I have nothing but sweet memories of Christmas growing up.
Sure, there were never gifts overflowing from under the tree like in the movies. Often, my siblings and I got the "knock off" version of whatever the latest toy or fashion trend was, but we were happy. Honestly, it wasn't until we were teenagers that we even noticed things like that. By that time, if it was something we wanted bad enough, we just bought it ourselves. No matter how big or how small the Christmas was, it was always wonderful. My siblings and I would organize and lay out all our stuff on our beds, all perfect and lined up, ready to show our grandparents when they got there for breakfast. We were always so proud of what we received. We were always so grateful.
Christmas during my youngest years have the most endearing traditions. Growing up we almost always had a real tree. I honestly don't even know if artificial trees were even a "thing" back then. Some of them were the most perfect size and color, and there were a few that were so lopsided and gigantic that once the fluffy silver garland was wrapped around it, it looked like it could pick up satellite signals from space. It was amazing. We never had a "coordinated tree." All our ornaments were ones that my family collected over time, buying a new one or two each year. There were a lot of homemade and school made ornaments on the tree as well. The same went for my grandparent's tree. My dad's mother was very artistic and a lot of her ornaments she made herself. Their tree was always very small and sitting on a table. My mother's mother had homemade ornaments also. Clothespins that were painted as snowmen and toy soldiers, and wooden ornaments that all of us grandkids could paint and hang on the tree when we came over. I will say that while none of these trees looked like the cover of Better Homes and Garden, they were the most perfect trees to me. I still carry on this tradition, with my tree being a hodge podge of colored lights, ornaments passed through the generations, ones that my kids have made, and every year we buy a new personalized one. It just feels like home seeing it look like it fell off the hot mess express. I will say though there is NO garland around the tree. I have at least graduated to beads and ribbon.
Riding around and looking at Christmas lights was another HUGE tradition for us. Yes, there were neighborhoods close by that we would visit and see their light displays, but my Dad made sure we traipsed all over Birmingham to see the lights in some of the bigger neighborhoods. First off, let me back up by saying there were 3 of us kids. 3 of us cramped in the back seat of a tiny 4 door car. We would start off by going through some fast food restaurant for burgers and fries, and then off we went. We rarely ate dinner out, so this alone was such a huge deal to us kids. Cramped so close we could hear each other chew, we drove for hours looking at these amazing displays. The best places were the ones where someone had a "real" Santa on their porch welcoming kids to come and talk to him and get a candy cane. Depending on how old we all were at the time, someone was usually freaking out big time about this! There was a house (and I am sure that some people from the Birmingham area remember this) that has a stocking hung on the side that was as long (or tall?) as the house itself. It was crazy! There was a family that had their entire front yard decorated with what looks like something from Christmas at Disney World. Not to be too outdone, we were known to put some lights and such outside. We had the old school candles in the windows. We had lights all in the windows, around the doors, and in the trees. We had those tall plastic candles, and the Santa like the one Clark Griswold kicked across the yard in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. As a kid growing up, this was seriously the most magical thing ever!
Baking was another tradition in my family growing up. There were lots of different snacks and goodies that my mom always made each year, but there was one that she knew better than to try and skip out on. Homemade sugar cookies in every Christmas shape you could think of decorated in every color of icing you could imagine. They were the best thing you've ever tasted. And even though all of us are grown and have moved out, my mom still makes them every year. I don't think I remember a Christmas where they weren't always around. That and my moms ridiculously amazing peanut butter fudge.
My parents never really bought for each other until everyone else had been bought for. I don't know if they meant to talk about budgeting for themselves out loud in front of us, but they did. So, we always knew how much they had left over after everyone else was taken care of and what they planned to spend on one another. It was almost always less than $100 a piece, if that. Each parent would take us kids to usually Wal-Mart and we would go on our "shopping spree." Now, I don't think kids nowadays think that that is a lot of money, but to us back then, it definitely was. You would be shocked at how far me made that money stretch and both of my parents were always so happy and grateful for everything they received.
As I've gotten older, Christmas is much more commercialized, just like every other holiday we celebrate now. It is so easy to forego having traditions and making time for those memories when most families have both parents working, kids busy in all kinds of activities and sports, and life in general just being at a different pace than it was when I was younger. God, I feel so old writing that down! I know I am so guilty about trying to rush through different holiday activities just to check them off the endless list of things to do, or I just end up avoiding them altogether. But, I have been thinking here lately, how unfair that is to my kids. Here I am sitting on all these Hallmark warm and fuzzy memories of my childhood and what am I doing for them? So, I have decided to challenge myself to some good ole fashioned memory making fun this year! Yes, I am busy. Yes, my husband and I both work. Yes, we have a lot of crap going on right now. Yes, there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done or somewhere someone needs to be taken to. But, yes, I have 3 awesome kiddos who all still believe Santa is coming through this door (he uses the door here) to eat these cookies and drop off some toys on December 24th. They all still think mom and dad are the greatest people that have ever walked the face of the Earth and believe every word we tell them. No, it will not be perfect AT ALL, but I am hell bent and determined to make our own memories this year. To start our own traditions and to leave them with all the feels when they get older.
I am challenging you today to try and do the same. I don't care if you buy the Pillsbury cookies that already are cut out and have a picture of a tree or Santa painted on them or throw a strand of lights in some bush outside because the extension cord won't reach any further, doesn't matter. Get out there and make some memories. Take your kid to pick out some presents for other people. Tell them this is what we have to spend and see what they come up with. My parents did that with us and I swear I am a better person because of it. We have zero excuses when we really sit down and think about it.
I plan on checking in and showing you what we are working on as far as memory making. I can promise you it will not be perfect at all and some of this will be new territory to me, but we can do this together. So, tell me, what are you going to try so that your kids grow up with some happy remembrances of this year's Christmas holidays? Bonus points if its free or cheap! Share it with me on the When Life Facebook page!