Posted tagged ‘Christmas Eve’

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”

December 24, 2017

Last night it rained, but it’s still cloudy. The clouds, though, are light and give hope for a bit of sun. Yesterday I made my orange cookies and today is lemon squares. That’s it for the day except to shower and get ready for tonight’s festivities.

When I was a kid, this was an endless day. I remember us begging our mother to let us go to bed around 5:30. We figured the night would pass quickly if we were asleep. We never got to test that theory as we never went to bed so early. After dinner my mother always let us open a present on Christmas Eve. We didn’t have a choice as to which one we opened. We moaned and groaned because we always had to open the new pajamas. Under the tree were more presents but they were hands off until the morning.

A Christmas Carol was usually on TV, and we watched it every year. That’s where my love for the movie began. The TV screen was small and the movie was in black and white, but it was still magical as Scrooge was helped by the ghosts to see joy in Christmas and his connections to other people. I remember being older and reading A Christmas Carol and feeling as if it was an old friend I’d read often.

Dinner was no big thing on Christmas Eve. None of us was really all that hungry for regular food. We ate cookies, as many as we could get away with. My mother put hard Christmas candies in a dish on the table. The pieces were sticky and some were stuck together. That was a good excuse to eat a couple at a time. The candy didn’t last long.

Opening the pajamas signaled the start of our Christmas rituals. We’d run upstairs and put the pajamas on right away. Next was the hanging of the stockings on the stair rail. We did it by age with mine at the top, George’s next then Sheila’s then my sister Moe’s at the bottom. Sheila and Moe went to bed first. George and I went later. It took forever to fall asleep. We’d talk across the hall from one bedroom to another. I never remembered finally falling asleep. It just happened.

When I woke up on Christmas morning, it took a moment or two before I remembered it was Christmas. My parents had us wait until the four of us were awake then we raced down the stairs. Nothing is more spectacular than seeing the lit Christmas tree with the presents around it.

It doesn’t seem to matter how old I am. I still love Christmas. Under my tree are wrapped presents. I won’t open them until tomorrow. I might shake a few tonight!

Merry Christmas!

“Christmas Eve, and the tree blazed with lights.”

December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve is the second most popular day of the year. It is the longest day, not by the calendar but for every kid who can hardly wait for Santa. I remember wanting to go to bed around 5 or 6 figuring the night would pass far more quickly if I were sleeping, but the actual bedtime never really mattered. It took forever to fall asleep.

Today is rainy and warm, in the high 40’s. The sky is gray, but it isn’t a gray day as today has sort of a light of its own, the glow of Christmas Eve. The trees and all the Christmas lights in the house are lit. They are so beautiful.

I have some baking to do, but I wanted to finish here first. The TV is on, and I have to admit it isn’t Hallmark. It is the Syfy channel and The Abominable Snowman, the something out there, hardly festive fare.

My parents used to have a party on Christmas Eve. My father was never a fan until everyone came, and the party got going. He always had a great time. The guests were mostly relatives, my aunts and uncles. There was always singing, eating and drinking. The dining room table, groaning from all the food, was pushed to the wall. The kitchen counter served as the bar. The benches at the table in the kitchen were always filled. The living room was mostly empty. People gravitated to the kitchen and just stayed there. That’s always where the singing started. I can still see my dad standing beside the counter singing with wondrous enthusiasm.

My mother and I always cleaned up, but it was a special time for the two of us. We’d chat while cleaning, finish up, pour Irish coffees and sit in the living room. We’d put on a Christmas movie. We’d open one special present. We stayed up late. I loved those Christmas Eves.

Tonight my friends and I will put together our gingerbread houses. We won’t talk. We won’t socialize. We’ll be so intent upon the decorations that the houses will hold our full attention. That always makes me chuckle. We have this great time even without conversation.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas, my friends!

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”

December 19, 2015

Today is as close to winter as we’ve gotten. I felt the cold when I went out front to get the papers. The wind is strong enough to blow the chimes in my backyard. It is jacket weather.

