For me Christmas is about family; it has always been about family. This would be our Family’s first Christmas without Dad.
As a kid, Christmas was always a big thing for us. As a small family, we were always closely knitted; we did everything together when we were kids. Mom and Dad created great memories for us around Christmas and the Christ of Christmas.
For us, the preparation before Christmas was not major or seen as hectic. Somehow, it never felt like we were going overboard. Having a stay-at-home mom, who kept the house in order all year long and a Dad who was flexible with his time. as a Pastor, made a difference.
As children, we did help prepare however. When necessary, we would help Mom wash the walls, clean the windows and the kitchen cupboards, scrub the steps, change the curtains, table cloths and chair covers. We were inspired to keep our home and hearts clean as a sign of honor and adoration to the King of Kings, Jesus! Everything we did had meaning.
Additionally, we would often assist with sanding various pieces of the furniture that needed a fresh dose of varnish. Then Dad would always find a way to brighten up the walls with fresh paint. It may have been just one wall or just the doors, but it made a difference because he painted where it mattered.
With my Mom being an excellent home Manager and my Dad’s ability to do just about anything with his hands, Christmas day was usually well planned and well executed. It started with early morning worship at church. I remember heading to church for 5:00 a.m. when it was still dark. Oh how we loved the early morning worship. I clearly remembered how well attended these Christmas morning services were. Almost every Christmas service we were blessed to hear Dad’s golden voice singing one of his favourite Christmas carols as a special item.
After church we anticipated breakfast and later the sharing of gifts. Mom made breakfast really special pulling out the special apple plates with their matching t-cups and saucers. These utensils were reserved for special occasions. Every Christmas breakfast included a healthy serving of eggs and bacon or eggs and ham; the other items slightly varying from year to year.
The most exciting part of our day were the activities that followed immediately after breakfast. Prayer, reflection and the sharing of gifts. Suspense would fill the house as every year we would wonder what we will be getting for Christmas at times considering that they may not be any gifts at all. God was good to us, I really do not recall a year without gifts. We went to bed on Christmas Eve with great anticipation of seeing the gifts under the Christmas tree the next morning. Gifts were not placed under our tree days before Christmas but on the night before Christmas or very early Christmas morning before we go up.
Every year someone else got the opportunity to distribute the gifts. All effort was made to ensure every member of the family received at least one gift. No one was allowed to feel left out or unloved because of the gift they received. We always found a way to make them feel better. After all the focus was not the sharing of gifts, there was a bigger picture and if there was any slight indication of us losing focus, Mom and Dad and sometimes the elder siblings would remind us of the reason for the Season.
One of my fondest memories that still uplifts my spirit today is the Christmas stockings. I think it was either Christmas Eve or a few days before Christmas when Mom would hang Christmas stockings on our windows or at the foot of our beds. We have never seen her putting anything in the stockings, but every day and during the day we would observe the stockings getting heavier with candies. I believe we all assumed it was Mom but it could’ve been Dad, an angel or one of Santa’s elves. The idea of Mom or Dad doing it was more aligned with our beliefs however :). On Christmas Day we finally got a chance to empty our stockings and tried our best not to eat all the candies the same day.
Next in anticipation was the main Christmas Meal which was usually around early afternoon, between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. There were some menu items that appeared every year or almost every year. Stew peas, a baked whole chicken and scalloped potatoes. In addition to these items there were a number of other items that completed the menu providing enough food for at least two servings on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day. Mom hardly ever cooked on Boxing Day.
The rest of the day was spent playing games or watching movies together as well as enjoying our gifts while snacking on the assortment of cookies and cakes made available by mom and her helpers and the variety of local drinks like sorrel and ginger-beer and carbonated drinks which were made available only at Christmas time.
For us Christmas Day was always well spent. We managed to have a great balance of worship, the enjoyment of each others’ company and the blessings given to us by God.
Today, we are all grown and while we would always long for our childhood days, the reality is that those days are gone. Today, however, we can do what we can to continue to build upon the sound principles and practices that would instill sound spiritual and family values in our kids. We can give them the memories of good times.
As the Christmas Season approaches, may you make every effort to create sound memories that would serve to deepen your family bonds and draw you closer to God as a Unit.
Have a meaningful Christmas!