Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Childhood Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve…are there two more beautiful words in the mind of a child?

Christmas Eve was ONE thing in my childhood…pure magic.  From waking up that waited-for morning till jumping eagerly into our beds that night, absolute magic.  It tingled our skin, ran through our veins, sparkled our eyes, made our little hearts go pitter-pat…

Julie & Scott in the snow {my brother Scott & I at one such snowy early 70’s Christmas time}

Growing up in Northeastern Ohio was a wonderful thing. 

hpqscan0001_edited-1 {my dear Dad, doing what dads do…}

We were most always covered in snow by this time of December, and if we were very lucky—and we often were—the snow would fall gently on Christmas Eve night…magic snow fairies gliding down…changing colors as they went by the Christmas lights hanging from our front porch…


And, oh--the anticipation!  Brothers and sisters sitting around the Christmas tree…counting and piling their presents—who had a bigger pile?  What could this present be?!

 hpqscan0003_edited-1 {little Becky and Greg…oh, how time flies!  Mid-70’s}

We were a little kinder to each other that day…a little more forgiving of the things that usually would annoy…this was our last chance to show Santa that we’d been “nice”, not “naughty” this year, after all!

hpqscan0002_edited-1 {All the siblings gathered here mid-70’s except for Jenny…but she was there…Mom was pregnant here with number six.  Mom looks tired!}

Making plates full of all the delicious Christmas cookies we’d been making during previous days…putting a bow on top of each, and taking them around the neighborhood quickly to our very best friends and neighbors…sharing a little Christmas cheer…


One year, some  brilliant neighbor came up with the idea of every house in our large neighborhood being lit up by luminaries…and it became tradition.

image {I wish I had a picture of our childhood house on taken outside on Christmas Eve…sadly, I don’t, but this one gave me the same feeling…}

Someone was chosen each year to bring around waxed paper lunch sacks and candles to all the houses.  We would fill them each with a bit of sand so they wouldn’t blow over in the chill winds and light them as soon as it got dark…magic.  Sometimes we would take a quick, snowy walk and just soak it all in…

Helping Mom get our traditional Christmas Eve meal prepared…pierogies and kielbasi.  Now, we are not even one speck Polish, but there was—probably still is—a very large Polish population in our area of Ohio. 


For some reason, we tried this meal one Christmas Eve long ago, fell in love with it, and it became tradition.  Still is.  {This year, however, it will be homemade pierogi for the first time in our house—yum!}

In every one of our homes to this day (there are six of us kids), all over this country…pierogies and kielbasi are the meal on Christmas Eve.  A beautiful tradition that binds us together when we cannot be together otherwise (many thanks to the wonderful in-laws who allow it to continue!)…

 image {straight from the 1940s, this album was—and still is—my very favorite of all Christmas albums.  I feel just like a little girl again whenever I hear it…}

After dinner, laying on the carpet in the living room near our beautifully lit tree, listening to the family Christmas records on the record player…waiting for the family to gather for our “program”. 

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We would read the Christmas story from the scriptures first—it’s the most important part, after all…sometimes we would act it out with one of Mom’s handmade nativity sets.  We loved that! 

Next—our favorite part!  Dad—always Dad—would read the poem by Ogden Nash: “The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus”

hpqscan0002 {illustration for the poem by Norman Rockwell}

As time went on, and we learned the poem better, we would shout out the end of each line in unison as Dad read…another tradition we continue in each of our homes each and every year.

Last of all—“The Night Before Christmas” was recited—now the excitement was so extreme, we could barely contain ourselves! 


With kisses and hugs all around and the happy singing out of “Merry Christmas!”,  we’d fly up the stairs to our beds…blankets cozily tucked up to our chins…eyes wide open…would sleep ever come?!

And so with the thoughts of jingling sleigh bells, hooves alighting on our snowy roof (and I remember Christmas Eves when I KNEW I heard them!), and jolly Santa Claus leaving all we had wished for under our tree, off we’d drift….


Christmas Eve.  Is there any better memory to hold on to?  Magic.  Sheer magic…

Wishing each and every one the most merriest of Christmases…may warmth, love and family traditions fill your holiday with all the very best!



  1. Julie, It feels like you have my memories!!!! I just love that you put in words that magical feeling of Christmas Eve.....I also was brought up in a very ethnic neighborhood in a small town outside of Cleveland, so I know all about these foods...we had traditional Norwegian meal every Christmas Eve, now being in Arizona we started a new one about 20 years agoof Mexican food! Thank you for this wonderful post....Merry Christmas! Sandy

  2. Something so similar to my very own memories. Something we do with our kiddos every year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...Renee

  3. Merry Christmas sweet Julie! What a year of beauty you have shared with us this year. All of your creations wonderful showing such creativity & LOVE of family. You & your blog are very special. I can't tell you what joy you have given me this year. Looking forward to sharing 2012. HUGS!

