Last year, I struggled with finding the Christmas spirit.
I really had to search for some holiday cheer. Doing a few extra Christmassy things helped, and I tucked my list of jolly makers away for this year.
But early this month, I noticed a friend’s Facebook post. She’s posting 24 pictures of the Christmas ornaments on her tree this December. Each one tells a story that connects her to Christmas.
Well, I thought, why don’t I do that?
So on my Facebook page, I’ve been posting the same.
In a few days, though, mine started drifting away from being just about ornaments.
I have a lot of stuff in my house. Most of the time, I have too much stuff in my house. As I have gone through the first few days, though, I remember why I have some of these things.
Some of this stuff holds memories. By photographing and telling the stories of how I’m touching Christmas, I’m reminded why it can be so hard to divest ourselves of stuff.
And why it’s important to keep hold of at least some of it.
Mom’s Christmas Ornaments
For many years, my mom made Christmas ornaments to sell at the junior league Christmas fundraiser. O remember rows and rows lined up on our dining room table all through the autumn, waiting for their paint job.
Some, she kept. We easily had 50 or so. When I bought my first house, she let me pick out some for my own tree. When she passed away, I got most of the rest.
I am still blown away by my mom’s artistic talents, and I miss the joy she brought to the holidays.
My Christmas Ornaments
I made the red ornament when I was 4 years old. Much to my embarrassment, my mom proceeded to put it on her tree for the next 40 years.
As a mom, now, I understand.
So when my daughter hung it on the tree this year, I just shook my head and grinned.
After all, she’s made ornaments too. (which mostly have her name in big letters on them, so I can’t share.)
And Winnie the Pooh? Someone gave Little Bit that one for her first Christmas.
As for Mary and Joseph (baby Jesus was hidden among the branches), Jon and I received these ornaments as a wedding present. We still smile, remembering our big day, every time we put it on the tree.
When I set up my Christmas trees in my first house, I started buying 3-4 wooden animal ornaments each year. I finally stopped two years ago, but I have about 40 of them. The penguin and his child is one of my favorites.
And the little stocking? My mom made that too. Hanging it on the tree reminds me of winter evenings, knitting side by side on the couch.
And in the Kitchen…
Few things bring Christmas to mind more viscerally than the smells and tastes of Christmas. And sweet spices like vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves make the whole house smell like Christmas, especially if like us, you use an artificial tree.
Like a lot of people, I make cookies at Christmas. We haven’t started yet this year, but I certainly have plans for my usual chai and kitchen sink (oatmeal with coconut, pecans, chocolate and butterscotch chips.) I also made a pecan pie fudge last year that turned out incredible…it’s part of the plan as well.
My mom made cookies each year too. I remember tons of cookies in our home each Christmas, all packed in metal tins. Mom would take a mixed plateful to family friends, and we’d spend time visiting. Once my brother and I became adults, she cut down on her baking and just made our favorites. Spritz cookies for my brother, cinnamon pecan squares for me, and tufftuff (a chewy anise/molasses cookie) for herself. Each year, we’d get our tin of cookies. This was the tin I received in 2011, my mother’s final Christmas.
Of course, my Christmas kitchen included more than just cookies and fudge, and that’s why that old dingy green pot is in my pictures. On the weekend before Christmas, I would host my mom and her husband, and my brother would come for our Christmas dinner and present exchange. I’d cook, often a roast chicken or pot roast in that pan. So while it’s not the prettiest thing, it reminds me of hosting our celebratory dinner.
And then there’s Christmas bread. Homemade bread looms large in my holiday memories. Dinners of my grandmother’s whole wheat bread at family gatherings while my cousins and I ran around. Christmas night dinners of chili and homemade bread, a simple dinner after a big Christmas luncheon.
My mom, like her mother, made bread often. At Christmas, she’d change out the raisins in her raisin bread recipe and use the mixed fruit cake stuff (cherries, pineapple, and citrus peel) instead. Now I do it too.
Around the House
Aside from the tree, there’s other Christmas things we enjoy.
My mom made an advent calendar when my brother and I were kids. When he and I outgrew the calendar, my mom handed it over to my aunt, and my younger cousins got to enjoy it. The Christmas Little Bit was born, my aunt sent it to me.
Now I fill the pockets with Hershey kisses and candy canes, and Little Bit counts down the days till Santa comes.
Each year, I make a photo calendar: One for us, one for my parents, and one for Jon’s. We enjoy it year round, but it always reminds me of Christmas.
We have our lights, too. Okay, not a huge light display. Still, we enjoy our reindeer and our Santa Yoda (one of the first presents Little Bit picked out for her dad.)
Finally, our stockings are…well, not hung, but draped by the chimney with care. One for each of us. They hold a lot, too.
And In our Heads
I’m a big fan of Christmas music. I must have 2 dozen Christmas CDs, left over from when I actually used CDs instead of just streaming music. None put me in the Christmas mood faster than A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (although I do love Run DMC‘s Christmas in Hollis.)
And while Jon insists on multiple viewings of the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol, Little Bit and I have our own favorites. Arthur Christmas has been our must-watch holiday movie, ever since we discovered it 3 years ago. “So what if the little nipper sees him. A wack on the head with a sock full of sand and a dab of whiskey on the lips and theydon’t remember a thing.”
And because Christmas should mean books (Jolakoboflod!), I’ll add one of my Favorites: Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. Because nothing says Christmas like DEATH masquerading as Santa.
So yeah. we have too much stuff. My pictures barely scratch the surface of all the Christmas stuff we have around the house.
But going through our stuff, taking pictures, and describing the items (and the memories they evoke) has reminded me why I have kept so much, and why it can be so hard to get rid of the excess.
When I go through my stuff, I’m touching Christmas and touching memories.
There’s love in that stuff, just like there’s love in my life.
Photographing all this has reminded me of all that love, and so I touched Christmas in my heart. Seasonal Joy accomplished.
What seasonal objects around your house bring forth your important seasonal memories? How do you touch Christmas?