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The Secret Behind Making Long-Lasting Memories for the Holidays

I’m 7 years old and it’s a snowy, wintery Christmas morning. I’m waiting rather impatiently at the window in my parents’ bedroom while my hardworking father finishes the chores on the farm so he can get the oversized movie camera out with its large bar of blinding lights ready to capture our entrance into the room where the Christmas tree is.

When I think of my childhood holiday memories, what immediately springs to mind isn’t the potential anxiety or stress my parents might have experienced preparing for the festive season. What I think of are all the things my Mom and Dad did to make the time special – lasting memories like this one.

It’s hard to believe that the last two months of 2017 are upon us!! Wow! Holidays allow us another season of choices: the choice to either look forward and celebrate, or to dread the anticipated struggles, whether it be with family and friends, the perceived longer ‘to do’ list than time in the day, or a slimmer bank account than the list of gifts to purchase!

I choose to celebrate, AND I choose how that will be done both in spirit and in actuality.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my share of fretting and stressing about how to get shopping, wrapping, card sending (does that even happen anymore?), and event attending accomplished, keep everyone happy, AND get some sleep! We often try to be superwoman in this season, so as not to let anyone down. But in doing so, we can miss the joy and blessing of the season since we’re too busy doing things and checking off our list.

And my guess is, when you think back on your own memories from the holidays, some recent and some going way back, you probably don’t remember the nuances of those lists, but you do remember the times spent with family, friends, and neighbors.

Special times for me that come flooding back include:

  • Shopping with one parent for the other parent
  • Wrapping gifts in the spare room
  • Making spritz cookies with the cookie ‘gun’
  • Going to programs in the dress that matched my older sister’s and that my Mom so lovingly sewed for us
  • My parents’ cheering smiles of “good job” after a school or Sunday school Christmas program
  • Visiting Santa at the department store
  • Choosing just the right Christmas tree at the tree lot or tree farm
  • Checking the Christmas stocking for the traditional goodies of an orange, Barnum and Bailey’s animal crackers, candy canes and chocolates
  • Going to each of my grandparents’ homes to gather with other family members and eat an amazing dinner and exchange gifts
  • …and on and on and on.

You get the picture, and I’m sure you have many of your own pictures. Each of us prioritizes the memories of value to us.

I attempted to duplicate the memories that I could for our children as they grew up (my children didn’t grow up on the farm as I did), but as life moves forward, we’ve also had to modify them as well as create some new traditions.

Once we moved to Chillicothe we saw less white Christmases than I did in Iowa on the farm.

We had a newer version of the cookie gun still making spritz, but now in an electrical version. The movie camera was much smaller and didn’t need the huge bar of lights that was so blinding, lol:)  I sewed a bit, but more often found dresses/outfits on sale. And we most often lived far from our kids’ grandparents so our Christmases meant long travel to be with them or no travel at all when Dan’s training schedule didn’t permit.

We also blended Dan’s memories with mine and modified some to continue our way.

Some of the traditions from long ago remained like hunting for a “real” Christmas tree and cutting it down at the tree farm when we could, decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving (much earlier than either of us had in our childhoods) starting in our oldest daughter’s freshman year in college so she could participate.

Christmas Eve fare was always a German dish called Groten Hans that I modified just a bit to make more palatable for the kids!

We opened most, if not all, gifts on Christmas Eve (except those that Santa brought of course!), and the Christmas stockings were a combination of our old bedraggled ones and the kids newer ones but still filled with oranges, animal crackers, candy canes and chocolates.

Most often we didn’t have other family around to join on Christmas Day so we played games and of course ate whatever we all decided we wanted that day, rather than a large spread as had been my memory. And when the kids were grown and married, some with children (our grandchildren…yippee!!), we changed the location of our celebration so they could begin making memories in their own homes. A change that was certainly different but was embraced!

The joy of gift giving has remained as well as our focus on the birth of Christ. Each year we strive to focus on fewer gifts and more on our time together, but truth be known we just love giving to each other!

My confession: I have always wanted to treat each of our kids equally in the gift department remembering the days when they would be counting their gifts under the tree, explaining that it’s not the number that matters all the while still calculating in my mind and making lists to make sure I hadn’t overdone for one more than another!. I still battle this and thankfully my grown children laugh at my fretting about equality in gift giving. Tell me I’m not the only one with this ongoing challenge! Lol!

Of course we also still have boxes of printed photos, and boxes of 3×5 disks, and boxes of mini movie tapes and now, like most, have files and files of saved photos and movies stored in the “cloud” to memorialize our memories of the holidays – the ones we hope to pass on to the generations.

But truth be told the most lasting memories will be those we have remembered and passed on to our kids and grandkids by sharing them in actuality, that they will, in turn, prioritize, modify and memorialize in their own way.

Because as long as we focus on the joy and blessing of each other and the love that was shared in each of those long-lasting memories made, we will not have missed anything. Even if a cookie isn’t baked, a card isn’t sent, one less gift is made, purchased, and wrapped and a few less activities are participated in.

So smile this holiday season, remember the long-lasting memories from your past holiday seasons as I have and choose to continue to make more memories with your friends and family!


P.S.  You’ve been blessed with another year!! 🙂  I hope you will assist your memorial trail in photos by prioritizing how you treat your skin and modify what you do and use as the years go by. It does make a difference, and your photos will reflect it!