If We Were Having Coffee…Unpacking Some Christmas Spirit

Good morning and happy Sunday! It’s a bit damp and drizzly here in South Jersey today but it’s warm and cozy inside so sit down, have a cup of hot French roast and lets have a chat!

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that Miss Dee and I spent our day yesterday putting up Christmas decorations. I would admit that when we started, I was feeling slightly overwhelmed and less than enthusiastic but as we unwrapped each treasure, my mood improved. Soon, she and I were remembering stories and laughing at memories from holidays past.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you to bring your mug and I would give you a tour. I would point out the collection of Santas on display behind the sofa. There are the tall Santa my mother-in-law painted and gifted to my husband and I after we got married, the wooden “walking” Santa my father-in-law brought us from Germany, and the Christmas card holder that had belonged to my mom, all sitting comfortably together…

I would then show you the Christmas Village, originally just four lighted houses, purchased at a home demonstration back when D-man and I were newlyweds still collecting holiday decorations. Over the years we have added more houses and tiny figures. The job of setting it up has been handed down from me to Miss Dee. I think she does a wonderful job, don’t you?

However, we are worried about this one…

This is her first Christmas with us and we are a little concerned about the villagers survival. ūüôā

Next we can check out the bookcases, my favorite pieces of furniture! On those, we have a mix of old and new, a framed Christmas card I designed as a teenager next to baby photos of my now grown children. Up on top are some reindeer, candle holders from who knows when alongside a new white ceramic one purchased last year. Down on the floor is the tall wooden tree I painted and decorated years ago. I always struggle to find the proper place for it but I’m thinking it looks quite at home next to our stuffed snowman there in the corner.

On the other bookcase sits our mini tree collection. Here there is a potpourri burner, a gift from an old friend 20 years ago, a musical tree that plays “O Tannenbaum” and several others both decorated and natural. You can also see our newest decoration, the white car that is toting the Christmas tree on top. I came across it at Lowes last week and just had to have it. It reminded me so much of my childhood! I was flooded with years of memories, watching my dad strap our tree to the roof of the car. I worried the whole way home that it would blow off! The shelf below holds the manger, also a gift from a dear friend on our first Christmas. This is displayed each year without fail to reminded us of the true meaning of the Holiday Season.

We would then swing through the hall so you could see my Dicken’s Carolers. They were purchased second hand over the years so they don’t actually match but I appreciate them each for their uniqueness. The boy on the right refuses to stand correctly so we had to tape him to the snow. I’m hoping he doesn’t topple over taking the rest of the crowd with him! I think I love them so much because the music of the holidays instantly fills me with Christmas cheer. I wish I’d been able to Carole more often as a child. Miss Dee told me yesterday that they kind of “creep her out!” It must be the eyes. Guess I won’t pass them on to her.

That would bring us back to the kitchen, where the hutch that belonged to my in-laws when they first got married, is packed with more memories. On one shelf sits my mom’s Christmas tree glasses and on another are our reindeer mugs that we bought when the kids were young. Each one features a different one of Santa’s reindeer. Miss Dee always uses “Vixen” and Mr D always uses “Donder.” I’m a little more flexible. Today I have “Cupid” but other days I feel more “Blitzen-ish!” The little nutcrackers are actually place card holders, although I’ve never used them as that and the tray propped up behind was painted by my mom during her ceramic phase. On the back is scratched “Christmas 1977,” the year I turned fifteen.

If we were having coffee… I would tell you, as we sat back at the table and refilled our mugs, that I’m glad Miss Dee nudged me on yesterday and encouraged me to unpack “just one more box.” I realize now, after taking this tour with you that it helped me see past the “I’ve got so much to do!” mindset and instead reminded me what amazing memories we can make when we open our hearts and homes at Christmas!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please take the time to visit some of the other Coffee Share Posts hosted over at Eclectic Allie.

A Christmas Memory #3….The Tree

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I’ve been told, by my older siblings that when they were little, they would head to bed on Christmas Eve with a bare tree standing on a bare platform in the living room awaiting Santa’s touch. As they slept, he not only delivered the presents but also put all the lights and ornaments on the tree and set up the houses and trains below so that when they emerged groggy eyed on Christmas morning they would get the full effect. I can see where this would be an exciting and magical for a child to start their Christmas Day, however…

I’ve (also) been told, by my mom and dad that when my sibling were little there were many Christmas Eve’s when they never actually made it bed! My dad usually tackled the platform and any gifts that needed to be assembled while mom did the tree. If they were lucky, neighbors or family would stop by to help but most times they were busy at home with the same task. From what I’ve heard, there was a fair amount of treats and “good cheer” flowing as well. I suppose they did need something to keep them motivated.

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By the time I came along (12 years after my oldest sister) my parents had pretty much burned themselves out on that whole “putting the tree up on Christmas Eve” nonsense and, since my birthday was just a few days before Christmas, we began a new tradition of having the tree up in time for that. I always felt like the tree was part of my birthday celebration. It is still my favorite part of the holiday season.

When I was around 12 or 13, it became my job to go with my dad to pick out our tree. I think my mom had run out of patience years earlier and was eager to step aside. Usually we started at the closest lot, sized up a dozen or so newly cut trees, testing branch strength and freshness, making sure the trunk was straight and not too wide for the stand. Dad would haggle a bit with the tree guy and then decide none of the trees at that lot was good enough. We then performed the same routine at ¬†a half a dozen other tree lots, testing and haggling. Inevitably, we’d end up back at the very first lot with the very first tree we had sized up back at the beginning!

