Christmas is my favorite. I love spending the hustle and bustle of the holidays with family. Even when it gets hectic and stressful (and with my crew, it’s guaranteed) there’s nothing that fills my soul more than copping a squat on the living room floor because every chair and sofa space is packed to the gills with girls (and the random trapped husband) and listening to the jabberwocky of a room full of relatives.
I come from a big family of women. A bodacious beehive of queen bees. So when we get together, we get loud. And we do goofy things.
Like gather up all the hats and scarves in the house and go caroling… whether the neighbors are amenable or not. And a good many may not have been. They either weren’t home or they hid from the colorfully clad mishmash of merrymakers on their front lawns. I know I would have — at least until I heard the first few notes of a christmas song. Then I would’ve thrown my doors open wide.
“Everybody loves Christmas carols. Santa, especially,” Tate says. And he’s right. Or at least everybody in my family, plus Santa. That’s why we go caroling and harass the neighbors.
And I’m thinking that must not be something normal people do because I can honestly say I’ve never had somebody ring my doorbell just so they can belt out “O Holy Night” in a light drizzle. But we do. And we did.
This past week, I was talking to family and friends about some of their favorite Christmas memories and traditions.
One friend made peanut butter balls with her mom every year, to pass out to all male relatives over 21. She didn’t know why they had to be 21 and male. It was just tradition.
But tradition’s like that. The method to the madness is often lost in the translation, but the joy translates, regardless. Bringing so much joy to the world.
My sister and her family whip up their annual joy with homemade five-star meals for Christmas dinner. Beef Wellington is her son’s favorite — and he himself is a mini master chef, baking up the most glorious, puff-pastried, steak-filled centerpiece of a Christmas feast you ever did see.
From five-star to the star of Bethlehem, my husband’s favorite tradition was attending midnight mass and singing “Silent Night,” the melody lifting the congregation in the most sacred of stillness.
Another friend of mine talked about how her family never had much growing up, but they always had Christmas. She remembers one year where her father sold his truck so they would have gifts under the tree. She wonders to this day how he made it to work the coming year.
My girls and I, we always made Christmas cookies. The boys and I have added gingerbread to the memory mix. This weekend was a cluttered cluster of memories in the making. Chilled dough. Dusted rolling pin. Cookie cutters and powdered sugar. Red, green, blue food coloring. Blue and green and white crystal sprinkles.
Cheeks and fingers were stained and there’s sanding sugar scattered clear to the floor joists, I’m sure. The kitchen is a wreck, but the cookies and houses are a wonder. They aren’t pretty, but they’re pretty delicious. And so are the memories.
And then there are my memories of Christmases past — my cousin at the pump organ, clomping out “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the rest of us singing along. My aunts and mother in the kitchen scraping a year’s worth of hamburger grease off the stovetop and cabinets so they could cook up the roast beast. (Grandma lived on fried patties 364 days out of the year.)
My uncles and father gathered ’round the coffee table sketching out physics problems, each bringing their gifts to the table, in a pedagogical parody of the three wise men.
And finally, there’s my grandmother in her recliner, beaming through her bifocals and bragging on her grandchildren to anybody and everybody she could capture in her thick-rimmed line of sight. The lights from the Christmas tree reflected brightly in her split lenses, turning her chocolate brown eyes into a kaleidoscope of green and amber and red and royal blue.
Somewhere behind me stands her Christmas tree, the beginning of my fascination with Christmas trees, its branches dripping in silver tinsel and Shiny Brite ornaments. I wish I knew where those ornaments were today.
My mother further fueled my passion for Christmas trees. She has eight. Yes. Eight. Most of them, themed. One is a nutcracker tree. Another is chockfull of Wizard of Oz ornaments. A third houses all the homemade ones we four kiddos created from decades of Christmases past. Then there’s the bird tree in the bathroom and the tabletop tree in the bedroom. It’s a habit. And it’s genetic.
But my habit is sort of under control. I only have two — one full of collectible blown glass; the second, full of felted ones, less fragile, more fun.
Yes, Christmas is my favorite.
I love the memories made and the memories in the making. I love the family, the fun, and the frenzy — every last fiber of frenzy. My husband — not so much. He prefers to maintain every last fiber of sanity. But then, he’s all”Silent Night,” Bing Crosby style, and I’m all Mannheim Steamroller “Carol of the Bells.”
But maybe he’ll keep me anyways. Because he was my absolute best Christmas gift of all time, thirteen years ago this past weekend.
Yep, Christmas is my favorite.