Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we’re going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.
The three most important birthdays in December are my wife, Kara, and two daughters, Marijke and Bridget. Kara’s birthday is Dec 29 (I’m not telling her age!). Marijke aka Annie, (she’s lucky she gets an aka!) was born Dec 31, 1999. She was the last child born in the year 1999 in that Abilene, TX hospital! Bridget (alas, no aka) was born Dec 21, 2002 in Rapid City, South Dakota.
If anyone gets the short end of the stick with the holiday birthdays, I imagine it’s Kara. Everyone is petered out by that point. Bridget is still a few days before Christmas so it’s really just buying an extra gift. Marijke’s birthday falls on New Year’s Eve so that’s usually a little party in and of itself. Yup, it’s Kara. Hopefully, this year we can change that.
The assignment for Day 1 of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories follows:
Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?
Growing up, it was my mom who always decorated the tree. I remember coming home from school and always being amazed seeing the tree up, decorated and all lit up. Although my mom decorated the tree the same day every year, it was still magical. As we got older, she wanted to know if we wanted to help decorate. Not I! It doesn’t matter how old I am, coming into a home all decorated still brings a sense of wonder.
Now that I have my own family, I help my wife string the lights and the kids and her do the decorations. I “coach” from the sideline. I have the patience of a raging rhino…meaning absolutely none (I can point out my own faults, thank you!)
Does size matter? Is it real or fake?
Of course size matters! The bigger the tree, the better. Don’t let anyone tell you different! I’m 6 foot 2 so the tree has to be bigger than me!!
As a child, we mainly had an artificial tree until we moved to Montana. At that point, my parents figured we would go real considering all the pines around us. I can’t say as I blame them. The smell is incredible! For the longest time we would cut our own down. When my sister became old enough, she worked at a Christmas tree farm so we got the best trees.
As adults, Kara and I have done both. I believe in the 18 years we’ve been married, we’ve probably done 9 as artificial and 9 as real. I do love the real tree just for the smell. The mess, on the other hand, is a different story.
Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?
My mom loved lights. If there was a place to string it, she would. If there wasn’t, she would make one! We always had Christmas lights that surrounded the entire house hanging from the gutters. In the 1970’s, the only light to hang outside was the those big bulbs. I loved how they stood out and looked forward to coming home late at night just to see those lights! Mom also made this giant felt Santa Claus that hung on the front door usually with a sleigh bell on the door knob.
During my youth, most everybody decorated their house with lights and mangers were a common scene. Today, anything signaling the approach of Christmas seems foreign. There are a few houses on our block that have lights on the house, one with their shrubs covered in lights. Kara and I always make sure we have a giant wreath on our front door with lights that cover at least the front part of the house. Luckily for us, someone had left nails by the gutters to hang our lights.
Remember those big lights from my childhood? Take those and add LED bulbs and you have super amazing lights! Brings back the memories of youth and costs less to operate. No more watching the electric meter spin around!!
One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase. Here’s a little video that someone put together featuring the theme song and how they decorated their house for the season!
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?
My mom always sent Christmas cards. She would normally sit in her chair while watching TV or listening to Christmas music on the radio writing them out. She was from a big family and if I remember correctly, they also sent out cards. We usually had between 20-40 cards hanging on the fridge, doorways, anything that could be used as a ledge. I loved the glitter, the look and feel of Christmas cards. There’s something completely different about a Christmas card!
Kara and I tried to do cards but for some reason, we’ve never got in the habit. I would like to say we’re too busy but my mom would probably smack me in the back of the head for that comment with her own reply: “Make the time!” The Christmas cards we do receive are placed around a door frame usually from the kitchen to dining or living room. It’s a neat little tradition that we’ve continued. We’ve place them at our kid’s height as they’ve grown so they could always seen them.
I love ornaments. Without the ornaments, a Christmas tree is…just a tree! Growing up, our family had a hodge podge of ornaments-some glass, some paper made by my sisters or my own hand from school, plaster, etc. It didn’t really matter-it was beautiful and it was magical.
One ornament stood out among them all. An antique Victorian ballerina. I don’t know what it was about the ornament that so entranced me but I looked forward to seeing her on that Christmas tree every year. My mom remembers her from when she was a little girl. When Mom married, Grandma passed it down to her.
Considering how much this ornament meant to Mom, I was surprised beyond words when for my first Christmas with my wife, I opened a box to find all the ornaments that I had grown up with as a child – including that ballerina. Tears running down my face, I carefully touched each ornament. It was possibly the best Christmas present that I’ve ever received.
We proudly hung these ornaments on our tree for the next several years until we moved back to Montana following my medical discharge from the Air Force due to disability. We moved into student housing so Kara could go to school. While there, someone went through the shared storage room and stole all our Christmas decorations including the priceless ornaments. Not only did the ballerina disappear but ornaments that my Grandmother crocheted. Ornaments for my kid’s first Christmases, their favorite Disney characters, etc. Invaluable, priceless heirlooms gone in the blink of an eye.
Our family is still trying to find ornaments for our tree after almost 5 years. Maybe I’m just looking for that magical ornament, the one that stands above the rest.