But perhaps my absolute favorite memory about the Christmas season is a tradition that started many years ago. On Christmas Eve, my Mom, sisters, and I would go to the Christmas Eve service at church. After the last song was sung, we would rush to pick my Dad up from work, where "neither snow nor rain, not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." In other words, because he worked at the Post Office, my dad usually worked Christmas Eve to deliver last minute cards and greetings.
Once Dad got off work, we would travel thirty miles over the river and through the woods to my Grandma and Grandpa Kading's house. We would hurry inside their cozy one-room cabin, and after a few hugs all around, the crackling fireplace beckoned us to enjoy her warmth, as sweet aromas filled the air, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation of a delicious meal. Our eyes adjusted while a small kerosene lantern glowed on the table, providing just enough light to create a wonderful ambiance.
At last it was time for dinner! Our whole family enjoyed close fellowship around the small dining room table as we laid our eyes on a wonderful feast! Our traditional Christmas Eve meal included ham on bun, potato salad, cranberries (Grandma usually had both kinds, since us girls were picky and only liked the ones from the can!), frog eye salad (it's not gross like it's name implies), lime jello with pears, cottage cheese, carrots, pickles, and probably something else that escapes my mind at the moment. After the delicious main course, the best part was yet to come. PIE!! As if one kind of pie weren't enough, how could you possibly choose between three different kinds? So, we usually sampled all of them. Pumpkin pie (Dad's favorite), apple pie, and filled cherry pie (Grandpa's favorite). And what piece of pie would be complete without a
By this time, my sisters and I were nearly bursting with excitement. Either that, or it could have been the yummy food still in our stomachs. It was finally time to open gifts. Mom and Dad would usually bring one gift for each of us, and of course there were gifts from our grandparents. They would look on with enjoyment as my sisters and I rewarded them with shrieks of delight as we discovered our treasures! One Christmas in particular stands out to me. Or rather it's one gift that stands out. The details are slightly fuzzy, but I do remember playing with my new Tiny Tears doll under the dining room table. This was usually our place of choice for playing, probably due to the lack of room with all our gifts strewn about. Somehow my sisters and I felt like we were in our own little world, and imaginations would run wild as we played "house."
After an evening of extreme excitement and fabulous food, we would begin our journey home. Our loot would be carefully packed into the car and the rounds of hugs and kisses would begin. Before we left, Grandma would hand Becky, Erin, and me an individually-wrapped gingerbread man. I remember we usually didn't eat these for a couple weeks because they were special cookies.
In my memory, it was always snowing on those Christmas Eve nights when we left Grandma and Grandpa's house. The frosty night air would instantly chill our bodies, but out in the woods where my grandparents lived, one of my favorite things to do was gaze up at the beautiful night sky. In the stillness and intense blackness, the stars seemed to twinkle a little brighter than they did at home. An occasional tree would crack as it swayed in the wind, and often you could hear forest creatures utter their goodnight to their neighbors. Not wanting the Arctic temperatures to completely freeze us, we would quickly load into the car, with us three girls huddled together in the back seat. With stuffed tummies and hearts full of love, we would usually fall asleep only a couple miles down the road. We'd arrive home and head straight to bed, with the knowledge that tomorrow would also bring more excitement.
Christmas morning dawned bright and early. My sisters and I had bedrooms upstairs, but we knew on Christmas morning we were not allowed to go downstairs the minute we woke up. You see, Mom and Dad usually had one gift for us that they did not wrap. When we woke up, we would holler downstairs, signaling to our parents that we were ready for the day to begin. I don't remember what time we usually woke up, but shortly thereafter, Mom and Dad would join us upstairs, bringing breakfast with them. After eating, Dad would read the Christmas story from the Bible and then we'd head downstairs to open our presents and stockings.
We'd play with our gifts for the rest of the morning, and then it was time to head to my Dad's parents' house. This journey was much shorter, only 2 miles. A flurry of activity would follow, as aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered for a Christmas dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings. And of course, more pies, cookies, and candy..... The house was usually buzzing with excitement and chatter as people watched football, played games, and opened gifts. After round two of food, we were ready to head home.
Over the years, our traditions ad locations have changed slightly, but every Christmas brings my favorite tradition... celebrating Jesus' birth with family. As you gather with family this Christmas, please take a few moments to celebrate the real REASON we celebrate this wonderful season.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. --Isaiah 9:6
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. --Luke 2:10-14