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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Memories of Christmas
I love Christmas. Always have. I'm sure it comes from being raised in a family of Christmas lovers. My mother started the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving by baking. I
swear she made every type of Christmas cookie available.
Back then, during the holidays friends and relatives visited often and she always served a dish of cookies.
I remember several big 3# potato chip cans full of cookies. When she went out for the evening, she called to see if we were behaving. Our reward - three cookies. Of course, we took three from each can. Even with six of us (I had three brothers and two sisters) we didn't make a dent.
Our Christmas tree went up December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. We put our stockings up the night before and in the morning we received oranges, apples, and nuts. Sometimes a harmonica or other small toy.
My mother went all out for Christmas with an elaborate village set up under our tree, complete with hills, caves, and houses - all lit and surrounding the nativity set. It took a whole day for my mom to set it up. I'll never forget her crawling on the floor under the tree. After laying a bed of cotton, she carefully arranged the caves in the back corner, built hills and valleys and placed the houses. She even created streams and ponds with tinfoil and mirrors. Everything led to the nativity set. A cardboard stable held animals along with Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Every year one of us got the privilege of placing baby Jesus in the manger. Once they were in place, she set up the shepherds, wise men, and angels.
For many years, she place a wooden fence around the whole scene. For some reason, she quit setting that up. I wish I had that fence.
I'll never forget how the neighbors complained that she put the tree up so early because, of course, their kids wanted their tree up also.
On Christmas Eve, we had a traditional supper. My aunt, uncle, and four cousins joined us and after dinner, we went to visit my grandmother.
Our dinner consisted of Oplatky (holy bread wafers like you receive at communion) mushroom soup, balbaki - little bread balls covered in either poppy seed and honey or sauerkraut. At some point, we added periogis to the menu.
One of my favorite memeroies is the year my uncle decided to dress as Santa Claus. He decided to wear the suit to my grandmother's. My sister and I often rode with him, while some of my cousin rode with my parents. On this particular year, we stopped at a traffic light. A man came out of the bar on the corner. My uncle waved and yelled Merry Christmas. The man stopped, looked in the car, scratched his head, turned and went back into the bar. Guess he thought he was seeing things.
I have many great memories of Christmas, and I still carry on the Christmas Eve dinner tradition.