the wise men, and shepherds. it struck my fancy, and nativity # 2 was added to my soon to be expanding collection. My favorite character in the set is the camel, which is two little boys under a camel costume.

00 fisher priceOf course, one cannot forget the Fisher Price Little People Nativity. I always put this on my coffee table at easy reach for the grandkids. They could touch it and play with it, and it will not break. Last year I sent one like it to my grandson in Los Angeles since he hasn’t had an opportunity to see mine. My teenage grandkids still comment when they see it on the table. They love that it is still there, and it reminds them of the many Christmas celebrations when they were just tots.

00 mayanTwo years ago my husband and I went on a cruise of the western Caribbean. We were in Cozumel, Mexico, and took the side trip to see the Mayan ruins. Their gift shop had many Mayan designed items, but what struck me was their nativities. They were colorful and fun. I love seeing how other cultures depict the birth of Christ. None of us 00 scissorswill have it right, but as long as it is a reminder of the miracle of his birth, I am good with it. I purchased the set, and looked forward to setting it up the following Christmas.

My kids and friends have given me other nativity sets. Probably the most unusual one I received was from my daughter-in-law. It is a one piece set from Peru. You open the doors, and there is the manger scene, and there are people dancing with scissors! Yes, scissor dancing is some sort of tradition in Peru, not a religious tradition, but one that was combined with the nativity to make it unusual and unique!

I would love an African nativity, but I want it authentic and not bought off of eBay. I just may have to travel there sometime, or find someone who knows where I can get one. I wonder also if there is an Asian version of the nativity. I have never seen one of those, but it would also be interesting.

00 peru lightedThere is no magic in the nativity scene. There is a miracle in the birth of Christ, though. He was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and his birth, his death, and his resurrection, are all foretold by the prophets of old. The people thought the prophecies were about an earthly king, one with riches and power, but Jesus, is a spiritual king. He had no riches, he had no bed to lay his head, he lived a life of love and service. He was tough, and he stood up to the religious leaders of the time, who were more interested in “looking religious” than having a life of love and grace. His death and resurrection seals the deal for us, to know we can be in a relationship with the God of the Universe, and we can know true peace that passes all understanding.

00 woodEaster is actually the most significant holiday for Christians. Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is what seals the deal. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Yes, what he came to earth to do—to come as a man, to take our sin upon himself, and to die for those sins, he finished the work he came to do. His resurrection was the completion, the proof, that he was not just any man who died. He was the Savior, and death could not hold him.

I love my nativity scenes, and all of the Christmas celebrations. I love that Advent looks at the promise and the waiting for the Savior. It all is the prelude to the biggest of all events that we celebrate at Easter. I love looking around my house, seeing the tree decorated with memories of my family, and looking at the nativities and the celebration of the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas! Rejoice!Isaiah

Oh Tannenbaum!

00 foodI love decorating my Christmas tree. My tree has never been the normal commercial tree everyone seems to have. When my children were small, I hung candy on the tree. Not just candy canes, I had strung gumdrops. They are really cute on a tree, but a huge pain to string. I had lollipops hanging. There was a local candy


If you look closely at this tree from 1976, you can see the popcorn & cranberry garland.

store in St. Louis who made perfect beautiful oval lollipops, and their colors were see-through and wrapped in clear cellophane. I taped a ribbon loop to the back of the lollipop, and hung them like an ornament. I also purchased chocolate coins, wrapped in gold foil. For those I used a small needle and threaded through the top of the foil to make the loop to hang. I made sure the foil was closed good in the back so it wouldn’t fall out.  (I won’t go into the story that one of my sons carefully unfolded and refolded the coins and ate all the chocolate before Christmas, to the disappointment of his brothers–and me)!  I tied a ribbon to a twisted pretzel, added a hook and hung them from the tree. I also strung popcorn, but thought it was rather plain, so my popcorn strings were actually 4-6 popcorn, 2 or 3 cranberries, repeat, repeat, repeat! Of course, my ornaments started out with Hallmark character ornaments.

