Christmas was once a time for family, a time for love, a time for happiness and great memories. Looking back at my childhood, I examine what Christmas once meant to children. As this is being written, I look around and see Christmas being turned into a representation of who can get the most and best of the latest toys and gadgets. Christmas memories of the past show a simpler (and more joyous) time, when Christmas meant so much more than who was getting what and how much it cost.
For many days leading up to Christmas, my mom, brother, sister, and myself would all learn and remember Christmas carols together. While we all sang fairly decent, I’m pretty sure that if there had been one of us who didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. Nowadays, visits to various stores and shops show me mothers and fathers telling their kids to be quiet when they are gleefully and proudly singing Christmas carols in public.
I suppose they were afraid of disturbing the peace, but what’s more peaceful than a sweet little child singing a Christmas carol? Childhood memories have practically the whole month of December filled with our voices singing Christmas music. This lead up to Christmas, and often lasted well afterward. Come to think of it, we started a little before December, on Thanksgiving Day, which leads into another of our treasured Christmas memories.
Every Thanksgiving, after we were stuffed from the huge homemade feast prepared together by us all, we’d set up for Christmas. We didn’t just trim the tree and call it a day. We made it a ritual. Memories are filled with steaming cups of homemade hot chocolate laced with mini marshmallows and homemade whipped cream on top and a candy cane to stir into the cocoa.
Memories contain us playing and singing Christmas music the whole day while making homemade Christmas ornaments, some of them cheap, but still great. Afterward, we would then trim the tree together and despite not having a designer decorate our tree or having expensive store-bought ornaments, still it always was perfect because love was put into it.
Another host of childhood memories that symbolizes the meaning of Christmas is that of homemade bread. Every year around Christmas time, the scent of homemade breads would fill our home. Once we were old enough, my mom taught us to make the bread. Bread-making provides many fun (and messy) memories. To this day, the bread tradition is still kept up, with me adding some personal touches and allowing the kids to do the same. A few of our baking traditions can be seen by clicking here.
Christmas also meant the use of treasured handmade stockings. Each time a new person was born into the family, these stockings were knitted with love by a dedicated great aunt. She even took the time to knit each name right into the stocking, as it was being made. If this memory sounds familiar, you may have read jpsixbear’s article on Christmas memories.
Gifts of course bring on a large amount of childhood Christmas memories. However, not in the same way as gifts are now portrayed. My mom didn’t rush to the store on Black Friday, trampling people to get me the latest, hottest toy. And guess what? I was still happy. In fact, one year when I was very young, all she could afford to get me was this teeny tiny doll that fit into my hand and that was my favorite toy ever. I thought it was the coolest thing because it was so small. That doll remained in the household for a long time. Some Christmases more money was spent, but that still is my favorite Christmas.
Christmas is not about the gifts. It’s about the love that goes into them.
Speaking of gifts, the best memories surrounding Christmas gifts for me actually involve giving gifts, not receiving them. To me, the true meaning of Christmas is that of family and of giving to others. If I never got another Christmas gift in my life, I’d be happy as long as I could give a memory, a helping hand, or a gift to someone else.
Memories of the wrapping paper toss also linger in my mind. Each year after Christmas gifts were all opened, the whole family would place all the gift wrap in this huge pile and toss it into the air, allowing it to fall from the ceiling onto us all. This tradition may sound a little odd (and messy), but as a kid, it was very enjoyable. In fact, I still do this, as well as the rest of these traditions with my own children.
Children should learn that the true meaning of Christmas is not that of who can get the most and the best of toys under their tree. The true meaning of Christmas is sharing, giving, and spending time with treasured family and friends. I hope these Christmas memories will help others to share their personal true meaning of Christmas with their own kids.