H C l O S e T H
Memories of Christmas Past
© 2008 Lorie Codispoti
Few things compare with the joy of childhood Christmas memories. Not only was I blessed to grow up with grandparents, but I was double blessed to have great-grandparents as well.
My great-grandfather loved the Christmas season, so much so that he thought nothing of using his woodworking skills to make gifts for the children in his community. My grandmother’s face would light up like a Christmas tree every time she talked about her father’s love for the Christmas season and the wonderful memories she had collected over the years. One of her very favorites was his firecracker tradition. It was one that he shared with three generations of his family.
Spending Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house was such an elating experience that my sisters, cousins, and I had a hard time falling asleep. This yearly ritual, along with the popping sound of early morning firecrackers is one of my favorite, and earliest, childhood memories.
No matter what time we awoke on Christmas morning, we were not allowed to exit the blankets until we heard it.
What? What did we hear?
Well, it was the sound of great-grandfather’s firecrackers. Yep! My great-grandfather would rise early, bundle up and go outside to prepare for the arrival of Christmas morning. It wasn't long before we'd hear the multiple pops from the firecrackers in unison with his jolly voice as he hollered, "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, everyone!" (One year, he wasn't able to get the firecrackers, so he rang sleigh bells instead. I was convinced that I was hearing Santa exit the rooftop after a long night of visitations.)
Firecrackers were the signal for the children to rise. A cacophony of jubilant voices with a range of squeaks and squeals echoed throughout the house as we threw back our covers and bolted to the steps. It was there that my grandfather would stop us. We dared not pass him on the way downstairs. (It’s obvious to me now that both of my grandfathers were in cahoots on Christmas morning.)
It was such an animated moment that repeated itself every year. We followed Grandfather as he slowly crept down the stairs, mounting our curiosity with soft whisperings like: "Wonder what's downstairs! Wonder what happened while we were all sleeping! Wonder what Santa's brought us this year."
It was a painful combination of excitement and gut wrenching anticipation. He’d halt us at the step landing as he took a few more steps and peeked into the living room. Looking back at us with eyes as big as a cow, he took a deep breath and in a long, drawn out shout proclaim, "Oh my goodness! Look what I see! When we heard, “Children! LOOK!" we’d barrel past him like tumbleweeds in a windstorm - sure to have knocked him over if he didn't move. It was the grandest event of the year!
Christmas day followed with many wonderful moments as family members found their way home. Joy filled waves of gratefulness filled the air as we shared our Christmas meal. We all knew that we were incredibly blessed.
You know, it's amazing now that I think back on those wonderful memories; I don't remember very many of the gifts, and the ones I do remember would pale in comparison to what children receive these days. It really wasn't about the gifts. It was about the joy of family.
Next to both of my grandfather’s jubilant expressions and animated performances, the tangible things I remember most are things like my grandmother's pies, her homemade decorations, my great-grandmother's rolls and homemade applesauce, her love of music and the sound of her voice singing the carols we all loved. Their Christmas joy was contagious! It was heavenly! We were rich, but not in a material sense. My grandparents simply capitalized on the simple and made it grand.
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:9-11)
May the Christ of Christmas fill our homes with contagious joy, and cause the eyes of our hearts to awake and follow the Great Light that was sent while we slept in the darkness of our sin. H
H S c H o O l R o O m H
C is for Contagious Christmas Cheer
Along with "counting down" the days till Christmas, why not "letter up" with some cheerful ideas to add to your holiday celebrations?Let's see if we can find a Christmas word and web-link to correspond with each letter of the alphabet.
Be forewarned: Reading this post may cause a large dose of Christmas cheer to fall on you. It won't be something you can keep to yourself either. I guarantee that spreading this condition may cause a cheerful reaction to infect all those you come in contact with.
Are you ready? Let's get started...
A = Advent
Advent is a term that means the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ (Christmas). In the 17th century people would make chalk marks on their walls to give themselves a visual reminder of how many days were left until Christmas. Visit the advent link above to glean some wonderful ideas on ways for your family to meaningfully count down the 25 days before Christmas.