00 1st treeMy Christmas tree has simplified over the years when it came to candy, but was still unique. I have always used multicolored lights. One year, I decided to go with all clear lights. Wow, that was a mistake. Four young adult and/or teenage sons were so disappointed that I changed the lights. They said my tree looked like everyone else’s tree, and please don’t make that mistake again. So, the next year I went back to multicolored lights. Buying artificial trees have been pretty difficult if you are a fan of multicolored lights. I hunted down and found a beautiful artificial tree with the correct lights. A few years later, I went to put my tree together, and the center of the tree was missing. I was heartbroken. I loved that tree. I was so heartbroken that I didn’t even want to put up a tree, but my daughter-in-law knew that would not make me happy. She showed up at my house with an old artificial tree and lights, and she proceeded to put up my tree. It wasn’t the tree I wanted, but she saved my Christmas! The following year I was surfing channels on the television, and QVC popped up with a deal of the day of a 6’ pre-lit artificial tree that had both clear and multicolored lights. Not only that, it operated by remote control, and the price was reasonable. I immediately ordered it, and it was a magnificent tree for many years.



This is NOT an ornament, but the cat did like climbing into the tree!

My first grandchild was born 22 years ago.  As Christmas approached, I was looking forward to this celebration with my first grandchild, although she would be only 3 months old. I purchased two ornaments for my tree that year. The first one was a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament, and the other was an ornament with her photo in it. That began a new tradition which I love to this day. Every year I purchase an ornament for each of my grandchildren. Their first 5 years, I also do a photo ornament. As they grew, I searched each year for an ornament that is about their current interests. Once in a while, I make my life easy and just get a cute traditional ornament. Each ornament has their name printed on it along with the year. When the grandkids come to visit, the first thing they do is go to the tree to see what kind of ornament I got for them that year! When they are all grown up, out on their own, and ready to have their own Christmas tree, I will pack up all their ornaments and give to them for their tree. In the meantime, I get to reflect over all the ornaments for them each year.

Another tradition I started was to purchase ornaments for the many places I have visited on vacation. My tree has ornaments from Yellowstone, the Queen Mary, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Niagara Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge, Carlsbad Caverns, to name a few! Every trip I go on, I add to this collection. Just the other day I purchased an ornament of the Alamo.IMG_3282


The Singing Chickens

My tree also has Mardi Gras beads. I had a beaded garland on the tree, and the Mardi Gras beads hang on the limbs downward, giving the tree a bit of a gypsy look. I have an alligator in the tree (each year the grandkids look to see where it is hid). I have 2 American Flags in the tree. I received the first one when I made a donation to help restore the Greek Orthodox Church that was damaged in the 911 Attack. I have early Hallmark Keepsake ornaments going back to the early 70’s that were my mom’s. I have old musical ornaments that are strung on an old string of lights because it’s the only way they will operate. When my tree gets turned on, all of them play at the same time—the Statue of Liberty plays the “National Anthem,” IMG_0391the space ship counts down to blast off, the chickens cluck “Jingle Bells.” It’s so funny, because they all play at the same time. My singing chickens are dying, and I cannot find a way to open the ornament to do a repair. I will be very sad when they totally quit clucking “Jingle Bells.”

When I got married and moved to the country, I brought all my Christmas decorations with me. Our living room has 20’ ceilings, and a 6’ Christmas tree would look dwarfed in the room. We purchased a 12’ pre-lit tree. The only problem with the tree is that it only came with clear lights. That would not do, so we purchases strings of multicolored lights and wired them to each section, so that there are approximately 3,000 lights to the tree. That tree is covered with memories. Every ornament is wrapped and packed separately, and every year, as I unpack them, memories come flooding back of my family—my parents, my sisters, my kids and grandkids. My tree will never win the prize for the most beautiful tree, but it might win the prize for the most fun and memorable tree!