Friday, December 23, 2016

Family Memories
of Christmases Present

I don't suppose we give it much mind, as we rush through our day, that what we do now represents two aspects. One is, of course, the very tasks we are accomplishing in the moment. The other, however, represents the record we create which will, at some point, be looked back upon, in the future, as the past.

We are making history, every single waking moment. Of course, some of that "history" is really micro-history—the stuff only people who love us would care about. Still, if we could envision a future, one or two or more hundreds of years from now, it might be populated with people who spend their free time poring over census records that contain mentions!

When what we did for Christmas this year becomes the question our descendants wonder about us, what will they discover? Not much, if we didn't take the time to share it somewhere. Little things like Christmas cards sent with handwritten notes included—or even those typewritten brag newsletters—begin to take on a new significance when we think of what clues we're leaving behind for our great-grandchildren's grandchildren to find.

Memories of my own Christmases took on the appearance of whatever regional weather I lived in—a clue to some alert future genealogical researcher, I'm sure. While a child and teenager, Christmases were almost always white and came equipped with snowmen and frosty snowflakes that stayed on our noses and eyelashes. Christmas trees went up about mid-December; none of this day-after-Thanksgiving rush (though none of that romantic parents-decorating-in-secret-on-Christmas-eve foolishness, either). Those same trees—and the lingering holiday mood—stayed in place long after Christmas was over.

And could you blame us? Our white Christmases morphed into white Januarys, as well—not like the Christmases of my adulthood in "sunny" northern California, where the temperatures might make it down to the upper twenties, but never when it was cloudy enough to snow. Here, I can count on one hand the actual number of times when it snowed at my house—and even then, we all knew it wouldn't stick, once those fragile flakes hit foreign ground.

Ours is now the scene of Christmas trees lugged to curbside for trash pickup, the day after Christmas. Can you blame these poor people, deprived of true white Christmases? They've had non-stop Christmas music playing since the doors opened at midnight on Black Friday. They're ready for it to be all over. Sadly.

Despite the scene changes, over the years, our family's memories of this holiday have stayed fairly consistent. We still put up a real evergreen tree—same variety as I remember my parents choosing when I was little. Though we haven't put tinsel up on the tree since, probably, the year companies made the switch to that phony plastic-y stuff, we still have strings of big bulb lights that blink individually, just like I remember from my childhood. Some of the ornaments placed on our tree are ones the previous generation used to place on their Christmas tree.

Some things change, some don't. Our recipe for mashed potatoes "grew up" into a gourmet version of a childhood Christmas dinner favorite, but I still make the gravy the same way my mother did. Some cherished customs we learned by hanging around the older generation and learning by doing—or at least seeing it repeated, year in and year out.

Perhaps because these customs seem so everyday—after all, we repeat them, year after year—we hardly take note of what it is we do to make our holidays just the way we like them. They seem so common, so unchanging; it seems silly to write them down, as if we'd otherwise forget. Writing a letter to the descendants in our future may seem awkward. But sharing what we remember of our Christmases-Present might be the best gift we can give our as-yet-unborn grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

Above: "The East Railway Station in the Snow," 1917 composition by French artist Maximilien Luce; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I am a big believer is sharing through a blog or a diary or whatever way a person chooses. So much gets lost over time unless it is recorded. :)

    1. You are definitely a great evangelist for blogging, Far Side--not just talking about it, but doing it, as well. Lately, I've been thinking, though...there are just some things I'd like to keep for memory's sake that might fit better in a personal journal, so I'm hoping to get back to writing regular notes there this coming year, as well.

  2. I've collected together a few dozen photos of me and my brothers at Christmas time - most of them showing us with presents (some worn, some played with) and we all sat around and recalled those very gifts. It was interesting to hear my brother's perspective on them! And we remembered all the gifts in the photos.

    1. That sure must have been a conversation starter! Interesting that you all could remember every single gift over the years. Impressive. You must have had some fun Christmases!


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