B = Bethlehem
You may not be able to physically visit Bethlehem this Christmas, but you can bring a little bit of Bethlehem love to others by making and sharing this O little town of Bethlehem card. Personalize your card even further by using the inside to testify of what Bethlehem means to you.
C = Contagious Christmas Cheer
Here's a great recipe for Christmas Cheer Cinnamon Sugar Shakers. "Shake it up, Baby! Twist and shout." Oops! Wrong thought process. ;-) Back to Christmas!
Share some sugar with this great idea. Everyone likes something sweet, and there's even a diabetic version of this recipe for those who need to watch their sugar intake.
D = Drummer
Watch this video of the Little Drummer Boy with your kids and talk about the significance of the story and how it's message can be applied to their lives this holiday season.
E = Eggnog
It's all about the nog, right? I absolutely LOVE egg nog, though drinking too much of it can give me a bit of belly ache, so I just drink a little and sip it very slowly to enjoy the flavor longer. Yummy.
I've never tried making my own, but this recipe looks like a good one if you want to try it. I like that the link is a "video-recipe."
F = Family
Ways to Keep Your Family Focused on Christ This Christmas is a wonderful article that suggests many ways for families to celebrate Christmas. Check it out.
G = Garland
This one is for my sister, Marcy. We had a discussion about this when she came to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. She saw the Christmas garland I had made and we got into a discussion about the chains we used to make out of gum wrappers. Do any of you remember those? Well, I used that same method and substituted the gum wrappers for stiff Christmas looking fabric. It looks great and wraps all around my tree. I love it. Try using up all those bits and pieces of Christmas wrapping paper that usually goes to waste.
H = History
You know, things come alive when you hear the history behind them. For example, the story about eight-year-old, Virginia O'Hanlon. She began to doubt that there was a Santa Claus when her friends told her he wasn't real. She asked her father about it and he encouraged her to write a letter to the editor and ask them about it. (Sounds like a pass-the-buck position her father took doesn't it?) She did and the editor of the New York Sun took the opportunity to answer her question from a philosophical viewpoint.
This little, seemingly insignificant, letter to the editor has since been reprinted hundreds of times each Christmas season, by various periodicals, and has also been adapted into a TV movie. It's a very sweet letter and response. Take the time to read it and talk about the history of other Christmas stories.... especially the one that tells His-Story, the one of the Christ, the Baby born in a manger and the Savior who came to "seek and save the lost."
I = Icicles
If you like icicles you might enjoy using this picture as a wallpaper on your computer. I like to change my wallpaper often and I thought this was a pretty one.
J = Jesus
What better time to study the name of Jesus than Christmastime? This is a free, printable unit study on The Names of Jesus. The names are divided into 24 days and can also serve as an advent devotional. Each day includes discussion and a related activity.
K = Keepsakes
Keepsakes are those material things that evoke a favorite Christmas memory, moment, or event. Something that you can touch... Maybe your baby's first Christmas ornament. Maybe a photo album of family pictures taken next to your tree each year. Maybe you wear grandmother's Christmas apron when you cook the turkey. Maybe you have a special storybook that's only read on Christmas night. Maybe your family gathers on Christmas Eve to watch a favorite Christmas movie. The list goes on and on and every year our family reminisces over each keepsake and it's story. It's a wonderful time of sharing.
I have to say though, that our Christmas tree is probably the strangest "keepsake" on our list. It's the accidental keepsake that won't go away. LOL! Every year I plan to get rid of the mammoth tree that takes up our whole living room, and every year our family has the same Christmas Tree Debate. In fact, it's tradition now, a ritualistic part of Christmas that I'm still wishing away, but regrettably has seemed to find a warm place to snuggle in my heart. (Don't tell my family I'm confessing that. It could be to my ruin.)
Maybe one day I'll write an article on our family's age-old tradition of getting into a heated verbal exchange over that stinking tree, but for now I'll just suck it up and rent a crane to haul the ugly dinosaur that no body wanted out of the closet. (Tree tip: If it's someone else's cast away, let it go. Don't try to save it from the landfill graveyard. I'm still paying the price for saving the monster that comes out of the closet to bite me every year.)
