Christmas Christmas Christmas. I can’t believe that today is Christmas Eve. Christmas really snuck up on me this year. I guess because in the last couple weeks I’ve been so busy with finals and traveling and everything, I haven’t really had the time to really enjoy the Christmas season. I decorated Drew’s apartment for Christmas and started shopping for Christmas presents before Thanksgiving even, but it still doesn’t feel like Christmas. I guess it doesn’t help that growing up in southern Illinois, I’m used to bare trees, snow and cold weather welcoming Christmas. In both Louisiana and California, where I’ve been over the last month, warmer temperatures, palm trees, green plants, and blooming flowers just don’t seem to welcome Christmas in the same way.

I guess in the last couple years, our Christmas traditions have changed so drastically, that much of the excitement that I remember as a child waiting for Christmas has dissipated. I remember Christmas Eve used to be so exciting as a kid. My parents and all my siblings and I would be at my house all day wrapping last minute gifts to each other and wrapping the huge pile of presents that my dad had gotten for my grandparents and my aunt. I remember that we had tons of suet cakes and birdseed and hummingbird feeders and all kinds of stuff like that to wrap for my Mamaw, because she was always feeding the birds at her house and so we always got her that stuff for Christmas. We had Christmas music on and Christmas lights and decorations all over.

My mom was usually in the kitchen cooking dinner for that night and making pies and stuff for the next day. Some years it was snowing outside too. Regardless, the house was always hustling and bustling with activity. My little sisters and I would be so excited because that evening is when we would go to my Mamaw’s house and spend Christmas with them and eat homemade candy and cookies and open the whole family room full of presents that my Mamaw always bought. We would always pick out a few things that we wanted from my Mamaw, but she was always good at picking out other things too that she knew we would like. The fact that most of our gifts were a surprise caused most of the excitement. My whole family would go to my Mamaw & Papaw’s house and sit in a big circle around the family room.

I remember one Christmas it snowed almost three feet and the roads weren’t cleared off so my dad had to drive each one of us up the road to their house individually in his four wheel drive truck. Then drive each one of us and all of our presents back home later as well. I remember one Christmas, Blair had just had surgery on her foot, so she laid on the couch all through the Christmas season, making beaded ornaments and wrapping presents.

Once we were all there, I always read the Christmas story and then my aunt LeAnn, with her Santa hat on, would always sit in the front of the room in the midst of all the presents, and would hand them out one by one. We would open all the presents and then visit for a while and then make the trek back down the road to our house with all of our gifts. When I was really little, I remember going to my other grandma’s house after that to do pretty much the same thing at her house. But we stopped doing that when I was pretty little. Once we were back at our house it was usually kind-of late so we would play with our stuff for a while and then go to bed. Once we got older, we would all play games as a family and eat and stay up late.

On Christmas morning, when I was really little, I remember waking up and then opening our presents at home. I remember we had this pickle ornament. It was hidden on the tree and whoever found it first got to open the first present. After opening presents, we would go to my Auntie Mabel’s house. I was so little, I remember going, but I remember there were a lot of people there that I didn’t know. But it was still fun to run around in a house that we were only at once a year. I remember we stopped doing that eventually and ended up having Christmas at our house. However, once we started having Christmas at our house, my mom was in the kitchen all morning cooking for lunch, so we couldn’t open our presents on Christmas morning. We had to wait until the afternoon after everyone had eaten. Once we had lunch at our house, my grandma and my uncles came over and brought our presents with them. So we all opened presents and then played games and ate some more.

Five years ago was the last Christmas we had with my Mamaw. She passed away in September the next year, so that Christmas was really the last Christmas I remember being “normal.” After that, my aunt stopped coming in on Christmas. She came in the week before and visited and then left before Christmas. Mamaw was the one who did all the shopping from her and Papaw, so after she passed away, we never went back up there for Christmas. My Papaw gave us a little money and usually LeAnn would give us money or take us shopping while she was in, but never did we go back up there to open any more presents. My aunt June stopped coming in to make Christmas candy, like she usually did every year. No more annual Christmas dress shopping event. I don’t think we ever even read the Christmas story on Christmas after that either.

For me, that last Christmas, marked the end of my memories of childhood Christmases. I was only fourteen and my little sisters were only nine and ten, but it seems like Christmas was never the same after that. Christmas lost a little of the excitement. It lost a little of the hustle and bustle. We no longer got as excited about Christmas Eve, because we didn’t get to look forward to going to Mamaw’s house. We ended up just relaxing at our house after that, playing games and eating, and sometimes opening our presents from our parents and each other then. That was fun too, but still just different. There is always this lingering feeling of sadness knowing that Mamaw isn’t here anymore, and never will be.

I guess change is inevitable. So Christmas has to change too. After that Christmas, it seems like every year we’ve done things a little differently, never really finding the perfect tradition to continue with. Our family has changed and we’ve all grown up in different ways. There are new spouses, new kids, jobs, and some of us live in different places. There are more people to accommodate and Christmas has gotten so complicated.

I still miss my Mamaw and wish that she was still here to celebrate Christmas with us, but I know, she is in heaven dancing and singing and celebrating Christmas with the real birthday boy, Jesus. I’m sure they are having a pretty spectacular celebration.

So Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy Birthday to Jesus (and Drew too).

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