Christmas Traditions ~ by susan werthem

As a youth, the day after Thanksgiving was one of decorating the house while eating turkey sandwiches piled high with stuffing, cranberry sauce and lots of mayonnaise. It was not a day of bargain hunting at the mall as it is now for most of us, but one of hanging yards and yards of garland and lights.

By the end of the weekend, the house would always be storybook perfect. Dad would have hired at least three men to drape lights on every hedge, tree and bush in the yard. Colored lights enveloped the rooftop; however, the crowning glory was my grandpa’s homemade wooden star. For as long as I can remember, every Christmas that star hung on the highest peak of the roof of my childhood home.

As a child I remember Nana and Grandpa always arrived early every Christmas morning with wicker baskets filled with gifts. And the food…tins filled with cookies, casseroles galore…all were part of our family celebration.

After Wade and I were married, decorating our home became an important family tradition…the lights, garland, bows, stockings, and ornaments from my childhood. When my parents moved to the west coast of Florida, Mom and Dad gave us the wooden star; it was a special day. The following year it was with a great sense of family pride and tradition we hung it on our new home’s rooftop.

That year the grandparents came to our home with their arms full of gifts and provisions. It was our house that was covered in lights, garland, along with a new tradition…Nativity scenes…a tradition I hoped to pass onto our children…but…

Not all things work out as one imagines or plans. Life gets busy, parents get sick, and priorities change.

A year after Mom and Dad moved to New Port Richey, Dad had emergency open-heart surgery just before Thanksgiving. His recovery was problematical and Christmas as a family was postponed. Whether I decorated our house or not that year is a forgotten memory, but I do remember the entire family celebrating Christmas the following February at my parent’s. The gifts were placed under a “Christmas Ficus Tree”. Mom bought a potted Ficus, decorated it with red ribbon and I think one ornament…it was beautiful.

We didn’t care what the tree looked like, it was what it symbolized…the hope as a family we had in Christ and in each other.
Three years later Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the Monday after Thanksgiving. Again, decorating was not a concern; she was. Christmas took on an even more special meaning…it was not how the house looked, or how pretty the gift wrapping appeared…it was family, first and foremost.

Five years later, 7 days before Christmas, Mom went to be with the Lord. No tree was up in our house, gifts still needed to be bought and the star was hidden in some box in the garage. Mom would not have wanted it to be like that, but pulling out those boxes of decorations was more than I could do.

That year we had the Christmas chair. We had a large rattan fan-backed chair in the living room. I covered it with tiny red stockings and bows. Most of the gifts were rolled up in several sheets of newspaper, placed into a Publix plastic bag, which I tied shut, stuffed it into Publix paper bags and placed under the Christmas chair…the kids loved it. Opening their gifts was an adventure.
Over the years getting at least one gift in multiple layers of plastic bags, newspaper, etc. became a family tradition. One year our youngest son was about 17 and he did not get a gift wrapped as such…he was clearly disappointed. Although this tradition came about because of a family tragedy, our children only saw it as a form of family love. Now even our grandchildren expect at least one such gift.

In 2002 Dad went to be with the Lord. It was 6 days before Christmas and that year too the house was sparsely decorated. We placed our gifts under a “Christmas Ficus”…it seemed appropriate.

Wade and I are following in our parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps…no not with yards of garland and lights, but traveling to our children’s’ homes, sharing Christmas with their family. How their house is decorated means nothing to me…it is being with our children and grandchildren.

Of course we arrive with our arms are filled with gifts…wrapped in newspaper and plastic bags…because in our family, that spells love.

Blessings and have a wonderful Christmas!!

One thought on “Christmas Traditions ~ by susan werthem

  1. Becky

    that was our tradition too. We used to snowshoe on Thanksgiving day to cut our christmas tree then spend the day after thanksgiving decorating. thanks for sharing


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