L = Lists
Lists, lists, and more lists. I love working off a list. Scratching through an item on whatever list I'm working on gives me a sense of victory and makes me feel productive. You may be like me, or you may be one of those people who feels restricted and stressed by a list. Either way, I think this website will be useful to you. It's an online Christmas list that you can create and share with family and friends.
M = Memories
Everyone has a favorite Christmas memory. Here is an article where 31 Christian authors share their favorite memory with you. You will enjoy reading these.
N = Noel
Noel, the word we use in our language, is derived from three sources and means Christmas, birth, and new. Here's a website where you can listen to The First Noel, read the words to the song, and download a song sheet and music sheet. The website has other Christmas songs available as well.
O = Ornamentshttp://www.betterbudgeting.com/homemadechristmasornaments.htm
Ornaments are fun, aren't they? I like them because as a family grows so does there collection of ornaments. Each year a new ornament or two is added, along with a new tale associated with it. Our ornament/story collection consists of ornaments we've made, ones given to us, and ones that we've inherited. I especially love the homemade ones. When our children were young we began an ornament tradition with them. Each year we gave them an ornament so that they would have a collection of them to hang on their tree when they left home. I couldn't bare the thought of their first Christmas tree being bare. This is the first year one of our children will have their own tree, in their own apartment. It makes my heart smile to think that he won't have a bare tree, but one filled with happy family memories that he will be able to add to as his family grows.
P = Presents
Last week I had a woman tell me that her favorite holiday was Thanksgiving and her least favorite was Christmas; and her main reason was over the issue of presents. Isn't that sad? Yet, I remember feeling that way years ago myself. With everything that is piled up on your "to do" Christmas list you hardly have time to really enjoy the holiday. For many it is a stressful time, filled with more chores than cheer. We resolved a long time ago that we would only give Christmas gifts to our children. John and I don't even give one another gifts. There were several reasons for this, which would take another post to explain, but I can tell you that the lifted pressure from this one thing has freed all of us up to enjoy the true meaning of the holiday.
Here's an interesting present option though. A friend shared with me years ago something that their family started and I thought it was a wonderful idea. They wait till Epiphany to exchange gifts with their family. Tradition says that the Feast of Epiphany is the day that the wise men arrived in Bethlehem and presented the baby Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (My friend also told me that the after-Christmas sales and shopping were wonderful. She gets great deals and the after-Christmas crowds are much smaller.)
Q = Quiet
One of the things our family enjoys over the Christmas season is to gather in the evenings and read a Christmas story. We each get our favorite mug and fill it with our favorite hot beverage, snuggle up together in the living room, turn the lights out, admire the decorated tree, and read. This is my favorite gift of the season.
I used to collect Christmas stories from magazines. I'd tear them out and file them away till Christmas, where we'd pull them out to read during our family gatherings. Well, a few years ago my wonderful husband bought me the entire collection of Joe Wheeler's Christmas In My Heart series. Now I have enough Christmas stories to share with the next generation.
R = Red
Red Boots For Christmas is an online story book that you can share with your children. There is also an audio version of the story that you can listen to and enjoy as a family.
S = Snowflakes
This one is for my husband, John. I've never known anyone who loves snow more than he does. He spent part of his childhood in Labrador and has some wonderful memories of ice skating from house-to-house, ice fishing, and riding skadoos. We don't get much snow here in NC, but when we do he reverts back to those fun, happy childhood memories and prays that we'll be snowed in for days.
Snowflakes are amazing aren't they? Everything about them is fascinating; from the science behind them to making your own and hanging each one from the ceiling with fishing line (something I did one year to decorate our school room for the winter).
