Memories of Christmases Past

A Little Nostalgia

I’m feeling nostalgic. Memories of Christmases past are flooding back. My mother gave me the most memorable one when I was five. I first posted a version of this story in 2011. Here it is again, this time revised.

A Christmas Tree That Almost Wasn’t

memories of Christmases past

     © Our Christmas Tree 2016

It was Christmas Eve. With my nose pressed against the glass, I looked out at the snow-covered road and the darkening sky. Snowflakes fell gently, leaving sparkles behind in every yard. The street lights were on and everyone was already in their homes. I wondered what was taking Dad so long. Mom had promised we’d have a tree, but so far, there was none in sight.

When I asked Mom, she said, “He’ll be home soon.” Her words made me feel a bit better, but I could tell she was worried too because she joined me at the window to peer down the street.

It was late in the evening when he finally showed up, stomping up the porch steps without a tree. I met him at the door, and when he bent down to take off his boots, I smelled alcohol on his breath.

“Where’s the tree?” asked my mother.

“I’m sorry. I forgot. I stopped to have a drink at the beer parlour with one of the guys from work.”

“Don’t say you only had one.” My mom’s face twisted into a deep frown. “You had more than one drink. You know what time it is? How could you forget a tree? It’s Christmas Eve. Diana’s been waiting for hours for you to come home.”

Dad’s eyes stayed downcast. “I’ll go get one.” He gave me a half-smile before putting his boots back on. He opened the door and when the cold air rushed in, I felt sorry he had to go out again. I watched him walk down the street, his shoulders hunched but determined.

Again I waited by the window. The second time I stood watch seemed longer than the first. It must’ve been a good hour later when I saw him dragging a Christmas tree along the sidewalk.

“Daddy’s got one,” I hollered to my mother and jumped up and down until he brought it inside the house. The scent of the evergreen tree filled the air in the hallway and I stroked the soft needles of one of its branches.

“Boy oh boy,” he said, shaking the snow off his cap and coat, “the lot was closed. I almost got arrested.”

“What are you saying?” said my mother.

“I didn’t know what to do. There was a lock on the gate and no one around so I climbed over the fence. Just when I was picking one, a policeman walked by and yelled, ‘What are you doing?’ He scared the hell out of me. I explained to him what had happened, how I had come home without a tree for my girl. I told him I wasn’t stealing. I had every intention of coming back after Christmas and paying. I guess he thought I had an honest face and let me go.”

“Oye,” said my mother. “Thank God he did.”

I could see that my father felt bad. He also looked very tired and not in any shape to decorate a tree. Mom said he could go to bed but before he did, he pared the trunk down to fit the metal holder she had bought.

That night, Mom and I stayed up until four a.m. decorating. Mom had saved silver cigarette wrappers she’d found in the street gutters and we used them to wrap walnuts and brazil nuts for the tree. We also hung some coloured balls, glass birds with real feathers and little pink plastic baskets filled with hard Christmas candies. Then we spread snow made out of Ivory soap crystals on all the branches. The final touches were silver tinsel and for the top, a foil-covered cardboard star.

By the time we finished, I could barely keep my eyes open. Even so, I decided to stay awake in hopes of catching Santa in the act. But try as I might, my eyelids wouldn’t cooperate and I missed that fine, generous old man.

I don’t remember presents in the morning. I remember staying up all night weaving love into our first Christmas tree.

Making Magical Moments

Now somewhere in the Christmas rush, is another child, wide-eyed, excited by what’s coming.

memories at Christmases past

            ©   When our children were young

It’s the time of year when families everywhere build precious memories. It could be decorating sugar cookies, watching It’s A Wonderful Life, or singing Christmas carols.

When our children were little, I read the bible story of Jesus’s birth on Christmas Eve. Then my husband and I took turns with our daughters reading tales from William Kureluk’s book, A Northern Nativity. Each story showed Jesus in various settings: a fisherman’s hut, a cowboy’s barn, an igloo and so on. One even had a black baby Jesus.

Afterwards, we sang carols together, memories at Christmases pastending with a soulful Silent Night with just the tree lights on.

I’ve always loved the peacefulness that came through sharing stories and singing the words of carols that have been around for ages.

This year, we’ll also be celebrating Hanukkah. My husband, Robert, discovered through DNA testing that he’s almost twelve per cent Ashkenazi Jewish. He’s already ordered a menorah. It’s lovely that this year Hanukkah and Christmas Eve fall on the same day.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or any other special occasion during this Holiday season, I’m wishing you and your families memorable moments, ones that will last a lifetime.

What Are Your Traditions?

What memories come up for you at this time of year? What traditions do you follow?



6 thoughts on “Memories of Christmases Past

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Yes, so memorable. And thank you re: Hanukkah! It’s exciting to find out more about family history.

      Rob is still puzzling over who was Jewish in his family tree. He thinks it was his maternal grandfather, Alex Garbolinsky. He worked as an interpretor, knew five languages, one of them Yiddish. Though Rob later went to Catholic schools as his dad and uncle had a thriving church goods business, he doesn’t remember his grandparents on his mother’s side practicing the Christian faith. So, dum de dum dum. More to explore down the road.

      And Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you Julia and your family. I think you celebrate both.

  1. Jo Nell Huff

    What a wonderful Christmas memory that could have been bad but turned out very good! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and best wishes for good things in 2017! I just remembered something about a Christmas tree from many years ago from my small South Texas town. The pastor of a small Baptist church was having a bit of a struggle financially at Christmas. The owner of a small grocery store in town was owned and run by a Jewish family. This grocery store was the only place in town to buy trees and the manager gave the pastor a tree. Somehow that gesture stuck with me all these years. Happy holidays, Diana!
    Jo Nell Huff recently posted…A WEDDING ANNIVERSARY TOAST TO MY HUSBANDMy Profile

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      I like that story about the Jewish grocery store owner giving a Christmas tree. I think we’re all much closer than we think. Thank you for sharing that anecdote. Yes, happy holidays, dear Jo. Hope you have a merry Christmas and all the best in the new year to you and yours. Hugs.

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