  4. Julie- Thank you for sharing your wonderful Christmas Eve memories. I enjoyed every bit. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

  5. Love reading this post, Julie. Memories of these special holidays are so precious!! My mom has always made what she calls a Swedish Tea Ring for Christmas breakfast...and we aren't a speck Swedish! She is 79 and we will be there for brunch Sunday after church, eating tea ring! Merry Christmas!

  6. Hi Julie,
    Such treasured memories! Ohio seems like a wonderful place to experience Christmas seasons. Love all the photos, and the cherished sentiments behind them. Thanks for sharing them with us. I really like the fact about the pierogies and kielbasi wonderful and unique that all the family continue it. Have a blessed Christmas, my dear!

  7. Hi Julie, I just love that picture of you in that big hooded coat. Such wonderful family traditions and memories. Until the age of 14, we would spend one Christmas at my Mammaw's in Mississippi, and the next with my mom's family in Ohio and Michigan. The only time we got to see snow was when we headed up north for the holidays. My mom is now back living in her hometown of Millersburg OH. Sounds like you lived in a lovely community. Those luminaries would be a beautiful sight and a way of uniting the neighbors for the holidays. Lovely! Wishing you and yours a very, merry Christmas. God bless you one and all! Tammy

  8. I've been thinking about what to make for Christmas Eve dinner this year. My hubby had major dental surgery so he won't be eating. I was thinking about take-out Chinese!! I'm Polish and we often had kielbasa when I was a kid and I so seldom make it now. You just gave me a wonderful, amazing idea and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will make kielbasa and pierogi's for Christmas Eve dinner. It will bring back many beautiful memories. Merry Christmas to you!!

  9. You have such wonderful Christmas memories and I'm sure your kids will have them too. You are such a wonderful family!

    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones, dear Julie!

    Chrismas hugs and warmest wishes,

  10. Merry Christmas to you and your family my friend!!

  11. I just love reading your family stories. I kind of have to chuckle at your different, but delicious sounding Christmas eve dinner tradition, as our family tradition is to serve Mexican food - tacos, enchiladas and the makings! Even though we are not Mexican. It is one that we all look forward too. Had to convince my darling husband so many years ago to give it a try, and now he enjoys it too.

    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

  12. Merry Christmas, Julie! What a beautiful post--and I adore these pictures--they are priceless. Wishing you and your family a beautiful holiday.

  13. Merry Christmas Julie!

  14. This is a sad Christmas for my family. We are waiting for Mom to go to heaven. She was a wonderful Mom who made sure to evoke all the joy and excitment of Christmas with her family. Your memories were a warm, wonderful reminder of past holidays when this one is soooooo very difficult. TFS and lifting my heart a bit. debra

  15. Oh My Dear Julie! What Wonderful Memories of Christmas when you Were Young! Kielbasa & Pierogi's! Yum! I didn't know about Pierogis until I lived in Canada! That is where I fell in Love with them! What a Wonderful Tradition!
    Merry Merry Christmas to You My friend!

  16. Julie my husband is half Polish from his Mom's side so I'll ask him about this dish. Love all your sweet memories here. Have a Very Merry Christmas with your family. Love Nan

  17. Seems like only yesterday I laid awake what felt like all night listening for hoofs and bells...
    Love this post. So nice to have such wonderful memories.
    Merry Christmas Dear Julie. Have a wonderful evening tonight - try and get some sleep! and a beautiful day tomorrow!
    Hugs! Karen

  18. Wishing you a warm and wonderful Christmas!

  19. Thank you Julie, for sharing this wonderful story of childhood memories. It sounds like Christmas when I was a child.

    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!
    Hugs, Debi

  20. Merry Christmas Julie ~ I have been away since yesterday morning, just got back!
    Love Karen

  21. Oh how those old songs take me back to my dad turning their big stereo on on Christmas Eve before all the guests arrive.

  22. Hope your Christmas was magical my friend...fill the week with extra joy. xoxoxo

  23. what a beautiful blog you have. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Catherine x

  24. Oh Julie, That was delightful, hearing of your childhood Christmas Eve. I also love kieilbasi and pierogies, however now I join with a special family for The seven fishes dinner", although I only counted 6! And the reading of the scripture and traditional stories- so important! This year the children were tracking Santa online, but that was cute!I don't want Christmas to be over!
    I'm your newest follower! Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year too! Love, Linda

  25. Oh Julie, That was delightful, hearing of your childhood Christmas Eve. I also love kieilbasi and pierogies, however now I join with a special family for The seven fishes dinner", although I only counted 6! And the reading of the scripture and traditional stories- so important! This year the children were tracking Santa online, but that was cute!I don't want Christmas to be over!
    I'm your newest follower! Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year too! Love, Linda

  26. WHERE in Northeast Ohio? I grew up in Lake County ... everything looks and sounds so familiar. Thank you for the trip down memory lane!
    SuZeQ ~

  27. Oh Julie! that was such a wonderful, wonderful read - thank you for sharing this, such a pleasure. Happy New Year to you and yours from across the pond!