T = Traditions
Too Much Tradition? I thought this was an interesting article that might be beneficial for some of you to read. Traditions can be wonderful and beneficial for your family, but they can also be a distraction that leads to unexpected expectations. Finding a balance for your family is the key to enjoying and embracing some traditions while being open to nixing the ones that don't work.U = Unity
In her book, 100 Ways to Have a Christian Christmas, Brenda Verner share with her readers 19 ideas, activities and projects that will assist you in unifying your family during the holidays. You might want to review this list and pick a few for your family to participate in.
V = Visitors
"Successful people do one special thing that other people don’t do in their planning -- they begin with the end in mind. They think about what makes the holidays special, and the answer is always “getting together with people.” Marcia Ramsland (Author of Simplify Your Holidays)
This entry is dedicated to my daughter, Jennifer, whose welcoming smile and cheerful heart is always ready to welcome visitors into our home. Even when she was a little girl, she would assemble all the children in the neighborhood and bring them over to our house for Bible studies and craft time. Do you have a child like that, one that is always asking you if we can invite so-and-so over? Well, I know it is an extra effort to have people over, but I also know that the joy it brings is worth it. Encourage your child if she is like this, and teach her the art of hospitality by giving her opportunities to hone her skills and find a balance between entertaining and family life. One day you will be invited over to her house! ;-)
W = Waiting
Waiting for Christmas. For some it is VERY hard; especially when they start to see retail stores decorating in October, and they start to hear Christmas music being played in the mall. A fellow blogger shares how her family celebrates the advent of Christmas day. She has been able to make the waiting enjoyable for the whole family.
X = Xmas
Some people get very upset when they see "Christ" in Christmas replaced with an "X". I used to be one of those people until I learned that the replacement was no replacement at all. The Greek letter, X, stands for Christ. We see it most commonly used in the term Xmas, but it was also used as an abbreviation for Christian (Xian) and Christianity (Xianity).
I love reading the origins of things. It has a way of clearing up misunderstandings, setting the record straight, and educating all at the same time.
Though some may try to take Christ out of Christmas by inserting an "X" in place of "Christ" it doesn't work. Christ is still in Christmas, and that should bring a cheerful countenance to your face every time you read, "Merry Xmas everyone!"
Y = Yams
Sweet potato casserole. Can you say, "Yammy!" Okay, okay. That was a bit cheesy, I admit, but yams are a pretty important ingredient in the Codispoti holiday dinner menu. This entry is dedicated to my son, Joshua. He is the yam-lovinest kid I've ever known. Ever since my sister-in-law, Pam, made the first Sweet Potato Casserole and shared it with all of us one holiday, it has become an absolute - you must absolutely NEVER forget this family favorite. Every year my son reminds me to make sure I have every ingredient on hand (like I need a reminder after all this time).
This link is the closest one to the same recipe that we use, only we use canned, evaporated milk instead of regular milk, and we also add about 3/4 c. of coconut. Yam-me! ;-)
Z = Zealous
"Our gospel is the unlikely tale that begins with an emperor’s folly, for in setting out to register "all the world," Augustus and his governor Quirinius put something into motion that transcends all earthly power. We know the story and how it comes out, but let’s try to see ourselves in the shepherds’ place, afraid to open ourselves to God and in need of reassurance, of being told not to fear. Let’s be willing, like Mary, to take the words in, to treasure and ponder them, because so much is possible when we do. As these words wash over us they penetrate, despite our defenses and distractions. Their spirit can move us and change us, whether we will it or not. Simply being present is enough, for church is a place that allows this transformation to occur. If we feel utterly exhausted, drained of all feeling and weary with worldly chores and concerns, so much the better. Our weakness is God’s strength. Our emptiness means that there is room for God after all." Kathleen Norris (Author of this article - Zealous Hopes)
My prayer for all of you this holiday season is that you will embrace the gift that was given to us all those years ago. (Isaiah 9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.") I pray that as you embrace the gift of God's Son, you will also embrace what He came for. (Luke 18:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.") I pray that you will come to know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. (Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.")
Christmas was one event, that happened one time. We have been celebrating the anniversary of that event ever since. May your heart be filled with Christmas cheer this holiday season. (Proverbs 15:15 "The cheerful heart has a continual feast.")
Merry CHRISTmas everyone!