Growing up preparing for Christmas started on Thanksgiving day. My aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered at my grandparents’ house for a day of eating, football, napping, and sharing our Christmas lists. I was the only girl of the five grandkids and probably got spoiled a bit because of that.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were filled with baking cookies to share with the neighbors, visiting Disney Village for the living nativity, decorating the Christmas tree, and driving around to look at houses decked out in twinkling Christmas lights.
On Christmas Eve, we all gathered together again, usually at my grandparents’ house, but occassionally at one of my uncles’ homes in Orlando. The ladies would congregate in the kitchen preparing the meal, the men would gather in the living room to talk, and us kids would play tag or hide-and-go-seek until dinner.
I have such fond memories of gathering in the living room after dinner, stacks of gifts in front of each family member, the anticipation growing with each minute. The gifts were opened with smiles glowing, filling the room with warmth and love. Thinking about it now I can still feel that warmth and security.
Since my grandmother died, traditions have changed. The grandkids have married and have families of their own and we don’t all get together anymore. I have been left feeling untethered during this time of year, with the need to create new traditions. This year I celebrated Thanksgiving with my brother’s family in North Carolina and gave them their Christmas gifts, the excitement of my niece and nephew an echo of the excitement my cousins and I had exhibited so many years ago.
When I returned home I decided to bake cookies to share with coworkers and dear friends. I felt closer to those old holiday memories while I mixed the dough and packaged up the cookies. Delivering the cookies and seeing the smiles they brought reminded me of the simple joys Christmas brings.
My parents are in Florida with me for Christmas this year. I’m looking forward to taking them to the Candelight Service at my church this evening then driving around to look at Christmas lights. Most importantly I will go to sleep knowing this is a celebration of my Savior’s birth. The traditions and gatherings are wonderful and the memories will always be treasured, but I know that one day I will have the chance to celebrate with all of my loved ones again and for all eternity.
I pray that you have a blessed Christmas with your family and friends.