Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Traditions ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Family Christmas traditions are treasures beyond measure. Some of my fondest memories are of Christmas.

The aroma of hot chocolate steeping on the stove and pecan pies baking in my mama’s oven on cold December mornings told me that it was finally Christmastime.

Soon the tree would go up with popcorn ropes, tinsel, spun glass angel hair and bubble lights silently fizzing away the seconds until Santa arrived.

Families are living portraits and time changes Christmas traditions. Kids get married and bring grandkids into the picture. And sometimes Christmas traditions are forever altered when we lose a loved one.

Both Jilda and I learned this lesson when our parents died, but it holds true for every family.

My traditions changed when I married Jilda. We celebrated Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with hers.

Christmas at my parents’ home was a madhouse when my brothers and sisters grew into adults and started families. We’d all meet just after dark at mom’s house and often we’d find members of our extended family who had come by as well as friends who had no other place to go on Christmas.

Mother always had ham or turkey laid out on the table for munching. But the sideboard was filled with what she did best. Homemade fudge, divinity candy, pies, cakes and cookies to die for. If anyone left without a sugar buzz they had no one to blame but themselves.

Migrating to the living room, we jockeyed for position around the mountain of gifts beneath the Christmas tree and once the gifting began, the living room turned into a sea of toys, discarded wrapping paper and bows.

One Christmas a niece who was still in diapers pulled a bow from her gift and stuck it on Mama Watson’s arm. Everyone laughed at the gesture which was enough to encourage the other kids to join in the sticking fest. By the time all the gifts were opened, Mama Watson was a Christmas rainbow and a new tradition was born.

We trudged on when my dad died in 1986, but when my mom began having health problems our Christmas traditions changed dramatically.

Christmas at the home of Jilda’s parents was just as wild as it was at our house, but there was more focus on food. Except for the two years I was away in the Army, I spent every Christmas day with her family from 1968 until her mother passed away. She was the duct tape that held that tradition together and when she was gone, their traditions changed, too.

This past weekend, our good friend Billy invited us to his house for a Christmas party.
Through the years, visiting Billy and Nila’s house always ended up on the holiday highlight reel. Their gathering put the joy in Christmas. No matter how stressful the holidays were, no one ever left Billy and Nila’s house without a smile on their face.

This year’s celebration was a good one too, but it was bittersweet because Nila, who’d been the love of Billy’s life for over 50 years, died in February.

His house was wall to wall with people Saturday evening. Old friends who’ve stuck together through the years came to enjoy each other’s company.

Billy has a lot of support to help him through the holidays, and he will make it through, but I know from experience that Christmas will never be the same.

Jilda and I wish you a Merry Christmas.


  1. My father had nuts at Christmas. It was about the only time of the year they were available where we lived. Daddy loved cracking the nuts as he watched TV. When I see the nets out at Christmas I see Daddy every time.

  2. Traditions do have a way of changing over the years, but the sharing and caring of friends and family will always be an important part of Christmas.

  3. How true that when we loose someone, traditions changes.

    It sounds just like the type of Christmas I'm used to.
    There's so much life and activity around the Holidays and lots of kids.

    Merry Christmas.

  4. I know what you mean Rick... when my oldest was young, we spent Christmas day with my grandmother and did all her traditions... When my grandmother passed away she and I made our own traditions... now Valentina and I have our own as well, they are always changing.. but always good too...

    Merry Christmas to you both xox

  5. The Christmas bow story brought tears to my eye for some reason. I thought it was so sweet and I can picture the little ones giggling and loving Mama Watson. I'm sure that will be one of their favorite stories to tell.
    I'm loving your blog and added it to my morning blog reading list.

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

  6. All I can say is I LIKE IT! Great column, Yes you describe Christmas from single life, Married and the losing the seniors. You guys had a great up bringing!

  7. What an enJOYable share, Rick! ... The corners of my mouth began turning upwards at the mention of bubble lights and angel hair; and I practically laughed aloud imagining your mother with all the stick-on bows.

    One certainly can't beat what "Ma" has written above, so I'll just 'ditto' the lady... and thank you for sharing these sweet memories.

  8. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories. My dad was such a kid and I miss him most at this time of year, but I know he's with us in spirit. Take care and Happy Holidays.

  9. Anonymous5:45 PM

    A Merry Christmas to you & yours--even the ones who are no longer with us!!

  10. Your Christmas memories are so sweet and brought me back to my own from childhood. Even though they aren't the same as yours, the feelings and happiness of those times are the same. After Dad died we too had a change in traditions and Jack and I moved right after Christmas that year to our home in Ohio. Many new traditions were goes on even with changes! I'm glad your friend has so many good people to help him this year. Have a very Merry Christmas!


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