What are your favorite memories of celebrating Christmas? When I was young, both sets of my grandparents lived only minutes away, giving me the opportunity to bask in two sets of traditions for the holiday. If I close my eyes, I can almost smell Grandmother’s squash casserole, loaded with dill and sour cream, roasting in the oven as we arrived with aunts, uncles, and cousins. I always thought Christmas just might not feel quite right without that tantalizing treat served with the midday meal.
That was until we were with Mamie and Pa, my other grandparents. I forgot all about that favorite dish as I rushed downstairs in their house to a small basement den with a roaring fire, a 3-foot high Christmas tree on a table, and family squeezed so tightly together that bumping elbows was a part of the experience. Pa always wore a red silk smoking jacket as he sat beside the small tree giving out presents, and I often thought I didn’t want to spend Christmas any other place, ever.
Those traditions were disrupted after Henry and I got married as we planned to spend our first Christmas with his family. As I thought about wanting to watch Pa blow dust off an old bottle of Madeira as Mamie seated us for lunch, I felt a bit panicked. The little girl in me realized there would be no squash casserole, I doubted his family would find it entertaining to squeeze into a small room to exchange gifts, and I was quite certain no one would wear a red silk smoking jacket. I hated to admit it at the time, but I didn’t like the thought of having Christmas without the traditions I had come to love.
Henry’s parents died when he was young, so his lovely sisters and their families threw open their homes to us for Christmas. The morning started with stockings. Much to my shock, my stocking was bursting with a myriad of gifts. I fully expected to find a large orange and a grapefruit at the bottom, which always took up two-thirds of the space of my stocking at home, but there were none … just more gifts, all the way down to the toe! Then, to my delight, the morning was so relaxed that we opened presents in our pajamas, drinking coffee and nibbling on breakfast goodies as we pleased. They, of course, celebrated Christmas quite differently, but I loved every moment.
As I think about Christmas this year, COVID-19 is forcing all of us around the world to adjust our traditions. Many will not be able to see family members for a variety of reasons, and attending holiday parties may be more limited. While this disruption is not ideal, it may well give us an opportunity to be creative in making new traditions.
From all of us at CMM, we wish you every blessing of joy and health this holiday season and for the coming new year.