Christmas is coming! I’ve made the decision to slow it down this holiday season so my family and I can really enjoy Christmas.
As a young adult it seemed December was one Christmas party after another. It was fun, but got a little exhausting. And as a little kid, Christmas was amazing and magical — snow angels, stockings full of candy and oranges, secret Santas at school, presents under the tree. My parents made the most delicious date-filled cookies — they were like little pies. My dad and my aunt Debbie both still continue to make my great-aunt Mable Gable’s Christmas spice cake with chocolate chips. (Yes, Mable Gable. My dad likes to joke she turned down a Mr. Syrup to marry my great-uncle Gable.)
And Christmas Eve was so fun! We would go to my great-grandparents’ house for dinner, where we youngsters were relegated to the kitchen to sit at the kids’ table. Afterward we went to church, where I remember singing “Silent Night” in German as we lit candles. Though we no longer sing in German at Christ Lutheran, we still sing “Silent Night” with candles. I love that — it seems like one of the few moments during the whole season where it actually somewhat still feels like Christmas.
While we were in church, Santa would deliver the presents to my grandparents’ house, ready for the hurricane of gift-opening when we returned. There were so many cousins, so many gifts and so much wrapping paper that some new toy or other would inevitably get lost in the fray. It was delightful chaos.
A few times the party got to be pretty big — my Nanny and Fafa really enjoyed a good party. One year they put all of us kids into the back bedroom and told us it was time to go to sleep. I’m sure the adults thought we would actually go to sleep, but we had other ideas. We started jumping on the bed, eventually jumping so much that the whole thing broke and landed on the floor. I think I remember my mom taking us home about that point. I guess it’s not a real Christmas party until the furniture starts breaking.
I admit the magic of Christmas has gradually faded as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I’ve had a couple of sad, solitary Christmases when my kids were with their dad and my parents were working. Thank goodness for my friends who were kind enough to invite me to spend the holiday with their families.
Now the magic lies in making it special for my own kids by getting the tree lit up and decorated, listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents. Plus the movies! “The Grinch,” “Christmas Vacation,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and my favorite, mainly because I love Bing Crosby’s voice, “White Christmas.” A very special tradition my kids and I have is reading Christmas books. We love “Polar Express,” “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “Santa Calls” — well, all of them, because they really make it seem like Christmas has arrived.
We have other traditions too: My daughter helps me hide a “Santa on the Shelf” each evening for her little brother to find when he wakes up in the morning. She is also looking forward to helping me play Santa Claus this Christmas Eve — I guess that’s one good thing about discovering Mom is really Santa, a fact my daughter figured out by noticing the gifts from me and the gifts from Santa all had wrapping paper from Inland Octopus. She may be a little too smart for her own good!
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native, middle school dual language teacher and mom to two children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.