This weekend, D-man and I ventured out to the tree farm where our son has been working for the last few holiday seasons, to pick out our tree. We don’t do artificial trees. Never. Nor do my sisters. That’s just the way it is. We have two small artificial trees elsewhere in the house but the main tree has to be real. To me, each Christmas tree is unique and has its own personality. I don’t want it to be perfect and I certainly don’t want it to be just the same as last year’s. Where’s the fun in that.

I know that artificial trees have all kinds of advantages. Believe me, I think about that when I’m still discovering pine needles in February. Certainly, they’re more convenient and the¬†branches are all strong and even. The symmetry certainly appeals to my perfectionist tendency but the fact is that nothing brings back Christmas memories for me faster than the smell of a live tree. All I need to do is open my bedroom door each morning and let that scent wash over me. Suddenly I’m a kid again back at that Christmas tree lot, rating trees with my dad, strapping it to the roof of our Ford with much more rope than was probably necessary, and singing Christmas caroles all the way home at the top of my lungs. In short, Christmas is once again filled with magic.

 

A Christmas Memory #2….Church Bazaars

My mom's Bazaar bought snow couple

My mom’s Bazaar bought snow couple

 

Growing up we never belonged to any particular church or religion but most Easters and Christmas Eves we did attended services at the Baptist Church down the street. I suspect we went there just because it was the closest. I also attended Vacation Bible School there during the summer. However, there was one thing we couldn’t get from the Baptists. If we wanted nifty home made holiday items at dirt cheap prices, we had to walk a few more blocks to the Catholic Church.

These bazaars (defined in the Free Online Dictionary as:  A fair or sale at which miscellaneous articles are sold, often for charitable purposes.) would happen in early December and I looked forward to them every year, celebrating it as the official start of the holiday season. The bazaar was held in the gymnasium of the Catholic school attached to the church. There were rows and rows of long wooden tables piled high with bright colored items for sale. Mom would give me some cash and I would roam around, Christmas music playing overhead, and pick out small items to give her, my dad and my grandparents. She also gave me enough to purchase something for myself as well.

Pretty knit pot holders never meant to actually use!

Pretty knit pot holders never meant to actually use!

My grandmother received several knitted pot holders courtesy of the Church bazaar. Dad might get a wallet stitched together with leather strings and grandpa, a handmade pouch for his pipe tobacco. For my mom, I would buy decorative Christmas items or maybe an apron.

A Christmas trinket box purchased for my mother

For myself, I poured through the many hand sewed Barbie Doll clothes. The attention to detail always amazed me. How could someone make such perfect little coats and skirts in so many different patterns and styles!? They were the best made Barbie clothes I had, some handed down from my older sisters who had attended the Church Bazaar long before I was old enough to walk.

A few of the surviving doll clothes.

A few of the surviving doll clothes.

As you can see, several of these memory filled items still celebrate Christmas with us. Most started out as gifts to my mother then handed down to me. Even a few of the Barbie clothes have survived. I can’t help but wonder what those nice Catholic women who spent so many hours creating these item would think about that?

Okay, your turn. Have you ever been to or made items for a bazaar (church, school, or otherwise)? If you have, what kind of treasures did you bring home?

A Christmas Memory #1…Holiday Goodies

Last year in honor of my favorite season I embarked on a daily Christmas Postathon. It was a great way to maintain my holiday spirit but to be honest, the pace nearly did me in! So this year I’m going for a looser, more laid back version. ¬†Periodically I will pull out a Christmas memory or favorite to share. Feel free to join the party! I would love to reminisce with all my friends.

Today’s topic is…

Favorite holiday treats

As we slouched around the remnants of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, the conversation turned to all the special treats that made our childhood holiday seasons so memorable. Goodies like Christmas cookies and egg nog jump to most everyone’s mind but each of us had our own personal treats, those things that brought back that rush of Christmas feelings from our childhood.

imageMy sister and I compared notes and decided that we always felt Christmas was upon us when the bowl of mixed nuts appeared. They occupied a special cut glass bowl my mom saved for such delicacies with silver nut crackers tucked in beside them. We knew we couldn’t eat them all at once because they were an extravagance and had to last till Christmas Day. Back then I preferred walnuts and loved cracking them open and then digging around with the little silver pick trying to get every last piece from the broken shell. Today I’d happily dig into the almonds, filberts and pecans as well.

imageMom also splurged on a big box of Whitman chocolates each season. The box she purchased was called the “sampler” because it contained an assortment of every sort of filled chocolates they made. My favorites were the caramels. In fact, they still are. After we were grown and out on our own, mom still gave my sisters and I a Whitman Sampler each Christmas. I usually had to stash it away somewhere safe or it would be empty in no time.

imageAnother special Christams treat I remember from my grandmother’s house were ribbon candies and chocolate filled straws. She was very fond of hard candies ¬†and usually had some type around her house but those two were reserved just for the holidays. To be honest, I only sucked on them for a minute or two before I spit them out to try another flavor! I wonder if my grandmother ever noticed all those half eaten candies in her trash? She always offered me more so I guess she didn’t mind!

imageNow it’s your turn. What are the special treats you remember from your childhood Christmases? I’m sure the there are local and regional goodies that are unique to certain areas. So many confections, flavors and tastes but the feelings of joy and warm memories they bring are the same no matter where or when you grew up.