This is being written as an entry into ActiveRain's December Challenge where we are asked to share a favorite holiday memory. I have so many wonderful Christmas memories and continue making new ones. I thought I'd share the way the Cooney family did Christmas when I was growing up. Just thinking of those holidays makes me grin.
I grew up in a household of girls. My poor dad must have been overwhelmed at times with all that femaleness, but he was always involved in all our Christmas highlights. We had many family traditions that were done year after year. Here are the ones I remember...
Our Christmas celebrations included not only the typical things, but also annual Christmas caroling with the girl scouts. We'd gather a bunch of people together and go throughout the neighborhood singing. The one evening I remember most vividly was a very cold night, probably somewhere in the early 1970s. We did something that would not be allowed today. All of us piled in the back of my father's pickup truck and drove around town singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs, while freezing our butts off. We were holding song sheets with frozen fingers. To this day, many decades later, I can feel the grin plastered on my face, not only because I was having so much fun, but because it froze there. What fun!
Decorating the tree.
When I was very young, the live tree would magically appear on Christmas Eve after we went to bed. When we came out in the morning, it was all decorated. My parents must have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to do all they did to make the morning! As we got older and were able to help, the tree went up earlier and we helped decorate. We made strings of berries to hang on the tree. In addition, we made all sorts of handmade ornaments. We opened the boxes of decorations and put everything on in the "right" order. Lights first, garland next, ornaments and then tinsel. We all became expert at throwing the tinsel on at the end. We were supposed to make it look messy. Haha. That would drive me nuts now!
Wrapping the gifts.
We didn't just wrap gifts. You know, pull some wrapping paper around a box, throw some tape on it, and slap on a bow. No, we had to make a production out of our gift wrapping. Choosing paper and ribbon that looked great together. Using a bow maker to make our own bows. Cutting ribbons into all sorts of shapes, like making candles out of the ribbon. We used scissors to pull the ribbon into wriggly designs. The wrapping paper was cut in interesting shapes and we would write our Merry Christmas messages on that, not on the normal to/from tags. Under our tree were not just gifts, but works of art!
In my house, we woke up early as most children do, but we were sent back to bed until a "reasonable" time (like maybe 6am!). Then we'd all get up, and we were allowed to open our stockings. The stockings usually contained things to keep us occupied for a while like comic books or puzzles. We'd have a little something to eat, get dressed, go to church, and THEN come home to open gifts. As we opened our gifts, we had a smorgasbord of food available, so we could pick throughout the morning. It was really quite an experience. And it took us HOURS to open gifts, but not because there were necessarily that many of them, but because we opened them as follows.
The gift opening
Our family could spend a few hours opening our presents. We would open them one at a time. And one thing our family did, which I've never seen anyone else do, is write clues. For every single gift. So each of us would take our turn in selecting a gift from under the tree, reading the clue out loud and then taking a few minutes to guess what the item was. The clues were never simple, like a watch having a clue of "time teller." It would be some sort of tricky riddle, and the watch would be wrapped in a box that was much bigger than required.
So we'd make our guesses and then open the gift to see if we were correct. And then everyone would check the gift out, and the next person would open their next gift. Some things didn't have clues of course, like the year my sister got a harp (it's impossible to hide a full-sized harp), but otherwise, everything did. We'd stop every so often in the opening of gifts to refill our plates with food and then back to the gift opening.
The overall message
What I learned from those wonderful holidays I enjoyed as a child, was the experience was the important thing, not the stuff. I remember very few of the gifts I received over the years. What I do remember is the love, the traditions and the laughter. What more could one want?
Originally published at thehousekat.com.