This is what Christmas looked like when I was a little girl.
It was full and magical and loud and covered with lights. My grandmother replaced the paintings on her wall with holiday versions, displayed collections of Santas and snowmen, and exchanged all of the hand towels for red and green. To my young eyes, we could have been living in one of those fancy home magazines. We listened to Perry Como and Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis records at full volume on speakers the size of small refrigerators. We cooked all the things. We took turns answering the door to receive deliveries of gifts from my grandfather’s patients – just picked grapefruits, homemade fudge and pralines, Mrs. Moore’s roast beef, Miss Emily’s pecan macaroons…
I’ve written about this before, but somewhere, as an adult with five very busy step-kids, I lost my Christmas way. The shopping became a chore. The gimme-gimme chatter incessant (sorry kids for selling you out here – trust me, it was all totally age appropriate and I know you were not alone in your desire for all the things). I realized that the part of the Christmas memory that I wanted most to recreate for my kids was not the stacks of gifts under the tree but the laughter and bad singing and coming and going and late-night wrapping and twice-a-day trips to the grocery and the growing up stories of eight crazy siblings. The traditions that, as a child, I wasn’t even aware were repeated year after year were exactly what I wanted my kids to grow up owning as their own Christmas memories.
My grandmother created magic in her house every Christmas. It wasn’t Christmas if you weren’t there. Somehow, there seemed to be space for everyone (and I come from a pretty large family). She invited us in to the spirit of Christmas because she loved it. I think what she really loved was the giving. She loved creating a space where just for a moment in time all of her kids and grandkids could be not just together but joyful. Let’s not kid ourselves. In every large family, there are always times when things aren’t bright and sunny, and our family was no different. But as a child, I had no idea how hard my grandmother worked to pull off the magic that was Christmas at Granny’s.
A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter was discussing the impending arrival of our elf on a shelf, Felix Navidad, with her brother. They discussed how last year, Felix made pancakes that spelled out “I’m back!” and she said, “You know, Mom, Felix did that for you. He knew you would have to make us breakfast so he did it instead. He’s helpful like that.” I realized at that moment that she has no idea how much work the magic takes. And it was so good.
So to help you all with creating your own magic at home, here are the activities our family intends to enjoy this December. Please let me know how much fun you have together.