Every year my mother took my sister and me to a play at Christmas then out to dinner. One year it was Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehy who had won a Tony for the role. We joked with my mother afterwards about such an uplifting Christmas play. I have kept the tradition. Today my sister and I have a play, Christmas on the Air, and a dinner reservation afterwards. We’ll exchange gifts but save them to open at Christmas. I made her favorite fudge last night. She doesn’t have to wait until Christmas to munch on that.

Yesterday would have been the last school day before Christmas. That was always cause for excitement, but Christmas Eve, five long days away, was the magical day for us. I never thought I’d survive the wait. Every day dragged on and on. I’d go outside to play if the weather was good. I’d ride my bike or take the sled if we had snow. I’d watch for the mailman who came twice a day at Christmas bringing all those cards. My mother would let me open a couple, and if I were really lucky, they’d be a card for me usually from my aunt.

At night I’d sit and look at the tree. All the lights and ornaments were mesmerizing. I’d watch whatever Christmas programs were on TV. On weekdays I’d watch Santa in his workshop. He was also in countdown mode until his big night.

My mother played her Christmas albums on the hifi when she’d cook or work around the house. My favorites were the albums with lots of singers. We had Guy Lombardo, Andy Williams and Bing, the album where he is wearing a Santa cap. We also had albums from Grants who put out a new one every year and one from Goodyear. I have no idea the history of the last one.

Okay, I’m starting the countdown: five days until Christmas Eve.

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

December 24, 2014

It’s raining, and it’s 50˚, but none of that matters. It’s Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, it was the longest day of the year. The clock never seemed to move. I remember begging my mother to let me go to bed around six or seven. Tired had nothing to do with it. I was filled with anticipation, and I remember believing sleeping the night away was the quickest way to get to morning and to Santa’s surprises. It, of course, was always the one night I could never get to sleep. I remember having conversations with my brother down the hall while both of us were still in bed in our own rooms. Periodically my mother would yell up the stairs for us to stop talking so we could go to sleep. I used to wonder why she didn’t realize sleep was far away on Christmas Eve. Hers was a silly request.

Every year my mother put a few presents under the tree. Every year my sister Moe poked tiny holes in each present to see what was there. It was during these hole poking days she developed an aptitude for guessing exactly what each wrapped present was. Holes were no longer necessary. One Christmas is legendary. She was going to a Christmas party with Rod, my brother-in-law, and had nothing to wear. She felt a few presents from my parents and found her outfit, felt a few more and found new earrings to match her dress. She called to thank my mother who then became the tale bearer of my sister’s latest Christmas miracle.

We could open one present on Christmas Eve, but we never got to pick the present. We always had to open the pajamas. New pajamas were part of our Christmas tradition.

I can still see the tree at 16 Washington Ave. in its usual corner with the wrapped gifts underneath, the ones from my parents and grandparents, the ones with the tiny holes. The lights in the windows seemed especially brilliant on Christmas Eve. TV Santa, the one from New Hampshire we watched every afternoon, wished us a Merry Christmas, waved and left for his big adventure around the world. We hung our stockings on the railing going upstairs. We had no chimney. We watched a Christmas show or two on TV then we went to bed. Eons later we all fell asleep.

Today is still all about tradition. This morning I opened number 24 on my Advent calendar. It is the crèche scene, the same as it always is. This afternoon I will work on tomorrow’s dinner, and tonight my friends and I will build gingerbread houses, eat some appies and have a drink or two. That’s one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

Happy Christmas Eve! I hope you’re all on the good list.

“Little Jack Horner sat in the corner, Eating a Christmas pie. He put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, And said, ‘What a good boy am I?’”

December 19, 2014

It is quite late for me because I had several errands. I also treated myself to lunch in between as I had a half hour wait before I could finish my last errand. Today is a still day, a windless day. It is dark and cold. Everyone was bundled up and was moving quickly from store to store.

I need to get out of my public clothes into my cozies. I’ll be glad when I’m really old because I’ll wear whatever I want in public and people will chalk it up to old age.

