The true magic of Christmas lingers long after the season ends.
Christmas has always been a special time for my family and me. It is my mother’s favorite holiday, and she always made sure it was a magical time for me growing up. The memories are ones that I am looking forward to continuing with my son once he is a bit older. The best part is none of those memories were about gifts I got. Sure, I enjoyed all of the toys and presents I received throughout the years, but the things that really stick out in my memory were more about decorating, crafting, and giving.
My mom loooves decorating for the holidays. Every year we used to make the pilgrimage to the tree lot to pick out the tree that called out to us the most. Then, we set it up and decorated it with ornaments that we had gathered throughout the years. When I was 10, my mom signed us both up to help with the cleanup of the Great Flood of 1993 in downtown Alton, IL. We were randomly assigned to clean up a store that carried a wide variety of Christmas decorations. The owner told us that everything was a loss, so anything we came across that was salvageable was all ours as a thank you for our help. Needless to say, this was music to our ears, and we left that day with three big trash bags full of drums, nutcrackers, large ornaments, and Santas. Later that year, we got it all back out for Christmas and had more decorations than we had space. Not only did I have a blast pulling them all out, but it also felt good to remember the help and hard work that went into earning them.
We also did a lot of crafting during the holidays. My mom would take me to the library, and I would check out my favorite books called “Christmas is Coming.” They were a set of books that were put out once a year filled with Christmas crafts for kids. I would pick out a handful of options to make each year, and my mom would always have a new type of crafty ornament for us to make, as well. We would make pom-pom milkshakes, plastic canvas creations, beaded candy canes, painted ceramic options, or whatever the hot craft project du jour was. We always made extra to give to friends and family, and those projects still adorn the trees of those people to this day.
My favorite memories from Christmases past are the giving opportunities we participated in. My first memory of this was a year when we volunteered with an organization to drop off the gifts they had collected to the intended families. The next year they had the families come to the organization to get the gifts, so instead, we took angels off of their angel tree and purchased the gifts on them. Getting to pick out the gifts was fun, but having previously seen in person the joy it brought to the families that received them brought the experience to a whole new level and made it one of my favorite holiday traditions all these years later.
At one-year-old, my son is too young to start a lot of these traditions, but that hasn’t stopped me from starting to plan. I have Instagram collections of saved craft, decorating, and cooking ideas all at the ready, not to mention an old copy of “The Best of Christmas is Coming.” However, I’ve already started on the best idea. As a little Thanksgiving gift, my mother-in-law got my son an Advent calendar with tiny little drawers for each day. Once he’s old enough I will fill those drawers with good deeds to do each day. Whether it’s donating canned goods to a food pantry or items to an animal shelter, picking a gift off an angel tree, donating some of his old toys to charity, making cookies for a neighbor, or sending cards to soldiers or a nursing home he’ll have 24 days of giving that will make the gifts he gets on the 25th day that much sweeter. And so will continue the tradition steeped in the magic of Christmas that his Grammy started with his Mama.