We only lived an hour and a half from extended family when I was growing up, but it certainly made the holidays interesting. My parents packed up the entire family for an extended stay with my grandparents every year. My dad was a school teacher so we had a long break to enjoy time with family. When my brothers were little mom “fondly” remembers even packing up the cat, litter box and all.
It was important to them for us to still experience Christmas at home, so we went hunting for the perfect tree in the woods each and every year (and boy were there some beauties). Dad always proclaimed that this tree was the best one yet (even if it was held up with string and we had to drill holes to add some branches in the bare spots). It wasn’t the tree that made the holidays special – it was the effort that it took to find it and the time I spent with my dad putting up the lights.
I’d decorate the house with mom adding snow (cotton balls) to the nativity scene (there must have been snow when Jesus was born!) and baking/decorating dozens of cookies to share with friends and family. There’s nothing quite like mom’s gingerbread men.
We even had our own little Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve morning with stockings and a few Santa gifts (later I discovered it was usually the big ones that didn’t fit in the car). Then in a flash we’d pack everything up and head to my grandparent’s house for the rest of the holiday. We’d have Christmas Eve night at Grandma Lily’s house with the amazing smells throughout the house of all the traditional scandinavian favorites (minus the lutefisk). Christmas morning was with my dad’s parents sneaking down the big staircase to see if I made the nice list that year. Christmas day was spent at a hotel swimming with all my cousins. The family grew too large to fit anyone’s home when I was quite young so a new tradition was created. The intention was the same; time together to laugh and enjoy good food together.
How did my parents do it every year?
With three kids and a minivan for our sleigh they packed Santa gifts into black garbage bags and hid them under the seats. They maneuvered ice-covered roads and snow storms to be together with family. Dad traveled home and back (3 hours of driving) when they realized they’d forgotten to pack the stalkings. They went out of their way to make Christmas at home special no matter where that might have been.
This year my husband and I have Christmas morning in our own home and although we love creating those special memories with our daughter we also value the time with family so we’ll be traveling to spend time with my husband’s family the weekend prior and to be with my family the weekend after. Yes, three weekends of Christmas spectacular celebrations. We might not be able to handle this every year but for this season we make the effort to be together and to enjoy that time. This year will be bittersweet without all of our children but Christmas is about celebrating the ultimate hope that Jesus came to earth as a baby to save us and that simple fact gives me the peace that my babies are having a celebration of their own that is beyond my imagination.
What holiday traditions are you continuing for your family?
Is it worth the hassle to travel to see those you love?
How far have you gone to be with family for the holidays?
Dad would have loved this type of storage for those Santa gifts hidden under the seats of that old minivan!
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