We hear a lot about making memories these days. Making memories has become a hook for selling everything from lavish birthday parties to cruises. In fact, memories are important. Good and bad, memories tell the story of our lives, in some measure giving us a sense of who we are.
Treasured holiday memories grow not from pricey gifts or houses decorated just so, but from rituals repeated year after year. Happy memories spring from feelings of warmth and happiness, love and laughter, from the things that stir our imaginations and make our spirits soar. These become the fond memories that give rise to traditions.
My favorite childhood memory is of our family celebration of Christmas Eve. From the time I was six to nine years old, we lived far out in the country on a Carolina cotton farm. It was complete with a ‘big house’ where the landowner lived and two smaller houses for sharecroppers or hired help. We were neither, but we rented one of the smaller houses, a tight fit for a family of nine.
But on Christmas Eve, it felt just right. The coal and wood stove that heated our home created cozy warmth. We turned on the Christmas lights, illuminating the nativity scene rather than a tree, lit candles, and sang carols. Accompanied by my older sister or brother on an ancient upright piano, we sang every Christmas carol we could think of. Between carols, Dad read the Christmas story from the Bible and Mom read a picture book for the little ones.
That time was magical for me. Whatever childhood woe I was experiencing faded into insignificance and everything was possible. Baby Jesus was as alive and real as my little brother was, and perhaps tomorrow I would receive that longed-for gift. I had a very sweet tooth, and even though I knew that as soon as the singing was over, the ‘only on Christmas Eve’ goodies would be broken out, I never wanted it to end.
Those simple, joyous Christmas Eve celebrations created a memory, and so much more. Coming as they did in the midst of hard times in a far from perfect family, they told a story of the value of hope and faith, the power of enduring love. To this day, candle light and carols make Christmas come alive for me.
Take a moment to reflect on your own memories. What are your fondest childhood memories of Christmas, the ones you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren? How do they remind you of the strength and richness of your own imperfect family? What did you learn from them about life, about yourself?
Perhaps Christmas past was more painful than joyous for you. Rather than letting pain from long ago spoil your present celebration, make a conscious choice to establish new rituals that can be practiced year after year, creating happy memories for Christmas future.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and many happy memories.
I am a North Carolina Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor with 20 years experience in the field and many more years of life experience. I entered the counseling profession in mid-life after putting in time as a stay-at-home mom, a freelance writer, a journalist, and a United States-based missionary. I love walking alongside those who are seeking to find themselves, heal a relationship, or recover from trauma. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, and hanging out with my grandsons.