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!