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