The Christmas tree lot at Stop and Shop is gone. A few trees are on the ground, the leftovers I expect. Agway is still open but has very few trees. I remember my mother talking about her Christmas tree and how it was decorated when they were in bed on Christmas Eve. They’d wake up in the morning to a glorious tree and gifts from Santa. I like having the tree around longer. I get to admire it in the living room, and I get to sit and read surrounded by Christmas. Both trees are lit now. They have given the day its only color.

Fern has taken to sleeping on the tree skirt. She falls asleep warmed by the lights and sleeps so deeply she snores but ever so slightly. I have to listen closely to hear her. Gracie, on the other hand, snores loudly, like a grown man, a big grown man. She snorts as she sleeps. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep for the racket. Boxers tend to be snorers.

A few Christmas jobs remain. I have my baking to do, presents to wrap for my Cape friends and Christmas dinner to plan. I ordered a pork roast from the butcher, but that is as far as I’ve gotten. I know I’ll do an apple dish and some sort of potato, and I’m thinking baby carrots for color and one more vegetable yet to be decided. I’m going to do a relish tray. My grandmother always had one on her table when we ate there. I was always drawn to the celery. I have the perfect dish to use: a very old glass sectioned plate just like the one my grandmother had. The old touches are always great memories to add to the table.

When I think of dessert, I think of the Cratchits and their Christmas pudding. The flame was always so dramatic and such a splendid finish to dinner.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.”

December 16, 2014

Today is warm even without the sun. I woke up early, around 5:30. Though I tried to go back to sleep, I couldn’t so I came downstairs, brewed my coffee and checked out the TV news. I heard the thud of the papers hitting the driveway a little later and wandered outside still surprised at how warm a day it is.

This morning I have to bring goodies to the library’s Christmas open house and I have PT at 11. After that I get to decorate my tree. It is not as tall as usual but is beautiful and fresh. I ran my hand up and down the needles just for the pine smell. The tree is sitting in the middle of my living room all ready for the lights.

One snippet in the paper caught my attention. Yesterday the police arrested a drunk driver on the highway. He was also cited for an unsafe car. It seems he was riding on three tires and a rim. When asked about it, the driver said he hadn’t noticed.

Every Christmas Eve my mother and I were always the last to go to bed. We’d sit, have a drink and chat and exchange one present, one special present. One year my present to her was a replica of a framed picture which used to hang in the bathroom when I was young. It had a small boy wrapped in a blue towel and a poem with started, “Please remember, don’t forget never leave the bathroom wet nor leave the soap still in the water…” It was hung on the wall across from the toilet, and I used to read it every time I went to the bathroom, and it is permanently etch into my memory drawers. We saw it in a house in Ireland, and my mother tried to buy it but wasn’t successful. I found the replica on-line. She loved it.

“Fall on your knees. Oh hear the angel voices. Oh night divine, oh night, when Christ was born.”

December 24, 2013

I’ve been watching Cozi TV, all in B&W. Yesterday it was Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, a program from 1955. Cuffy went out on his own to find the caravan carrying the tree and his presents. Captain Gallant, Fuzzy and the men, all volunteers, went after him. He was, of course, found. His uncle, Captain Gallant, said Christmas was more than a tree and presents and then told Cuffy all about the first Christmas and how Joseph and Mary had ridden across the desert just as the legionnaires had. We saw Joseph pulling the donkey with Mary riding on it across dune hills. The three Wise Men were also riding camels across the sand. Today I saw Robin Hood save a boy’s goose from being Christmas dinner and the Lone Ranger and Tonto finding a boy’s father in time for him to go home for Christmas. Both were from 1955. Right now I’m joining Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky for Christmas in 1952. These are wonderfully innocent and fun to watch. I can imagine myself sitting in front of the TV, far too close for my mother’s comfort, and watching all these programs and getting excited for Christmas.

Christmas Eve was always the longest day for us. We had to last until bedtime then we could sleep away the night while Santa made his rounds. We’d beg to go to bed early, as early as after dinner, but my mother kept us up until our usual bedtimes. Even then we had a difficult time falling asleep. We’d talk down the hall from bedroom to bedroom until finally we’d drift away.

