Reflecting On Holidays Past

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Recently I started my annual ritual searching the attic for our Christmas decorations. Several large hampers and boxes contain holiday items were easily found and I began rummaging in them to retrieve items for preliminary decorating. One box took me through a journey back in time as I looked over our children’s early art projects, and homemade decorations made with enthusiasm and love. Looking at these items, it was easy to reflect back over the years remembering how excited our children were when the holidays came. These years become even more treasured now that many of us are isolated and travel is discouraged to avoid large gatherings.

Holidays are exciting for children and grown-ups alike. Even many adults that seem to be preoccupied with other facets of life pause to enjoy the coming of these celebrations. Is it the color patterns that stimulate a new interest, as we go from the hues of warm autumn browns and yellow to holiday colors? Christmas approaches and we see a whole new cycle of colors with reds, greens and silvers bursting upon the scene. It is easy to become invigorated with these colors all around our home and festive apparel we choose.

Rituals and traditions are a fundamental part of any holiday season and most families have certain ones they enjoy in their household. When we grow up, these same rituals may be followed and others added as spouses share family practices that are close to their heart. I am a firm believer that parents instill a fondness for the holidays that impact their children in a far deeper meaning than the parent imagines at the time. What seems to be something fun to do when children are five or six years old, will be something they hold dear to their heart twenty or thirty years down the road. Parents that are on a hectic or demanding work schedules should take pride in knowing that the time and energy they take to create these family traditions will not be in vain, ignored or unappreciated. So go ahead and plan your holidays with the knowledge that these events or traditions can be more than just a pleasure for the moment.

Many holiday celebrations often centers on food. Every family has it favorite recipes handed from one generation to another or one that grandma used to make to please her guests. Some of these recipes were complicated and seem to be more involved than time now allows us to prepare. Don’t let these treasures fall to the wayside, if they hold a special place in your heart. Pass them along to your children, even if it means only making them once or twice a year. Ask grandma to show you how she makes her special cookies, pie or that homemade stuffing you love so much. Write down every detail and quantity she puts into it, because most likely she follows no recipe as we discovered on our family’s quest to save old time favorites. Practice with the children, showing them each step along the way, explaining its purpose. In our family it has taken years, and still not perfected, for us to make grandma’s stuffed cabbage, rolling the cooked, meat-stuffed leaves into tight little rolls. We have almost mastered her “spritz” cookies dipped in chocolate and covered on each end with crushed walnuts. These delectable morsels barely last a day once the family learns they are in the house! Some traditions may involve setting up decorations that have been passed down through several generations. Hand blown glass ornaments or a nativity set from Europe that was brought to this country fifty years ago is honored not only for their memories of another life, but a tribute to the rigorous journey they may have taken. A hand embroidered tablecloth and matching napkins that took many months to complete might be a family’s way of having their holiday include a dear relative that is no longer with them or that cannot come to this year’s celebrations. For some families, going to a special place every holiday becomes an event to cherish. When I was little it was the highlight of my Christmas vacation when my mother took me to see the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. In those days you also saw a first run movie and the Christmas show! Some families may take a ride upstate to visit a tree farm to chop down their own Christmas tree. Invite another family, pack Thermos bottles of hot coca and snacks and make a day of the event. Wear comfortable shoes, dress warmly as you begin to search for the tree that “is calling your name”. Even if your family favors an artificial tree for either environmental issues or budgetary restraints, put aside at least one year to pick a live tree you have chopped down yourself. There is nothing like it and the aroma that fills your home will be a memory you won’t forget! As this holiday season comes upon us, it will be like no other we’ve ever known. We want to be safe, yet acknowledge this blessed time of year, so coming up with new ideas present another challenge. However you spend your holidays, try to relish in your own families special traditions, even though you may not all be gathered together this time around. Merry Christmas!