Well it is nearly here, December 24th, on the west coast, dry weather, temperatures in the low 70s, the Big Sur fire now contained, shoppers finally draining their bank accounts, and above all, it is Christmas Eve.
How many of you remember that day of anticipation, the day that your parents felt was long coming and wished to be over? At my house we could not open any presents until after going to the service at the downtown Cathedral, the one that began at 11 pm and ended about 12:15 am with the singing of Silent Night to candlelight. My feelings were that this was a hardship, a time when we should have been home. not squirming in the pews, waiting to see if we needed to sing all the verses to all those hymns!
Once we got home my father thought, and said so repeatedly, that we should open only one present on Christmas eve, and then the rest once the new day dawned. For many years we each got two presents, mostly homemade. Mom and Dad gave each other a card, Times were hard, but we had a real tree, real decorations outside and in, and good neighbors who came to the front door caroling some nights.
Our various dogs were always willing to joust with the tree while we were at church, but we never had a fallen one. One year, one of our dogs named Edgar, ate an ornament or two, and was miserable for a few days. Friends of my parents who owned cats often told of their little evil pets climbing the tree or doing other nasty things nearby. We were not cat people, and it was as if they were explaining calculus to us.
My dad was sentimental to the point of being morose on Christmas eve, and I never asked him why. We had that "Cat's in the Cradle" relationship immortalized in song, he was and then I was too busy. I held his hand many years later as he lay in the hospital succumbing to cancer. I was about to say something when he asked me to forgive him, for everything.
I could not speak, but I wished I could be there again on that Christmas Eve, to appreciate the church service. and the opening of just one present; the gift of life he gave me.
Merry Christmas Eve Dad.
Maybe some Insiders would like to share their holiday memories? If so, please do here.
I wept when I read this. It makes me think of holidays past, people long gone who are missed. I come from a large extended family. Christmas Eve it was mandatory to be at my mother's parents' house for dinner before the first star came out. As my immediate family were the only ones who actually stayed there (everyone else lived locally), we were the ones to get up before dawn to start the bread making and final preparations. By the time everyone arrived and my grandfather led us in prayers before the nativity set, I was tired. But I was young and didn't understand that all the hard work that goes into this day helps make traditions and memories which last for generations. Long tables were set all around the downstairs of the small house, even snaking through doorways in order to accommodate the 30+ people. Before we started eating but were seated, my grandfather would break the wafer with my grandmother and wish her good tidings, then she would do the same for him. In turn, each patriarch would do this with his own family, and then families would do this with whomever they could reach at the table. One extra place setting was always out, be it for a stranger coming to the door (could it be Jesus?) or for someone who had no place to go. It was a traditional Polish dinner, with many courses served along with hair-pulling and statments to accompany each course (such as when the fish was served, you would pull the person's hair next to you and state in Polish, "Swim, fish, swim!" ). Such fun, to be allowed to actually pull your cousin's hair with permission! Towards the end, the water we were all served was turned into wine (a Catholic ritual) and then it was time to clean up. The unmarried women in the family would stand on the back porch before starting the hand washing of the dishes and beat a stick on the railing, calling out to the neighborhood to send their boys over (to presumably find their mate). While all the cleanup was going on, my grandfather would take out his violin and play all the music he could remember from when he and his brothers had a band. It was a grand time, and what I would give to hear him play just once more.