One Christmas Eve day my mother once sent me to the white store, called that to differentiate it from the red store a bit down the street. She wanted something as mundane as bread. I remember riding down the grass hill in front of our house and thinking my mother didn’t get it. How could she send me to do an errand on Christmas Eve? Magical days aren’t for errands.

A TV station from New Hampshire had Santa Clause on every night starting a few weeks before Christmas. He’d read a letter or two, tell some stories and sometimes read a book. On Christmas Eve, he’d talk about how the sleigh was being filled right that minute and that he’d soon be on his way. He’d take our leave with great ceremony and tell us he’d be by our houses later and we’d best be asleep. With a wave he was off on his rounds.

On Christmas Eve, we’d open our new pajamas and slippers. The slippers were sock slippers with leather soles. I still have a pair I got for Christmas a couple of years ago, and they keep my feet toasty warm. We’d leave out milk and cookies for Santa then hang our stockings from the oldest down to the youngest on the bannister then we’d drag ourselves up to bed hardly able to wait until morning. I don’t remember sugar plums in my dreams, but I have to think those were the best dreams.

“Christmas, when observed with the right spirit, still has the power to call miracles from Heaven to Earth.”

December 17, 2013

The day is dark and getting darker: snow first then rain. The sky has that light gray color, the almost white which heralds a storm. Cold doesn’t quite describe the chill. When I ran out for the papers, I had to fix my star, a big white one which hangs on the fence to the backyard and has a trail of lights. I noticed it didn’t light last night because it had fallen off the nail and disconnected itself. I stood in the freezing morning connecting cords and rehanging the star. When I walked into the house, I could feel the warmth and smell the coffee. I was happy. I had my papers, the star was fixed and the coffee ready.

My back is almost its old self, achy but not bowed. I can even get out of bed without moaning. I walk almost upright: homo erectus again. I don’t know what I did to it but it was a doozy.

My first Christmas away from home was in Ghana. I will never forget it.

It is the harmattan in December when a dry, dusty wind blows from the desert and brings hot, hot days and cool, almost cold, nights. My students were dressed in layers every morning as they went about their chores, mostly sweeping the school compound. When I’d wake up, I would hear the swish of the hand-held sticks used as brooms. I knew I would later see the imprint of those sticks fanned across the dirt when I walked to class. Christmas is a low-keyed affair in northern Ghana. It is a morning spent in church. For my students, it meant school vacation. Empty busses would come, fill with students then head south to places like Kumasi dropping students at junctions on the way. The lucky bus drivers got their quota for the day with the one stop at my school. The Sunday before vacation started was when the Christmas celebration was held. Staff members wore their finest cloths and some male teachers wore kente, students were dressed in their Sunday uniforms and ministers and the white father from town were invited and sat at the head table. A tree was erected in the dining hall. It had mostly homemade ornaments though I lent a few of mine sent by my mother. They gave the tree a bit of home. The Bible was read and students sang carols. The ministers and the white father offered words of wisdom and spoke about the meaning of Christmas in our lives. Students sang more carols. We then stood as the head table left the dining hall followed by the rest of us, students last.

The compound was quiet once the students were gone. Patrick, another volunteer, and I prepared for a party on Christmas Eve. We knew they’d be volunteers passing through town on their way north into then Upper Volta and onward to the desert in Niger or Mali and Timbuktu. Patrick and I thought we’d all need to be together that first year, to take comfort from one another. I decorated my house with what my mother had sent including a small tree, ornaments, brick-designed crepe paper and a stocking with my name on it. Her Christmas package wouldn’t arrive that year until late January. We convinced the woman at the Hotel d’Bull bar to sell us beer. Her concern was getting back the bottles as beer was often unavailable because the bottling company would sometimes run out of bottles. We swore we’d bring them back, and she relented. We got gas for my oven, and I baked for the first time. I made sugar cookies using the cookie cutters my mother had sent. I had a tree, a reindeer and Santa. The cookies came out perfectly. We bought a few foodstuffs in the market but only a few as we knew our guests would bring food. A volunteer would never come to another volunteer’s house empty-handed. We didn’t know how many guests were coming. Five or six volunteers who were staying at my house and sleeping on my living room floor went to the market and brought back fruit, groundnuts, kelewele and I don’t remember what else. I just know it was a bounty.

