The countdown to Christmas is upon us! I love this time of year. Making gifts for family, trying new recipes, having to clean for over night company coming. Putting up the tree - not a real one. Decorating the house with Santa dolls, garland and lights. Sometimes getting myself worked up over it by being too nit picky! Don't know why that happens, it's just the kids and family coming home. But like any mother knows - you do want everything to flow perfectly.
It's can be a depressing time of year for many people. I chose instead to remember past holiday seasons with alot of warm memories of a mother and father in law that lived on the farm, just across the drive way from us. Grandpa passed away this past Memorial Day, and Grandma passed away a year ago in April. When we got married (soon to be 40 years) we put a new mobile home across the drive way from the big farm house. Our girls grew up having Grandma and Grandpa so close, and it was wonderful. Not many kids have that experience. This will be the first Christmas that now both are gone, and there will be times when sadness will creep into our thoughts and memories of a full house of relatives over at the farm house. As grandkids got bigger, rather than everyone over at the farm house, the teenagers seemed to gravitate to our smaller house, to watch tv, play video games, or just hang out without so much adult noise! At one holiday gathering one of the nephews broke his leg on the exercise nintendo mat! That was something!
We always had a big Christmas Eve meal at Grandmas, and then HAD to clean up before we could open presents. Boy, the little kids sure had a hard time waiting! Then there would be Grandma and Grandpa in their special chairs, and all the rest of us spread around the living room and into the kitchen. A couple of the older grandkids handed out packages, and parents had to try to keep their little ones from tearing into them right away, until all packages were passed out. There were so many of us that we couldn't take turns opening up packages, because there were too many little kids that just couldn't wait - so each family sat together, so at least each mom and dad could control what was going on - making sure nothing would get thrown into the garbage bag that was put out for the paper that was to be thrown out. As the evening got later, our family went to candlelight church service. Jessica sang the song "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" every year for about 6 years. People would start asking in October if Jessica would be home to sing on Christmas Eve. One gentleman came up to me one year after Jessica sang the song and had tears in his eyes. He said that his wife used to sing that same song in church on Christmas Eve every year also. I love the candlelight late church service. Visiting with friends, driving back home, with all of us singing Christmas carols. Everyone can sing good, except me - so I mostly listen (or sing very quietly!).
As years went by, we eventually stopped buying presents for everyone, and just bought for Grandma and Grandpa, and then drew names. Later the drawing of names for us adults even faded, and just the kids changed names. Sometimes there would be a silly gift show up for one of the guys, that no one would be able to figure out which Santa had brought! Bird poop, deer poop, silly hats and alot of other silly things showed up throughout the years.
After we didn't draw adult games we started a dice exchange gift game. Each woman brought a womans gift, man a mans gift, etc. Then we used two pie tins and 2 dice in each plate. We used two plates of dice to pass because we were so many. You had to get a 7 or 11 before you could take a package to open up. After all the packages were out to everyone in the circle, we put the timer on for 2 minutes, and still having to roll a 7 or 11, you could then TAKE a package away from someone; giving them the package you had. It would get pretty wild. Throughout the years we'd have different monitary values set. Sometimes it was around $20.00 that you could spend. Well, some people, just wrapped up a twenty dollar bill in a box, and alot would want that twenty dollar bill. There would be cases of pop; towel sets; tool sets; flashlite sets; drill bits; perfume; new kitchen gadgits, etc. The kids always loved the stuffed animals. A cute Santa doll for decoration, or fancy couch pillows, new slippers, etc. One year we did white elephant gifts. That was a FUN exchange. We didn't have a value, so some gifts were or had been real expensive, but never used much. Some antiques that year, some kitchen gadgets that had been the rage the year before, but never used, etc. Of course, it got real wild when the exchange got going good, and alot of 7 and 11's were rolled, and everyone wanting the same gift. You'd no soon roll your 7 or 11 and take what you wanted, and then loose it to the person next to you because they wanted it! I remember we'd all take note of what Grandma liked, and when she'd get what she liked, we all kind of backed off, so she would end up with it. This will be the second year now that we won't be playing that game, and I think I'll miss it more this year than last.
But one of these years, that game will come back as we get more in our household! We know many families have gone through heartache during this past year and the holidays can be very hard for some. Being a caring friend to someone hurting can help both the giver and receiver! Try it, it works. Remembering the real reason for celebrating Christmas.