The kids with Santa at the Transplant Christmas Party 2009
I think Christmas was the busiest holiday when I was growing up. It all started the day after Thanksgiving when about ten million boxes full of Christmas decorations came down from the attic, or in from the shed, or whatever, and were piled around the living room waiting to be emptied. Putting up the tree, hooking up the lights, and hanging the ornaments took a full day's work. With nearly a thousand ornaments covering that 5 foot tall tree, you could barely see any green at all! The next day entailed putting up all the holly, garland, wall decorations, stockings, figureines, and mistletoe. The days before Christmas were filled with family activities, pageants, and the annual baking of the sugar cookie ornaments. After the cookies were baked, decorated, strung and hung on the tree, each visitor to the house was able to snag one or two and munch on them right off the branch. On Christmas Eve I was permitted to open a few gifts and put out milk and cookies for Santa. Christmas morning around 2:00 almost always found me sneaking out into the living room to peek at the stash Santa left before crawling back into bed to lay wide awake until my parents came into my room, when I pretended to be asleep and later surprised as I saw all my gifts. After opening all my loot I spent the rest of the day trying out my new toys, reading all my new books, eating, and chatting with family. After moving to Texas a few more traditions were added, such as spending Christmas Eve at my Grandma's house with the cousins and the annual White Elephant gift exchange for the adults.
Now that I am a Mom, Christmas is certainly different. It's a lot more work, and that makes me appreciate all my parents did to help me have great Christmases with many memories. We still decorate the house, although we have less decorations and a larger tree with a few less ornaments. We no longer bake sugar cookies, but we do make banana bread or fudge for the family. The kids write their letters to Santa. We continue to get together on Christmas Eve or Christmas night and do the White Elephant gift exchange. On Christmas Eve we read "The Night Before Christmas" to the kids and put out cookies and milk for Santa. We get out the Nativity and set up the figurines as we read from Luke in the New Testament. On Christmas Day the kids empty their stockings, open their gifts, and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. At some point during the day we go over to Aunt Susan's house for her annual brunch. We keep the decorations up for a week or so before saying goodbye for another year. Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!
a favorite day for me due to all the chocolates, teddy bears, and flowers brought to me at school by various boyfriends and admirers. Now Valentine's Day consists of Brian and I exchanging heart-shaped boxes of candy (truffles for me, Reese's peanut butter cups for him), as well as giving a box of candy to each child. They fill out valentine cards for their classmates each year just as I did. That's about it. I don't believe you need a special day to show love for your family, but it's a heck of a good way to score a box of candy.