The house was full on Christmas Eve. There was a lot of laughter and we sang carols. Someone said please don’t sing I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and we didn’t. Later that night a few of us went outside to cool off a bit and we sat together behind my house near the wall. The sky was ablaze with stars, the night was chilly and we were quiet until someone said,”The night must have been just like this on the very first Christmas.” That went right to my heart and made me realize Christmas is what we make of it and it doesn’t matter how or where or with whom we celebrate. That year I had a most wonderful Christmas. Everybody was my family, and I was home.

“Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.”

December 24, 2012

When I was a kid, I knew today was the longest day of the year. It had everything to do with anticipation. Clock watching never helped. The clock’s hands took forever to move from one tick to the next, and every tick seemed to echo. Usually it was too cold to go outside and play so there was little to do to while away the hours. We’d watch television, and we’d watch Santa Claus, who had been on TV every afternoon for a few weeks from a station in New Hampshire. He’d be winding up his TV career, loading his sleigh and saying good-bye to all of us. As soon as it got dark, we pretended to be tired, but my mother knew. We just wanted to go to bed early hoping we’d fall asleep so the night would pass quickly. Supper was light. My mother always had the big dinner to prepare the next day so mostly we had sandwiches and sugar cookies for dessert. The tree looked especially beautiful on Christmas Eve. It was lit the whole day.

I remember one year on Christmas Eve my mother sent me to buy some ingredient she’d forgotten. I rode my bike to the red store. I couldn’t believe my mother had me doing an errand on such an important day. It just wasn’t right. Christmas Eve was too special for a simple errand.

If we were lucky, A Christmas Carol, the perfect movie for Christmas Eve, was on TV in the late afternoon or before dinner. I have never tired of watching Scrooge and his redemption. This year I have seen two different versions, both excellent: George C. Scott and Alastair Sim.

Just before bed, it was time to hang the stockings. They were red with white cuffs. Our names were on the cuffs and had gold glitter on them. The bannister was a small one but we managed to fit all four stockings. Though we didn’t have a fireplace, we never worried. Santa would find a way.

We’d lie in bed and talk from room to room until finally we’d drift off to sleep.

“The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart.”

December 16, 2012

The morning, besides being dreary, is cold at 37˚. Rain is expected later. When the alarm went off this morning, the house was cold so I stay snuggled under the covers reluctant to leave the warmth of my bed and the dog beside me, but I had no choice. It was time to get up, get dressed and go out to my usual Sunday breakfast. I think most people were wiser than I and chose to stay in bed as the roads were empty.

When I got home, I ran upstairs to get into my cozies then came back downstairs and turned on the tree lights. They are shining especially bright in the darkness of the day.

The week or so before Christmas is the longest stretch in time for any kid. The days move at the slowest pace imaginable, and counting down only makes it worse. Anticipation just can’t be contained. School drags on forever. Every kid knows the finale, Christmas Eve, is the longest night of the year, despite the calendar. Bedtime never comes. It is 4 o’clock, 4:12 and on and on. For the first in our lives, bedtime can’t come soon enough.

My parents had ways to amuse us. Every year was the drive to see the lights. In Saugus was the ultimate light show. The houses competed with one another for the glory of being the most decorated. My father would drive up and down the streets, and we’d be glued to the windows not wanting to miss a single house. Our heads would whip back and forth from one side of the street to the other. On each of houses the lights were all different colors. Not a tree or a bush was left undecorated. It was a spectacle in all its glory.

My favorite was always the trip to Boston. It didn’t happen every year so it was special. We’d walk by the department stores to see the windows with all their animated figures. Santa’s workshop was always the busiest window with elves hammering toys and Santa checking his list. We’d then walk through Boston Common which always seemed a fairy land to me. All the bare trees were hung with strings of lights, and they shined on the walkways. I don’t ever remember feeling cold. I just remember wanting to run to see everything and being filled with an excitement I could barely contain. I wanted to hold open my arms and take everything with me for always.