There are so many special times and memories that make up the holiday season. We each want to share a treasured memory with you, and we invite you to share your favorite holiday memories, too.
I am going to share a precious, funny, and slightly creepy memory of our last real Christmas tree.
As a newlywed, I was used to having a real Christmas tree, while my husband liked fake trees. We agreed to go with a real tree, and I was careful about where and when we went to select one. (There is another night-time mud story here that I won’t go into.) We found our tree and had a wonderful time decorating it, holiday tunes blaring as we drank hot spiced cider. It was like a Hallmark movie. A few days later, we noticed several spiders in our living room. With each one we killed, 10 of its relatives came out to mourn its passing. It took us about 5 minutes to track the spiders to the Christmas tree. To our horror, we realized the tree was crawling with spiders. Literally thousands of them. Our Hallmark movie had turned into Arachnophobia!
My husband dragged that tree out the front door faster than you can say “Spiderman,” scratching the hardwood floor in his haste – along with spilling the water, breaking ornaments, and in general making a mess. A few hours of clean up and fumigating later, we went out and purchased a fake tree. We still have that replacement tree. And I’m happy to report that it’s never been infested with spiders!
On Christmas Eve when I was little, we’d go to the candle lighting service at church. I’m not sure why they trusted all of us kids to hold candles, but everyone had them. One time my friend accidentally lit her mom’s hair on fire! Luckily, it was put out quickly and she was only left with singed hair, and the service went on like nothing happened.
On Christmas Day as a kid, I would of course wake up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa came. Then my parents would get up and I would have to wait to open presents until my mom, like a sloth, finally made her coffee and ate her toast. I realize this is definitely first world problems, but when I was a kid, I could hardly wait. I’m from St. Louis and when parts of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers freeze in the wintertime, bald eagles come out of hiding to go fishing on the rivers. After opening presents, my family’s tradition is to drive up to a lodge up the river and go eagle watching. I think one year we counted almost 40 eagles! At the lodge, we always play with the life-sized giant chess set. Well, not really life-sized anymore, but when I was about 3 feet tall it certainly was.
My family’s Christmas celebrations were never religious in nature; the holiday season was more about being with family and enjoying the festivities. In my immediate family, my dad was the most jazzed about Christmas each year. He wore Christmas socks, played the same cassette tape of Christmas songs until it broke, and even once wore a holiday tree skirt as a poncho.
One of my dad’s favorite traditions was putting lights up on the house. He was meticulous, putting the red and green bulbs into alternating patterns, and outlining the entire house. On the south side of the house, he always hung a big Star of David covered in blue lights. Is my family Jewish? No. But my dad enjoyed sharing a name with the star and displayed it with pride. After all, the season was about kindness and happiness, and Jewish people were welcome to partake in the celebrations in our house. Joy to the world, indeed.
I have so many fond memories of Christmas from throughout my childhood, but I’m going to share a story from just last year. My husband is from Lima, Peru, and I’ve enjoyed two Christmases with his family so far. They celebrate the holiday a little differently down in South America. For starters, everyone waits until midnight to eat the Christmas Eve dinner. The meal is just like a Thanksgiving feast – and since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, turkey is always the main course. And although it’s the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere, Peruvians still bring out mugs of hot chocolate as we open the presents in the first hours of Christmas Day.
Last year, my husband and I traveled all the way from Seattle to Lima for the holidays. Unfortunately, a kid two rows ahead of us was sick on the first flight into Houston, and we both ended up with a bad case of the flu. Though we enjoyed the first day by visiting Lima’s stunning “Magic Water Show” in the Parque de la Reserva, we were sick in our hotel after that. Somehow, we felt well enough to enjoy Christmas Eve with his family. We drank the best hot chocolate, exchanged gifts, and enjoyed the fireworks that all of Lima set off right at midnight. The next five days, my husband and I were too sick to visit with anyone, and we went home feeling cheated out of a vacation. But at least we got to celebrate Christmas with his family!
In my home, the holiday would not be complete without a tree and the ritual of decorating said tree. As an adult, my father and I would shop for the largest tree we could find. Sometimes we would need to visit several lots to find the “perfect” tree. Once selected and delivered, my father was in charge of the all-important task of strategically placing the lights. May seem trivial but, in my opinion, the lights make the tree.
We had wonderful conversations as the three came alive with ornamental memories. At a height of 6’7”, my father would place the shining tree topper – the lights would be turned on and we would sit back to marvel at the beauty and anticipate the upcoming season with family and friends.
Fond memories, indeed. I lost my father several ago. While I certainly miss our annual tradition, decorated trees are a wonderful reminder of my father and our time together.
Alison Rollins is Vice President of Marketing at Petite2Queen. She earned her master’s degree in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music. An experienced marketer, Alison is an expert leader in social and digital media. She’s a talented videographer, with an extensive portfolio of thought-provoking work. At Petite2Queen, Alison focuses on meeting the diverse needs of women at all stages of their lives.