Memories of Christmas Past

It is only a week until Christmas.  If you aren’t in the Christmas spirit by now you are running out of time.  The colder weather we have had lately helps.  Christmas songs are being played in every store and elevator.  The Salvation Army has its troops out in full force patiently ringing their bells as impatient people come and go.
More than any other time of year, the Christmas season causes me to think back to my childhood and when my own kids were at home.  Some traditions survive over multiple generations and others are replaced with new customs.  
I always think about going out in the woods as a small child with my Dad to cut our own tree.  It seems there was always a hole in the tree that had to be positioned in the back.  It was then decorated with large colored lights and tinsel.
As kids we were allowed to pick one present and open it on Christmas Eve.  I am sure my parents hoped that would allow us to finally go to sleep but I am not sure that their tactic worked that well.  
We were always up early.  We had to wait on my uncle, who was only nine years older than me, to arrive before we could check out what Santa had brought.  He was always asleep and it usually took several phone calls before he made it down.
Firecrackers were always under the tree.  We always compared our firecracker stash with the other boys in town.  Cherry Bombs and M-80s were particularly prized.
Along the way my parents added a fireplace in the den.  That year turned out to be one of the warmest Christmas Days in history.  Not to be deterred, my mother had the air conditioner on high and the doors open, enjoying her new fireplace.
As with most holidays in the South, a major part of the day revolved around the big meal.  I remember the first time we ever had Hash Brown Casserole.   It has probably made it to the menu every time for the past 40 years.  
Crescent rolls were a real treat usually reserved for holiday dinners.  It was the first thing I was allowed to help prepare in the kitchen.  I would always eat just a bit of the raw dough, leaving a somewhat deformed roll as evidence.
With all of our cousins living a good distance away, Christmas was usually at our house.  My grandparents were usually there, providing us with endless tales from the old days.  I wonder if my own stories will survive in my grandchildren’s memories when they are my age.
Mary Lou and I got married and started forming some of our own traditions.  Our tree had little lights, though still colored.  We eventually got an artificial tree.  We bought ornaments everywhere we went although our tree has a few ornaments from our youth.
We still have that big meal, with many new dishes but always some of the old, including the Hash Brown Casserole and the Crescent Rolls.   There is still a carol or two sung by the fire.  Santa still brings an occasional bicycle, but he quit bringing fireworks years ago.  Probably a good thing.
Here is hoping that you and yours enjoy this Christmas season and that your thoughts are full of good memories, old and new.
oOo
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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