With this 2020 year such a difficult one, all of us are seeing changes in our Christmas celebrations. Those changes cause us to look back and remember with nostalgic fondness our Christmases of the past—and perhaps to cherish those memories more than we might have before. I see it as a form of “thankfulness” to look back on the holidays of the past, being grateful for the warmth, love, and good we remember about each.
My parents’ earliest memories of Christmas were from the years after the great Depression. Both were from large families and presents were simple and few, the Christmas tree cut from the woods nearby and decorated with homemade ornaments. Yet their memories of those years are warm and full of rich recollections of laughter, love, Christmas baking, faith, and wonder.
As J.L. and I were growing up, each of our families held different traditions—but both of us remember the joy of bringing a big cedar tree into the house to decorate with lights and ornaments, hanging greenery and wreaths, unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, and looking forward to what Santa left under the tree and in our stockings. Raised in Christian homes, the carols, church events, and special stories told at Christmas all centered around Jesus’ birth. And both our families found ways to give and share with those in need.
Most of the traditions J.L. and I built for our own family at Christmas were similar to those we’d grown up with. In our early married years we traveled to share Christmas with family but as our children Max and Kate came, we stayed closer to home. Blessedly, in those years, our parents lived in nearby cities so they could join us at Christmas, and as the years went by we built our own unique holiday traditions.
Among my memories as I write this today, I recall the excitement of decorating the tree every year—adding the old treasured and new ornaments—and then watching the lights with pleasure every night. We took driving trips around the neighborhood to see the holiday lights and went to the mall and Christmas shops to see Santa and to enjoy the lavish decorations. We also attended annual events in our area celebrating the season, in the city, at the children’s schools, and at church. Going downtown to the Christmas Parade and to see the lights was an annual trip and later we began to always attend the Fantasy of Trees in Knoxville and to take a trip to Dollywood to see the holiday lights and shows.
I remember fondly how the children poured through the toy catalogs as they arrived in the mail, making lists of “ideas” for gifts they might like to receive from us and from Santa. I recall, too, how they shook and rattled the gifts under the tree later, trying to guess what was inside every package. Christmas morning was always a fun time of discovery, of enjoying new toys and games, trying out new bikes or skates outdoors, and running back and forth to the neighbors to see what everyone else received. I remember the year I saved up long and hard so we could buy both the children bikes and how excited they were to ride them up and down our cul-de-sac street. Katie loved dolls, Barbies, art toys and coloring books, jewelry, and pretty things. Max loved GI Joe, Star Wars, action toys, games and toy guns. And our downstairs held a big playroom that the children and all their friends enjoyed.
As I looked through old photo books to find a few memory pictures to add to this blog today I found Christmas pictures of the children, like this one, we took at the holidays. We gave photo copies to the grandparents, to family, and friends or tucked them into the Christmas cards I always sent. J.L. and I both laughed at the photos of Christmas past we found, the floor around the tree piled with gift wrap and boxes, family members all grinning and holding up gifts received or modeling new clothes and hats, and the cats getting into the fray by climbing into all the Christmas boxes. Before my eyes I watched the children grow from those baby years to childhood in those photo books and then on to the teenage years. It seems incredible that the years have flown past so swiftly and that now they are both grown and gone—and living so far away.
Our holiday seasons every year are different now with one adult child, Max and his Deborah, far south in the New Orleans area and the other child, Kate, far to the east in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Usually both children come home at Christmas for a few days to a week, and we’re so grateful for that. But with covid still a problem around the country, our Christmas will be quieter this year. The children aren’t traveling in with the holidays crowds, which is wise, and it will only be J.L., me, and maybe Santa sharing Christmas together this year. J.L’s sister and some friends might come to visit and share Christmas lunch but the day won’t be busy, full, and noisy with the family all home. A. M. Pahro wrote: “What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.” That’s especially true this year, and I know that you hope and pray with me that 2021 will be a happier and healthier year for us all.
To close on a happier note … I treasure each of you among my special holiday memories now. We have met and connected “by heart” through books, and I am so grateful as the holidays begin to look back and realize how many books have been published now. Thank you for reading them, loving them, and sharing and talking about my stories. and about our Smokies and parks guidebooks, to others. I treasure the memories of meeting many of you in person at book signings and speaking events or at one of the many festivals J.L. and I attend as authors. … You have all become a part of my treasured life memories. Thank you. I so appreciate each one of you … and I love the words of encouragement you write to me and so appreciate the kind book reviews you take the time to put online. You encourage my heart and make me look forward to creating more books in the years to come.
May each of you have a lovely holiday in whatever way you spend it. Best and blessings for a beautiful Christmas full of lots of love, … Lin
Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.