Christmas Traditions

As I look back over a lifetime of Christmas mornings, I can easily see that throughout my life, my likes and interests have evolved, my maturity has grown, and my Christmas traditions have changed with the times.

My Childhood Christmas.

When I was a child, Christmas morning was different from any other morning of the year.  Unlike every school day which started out with my mom screaming at me until I finally climbed out of the bed with just a few minutes before the bus arrived, Christmas morning was the only morning that I would awake around 5 in the morning without neither an alarm clock buzzing loudly or my mom yelling at me.

Most years I would wake up in my bedroom that I shared with my younger brother.  My eyes were still blurry from sleep and the only light illuminating the room was rom Christmas lights that were hanging in my window.

Before ever setting a foot onto the cold floor, I would find that Santa had left stockings at the foot of our beds for us to find first thing in the morning.  Our stockings were always bursting with candy, crayons, coloring books – anything small enough to fit inside the stocking until there was room for no more!

Mom usually came into my room before I could dive into any of the candy that Santa had left for me.  She was able to stop me from staring my day off with a life saver form the book of life savers or a tootsie roll from the tootsie roll bank, but try as she would, she never got me to eat breakfast before I raced to the Christmas tree in the living room.

While my Dad set up bright photographer’s lights in the living room, my brother and I would start to scope out of gifts before fighting back the urge to open a single gift until dad was ready to take photos or shoot a home movie.

My brother and I, who often fought throughout the year, each Christians eve would call an unspoken truce – hoping it would impress Satna enough to get the good gifts that we really wanted under the tree.

Surrounded on the living room couch by my Aunt Jean and her son, my cousin Joel and my maternal grandfather who had driven to St. Louis from Kansas City the day before to spend Christmas with our family, I and my brother sat on the floor and ripped into our gifts while my Dad hid behind the camera making a visual record of the precious family memories.

Christmas as a young adult.

After my first year in college, my parents moved from St. Louis to Modesto California.  Since I was still living at home, I moved with them.  With the move and the fact that I had become an young adult, my Christmas traditions evolved with the passing of time.

My maternal grandfather passed away a few days before I had graduated form high school, and now that we were nearly 2000 miles from St. Louis, my aunt and cousin no longer spent Christmas with my family.  Instead, my brother and I would sit on the couch and waited until Mom handed us our gifts while Dad filmed the event with his new video camera.

When I moved out of my parent’s home into an apartment in town at the age of twenty-three, I still spent Christmas morning with my parents and my bother at my parents’ home where we exchanged gifts before having a meal together.

Christmas with changed family dynamics

Early March of 1993, my brother was killed.  My only sibling left behind his six-week-old son for my parents to raise.  That first Christmas was a big change for our family.  We silently grieved the absence of my brother, while we rejoiced in watching the newest member of our family experience his first Christmas.

Christmas with girlfriends

Throughout the 90’s and the first two years of 2000 I dated off an on.  Regardless of if I was in a relationship or not, I would always spend Christmas morning at my parent’s home, hoping to help my young Nephews Christmas’ special.  When I did have a girlfriend, I always invited her to be part of our family’s Christmas gift exchange.  Every girlfriend I had during the holidays would join me at my parents’ home and I would precipitate by spending time with her family on Christmas.

Christmas Post Stroke

Christmas 2002 was a very special Christmas for me.  A little over seven months before Christmas, I proposed to my girlfriend Kimberly and she said yes.  Two months and a week after our engagement, I survived an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord.  That year was my first Christmas both a fiancée and wheelchair accompanied me to my parents’ home to watch my 9-year-old nephew open gifts before us adults exchanged gits with each other.

Christmas as a honeymooner

The following year was my first Christmas as a marred man.  Kimberly continued to accompany me to my parents’ home to watch my – now our – nephew open his Christmas gifts before so adults exchanged out gits.

The next year my father and nephew moved to Missouri.  Instead of spending Christmas at my mom’s new home, we invited her to our apartment and vid internet video we watched our nephew open gits from Missouri on my computer.

Christmas back in Missouri

Two years later my wife and I moved back to Missouri where we shared a house with my mother.  My father and nephew, who lived down the street from us, would come to our home and share Christmas morning with us where we all exchanged gifts.  Through the next Seven years my parents, my wife and myself spent every Christmas morning with our nephew.  During those years we watched our nephew grow from a teenager to a young adult, who on 2012 brought his wife and the following year they brought their first son to our family Christmas morning tradition of exchanging gifts.

A new Christmas tradition for a family of two

About five years ago, instead of seeing my immediate family as my parents, I fully transitioned into my immediate family as myself and my wife Kimberly.  I also knew that my parents would not be around forever.  It was time for Kimberly and I to start our own traditions.  Christmas 2012 or 2013 was the first year we didn’t spend Christmas morning with my parents, instead we traveled out of town to Tulsa and spent our Christmas eve and day in a suite at the Embassy by Hilton.  At midnight, when Christmas eve changed to Christmas day we went downstairs and handed out Christmas goodies to the staff who were working overnight and thanked them for sacrificing time with their family to take care of us. Afterwards we returned upstairs and exchanged gifts while making a video to share with family across the country via the Internet.

Tradition interrupted

Last year, Kimberly and I were unable to get out of town.  My father was in hospital and I didn’t want to be far away – in case something happened.

Another Christmas with changes to family dynamics

Sadly, my father passed this past February.  This will be the first Christmas without him.  Kimberly and I will not be traveling again this Christmas for reasons that I may share in a future blog post.  Instead, we will be spending part of our Christmas with my mother, our nephew and his wife and their two children.

Future Christmas traditions

I do not have a crystal ball, so I cannot predict the future.  I hope that in the coming year Kimberly and I will return to traveling at Christmas and staying in nice hotels in large cities.  But if we don’t as long as I am with Kimberly, I will be assured of a Christmas memory I will cherish as much as I cherish the precocious memories from my childhood when I was surrounded by my first immediate family..