How did Christmas sneak up on me? It is on Sunday and we’ve barely finished Thanksgiving. Christmas has definitely changed over the decades – yikes, it is literally decades at this point. Growing up, Christmas was like the rest of the year – family time. My Dad once told me if they could take the three of us, they didn’t want to go. I don’t remember Christmas the 1st 7 years of my life in Southern California – my memories are of 1955 when we moved to this house in Seattle.
We usually bought a Christmas tree a week before Christmas, but it went into a bucket of water at the bottom of the outside basement stairs. There was a store called Chubby and Tubby that had 99 cent trees. We would all split up and look for a tree in the lot – then we had to decide which would be our tree. I usually saw a cool tree – being held by someone else. I loved the smell of Douglas fir – that is the smell of Christmas to me.
Christmas Eve was when we decorated the house with greens and put up the terrace. We had a holly tree next to the house and a cedar type hedge by the drive and usually a fir somewhere by the canyon. As the Christmas cards arrived in the mail, my Mom hung a ribbon or two to the front door and taped up the cards. She had hooked a NOEL hanging for the front door, so sometimes that went up first and the cards were on ribbons on either side of the fireplace.
During this time, Mom would be making Christmas cookies and we “helped”. It was mainly decorating, though whatever we did, it was fun to be in the kitchen with all those wonderful smells. And Christmas fudge – a recipe Dad got from someone at North American. He was told it is the See’s fudge recipe – whether it is or not, it’s wonderful!! I remember Mom putting it in the hall closet to cool off. We would also go out to the see the Christmas Ship – yacht decorated with lights and a different choir every night singing carols. There were small boats following it, also decorated with lights. They would stop at different places w here a bonfire was built and they would anchor in as close as they could and play carols to all of us on shore. There was a schedule published for the week or so they did it, on the lake and the Sound.
Afterwards, we would be cold, so we came home for hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.
The day before Christmas we decorated the house. The tree went up and after Dad tied it to the curtain rod to keep it from falling. He put on the lights while the rest of us decorated its. We never had a “coordinated tree”, the decorations were from different times. There were some from when Mom and a Dad were first married, some came from friends or we made; others were bought to supplement those that broke – it was a hodge podge – our own special hodge podge. We had to keep filling the pan for the tree with water because the cats kept drinking it. We were fortunate it didn’t occur to any of them to climb the tree.
One year we put up the tree a week before Christmas – we all were tired of it before Christmas arrived. By doing it Christmas Eve, then the next morning was Christmas. Mom made a sour cream coffee cake for breakfast and then we opened our gifts. Then Mom made a proper breakfast.
When my older sister was married, Mom decided to have Christmas Eve, then they would spend Christmas with his family. when I was married, I went out of the country. Our first Christmas as a married couple was in Australia – it didn’t feel like Christmas because its was in the middle of summer. We had a rather sad artificial tree with some ornaments. What I do remember is one of the women at the store where I worked asked me the significance of a white Christmas. That brought me up short until I realized all the Christmas cards, movies, etc. show snow – how could they connect in the middle of summer?
The worst day was Thanksgiving – no one there knew what it was or why we celebrate it. I made the mistake of thinking what Mom and Dad would be doing and it really upset me. I couldn’t really explain why I felt that way to the other women. When I came home from work, Eddie had cooked a whole chicken for us.
When we came back from Australia, we were living in San Francisco and no money to go to Seattle for Christmas. So Mom and Dad and my younger sister came to us for Christmas. After that, Eddie was able to arrange business trips to Seattle, we just had to pay for my ticket. So for many years we went to Seattle for Christmas and my sisters would come too.
One year our godson from Australia came for a 6 week visit – 2 weeks in LA where we lived, 2 weeks in Seattle for Christmas and 2 weeks in LA before we left for home. it was an interesting time, I took pictures, bought postcards and assembled a photo album so he could show his family. It took some time to do the album, so it was after he left that it was done.
When he came up here, we had a small fir tree by the drive that was big enough for a Christmas tree. He and Dad cut it down and put it up in the living room. We also went to dinner at Ivar’s salmon house by the locks and the Christmas ship was going through. We had a lose up view and heard the carols.
When our 2nd oldest niece came t3o visit, she w as amazed because it wasn’t like Jerusalem at all. My parents took her on a walk down to the beach on an old logging road – she said she had never been in a forrest before. SHE saw Vashon from our window and wanted to see an island – not sure what she expected. I was surprised to find there aren’t Christmas trees and decorations in Jerusalem.
When she was here, we started new tradition – a middle eastern buffet for Christmas Eve dinner. My sisters were still coming for Christmas and we continued it for several years. It was getting harder to travel during Christmas and my sisters haven’t been here for quite a while. Both Eddie and I were glad not to travel this year to Toronto – we love being with them but the getting there and coming home is not always easy.
Lately Christmas has been quiet – my Mom and dementia and for 2 years we went to Toronto to our oldest niece and her family. This year is just us and for Christmas dinner, we have invited a good friend.
Although things are different, there are always reminders, big and small, of all the Christmases in my life.