Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Christmas Meme

This little meme was passing around some of my favorite blogs yesterday, with invitations to join in, so I am doing so as soon as chance has offered! It's been fascinating to learn about everyone's Christmas memories and predilections...I'd love to read more so if you like, please write yours, too!

So here we go:

Eggnog or hot chocolate? Real egg nog for Christmas parties, but hot chocolate all winter long, as a special afternoon treat. I love how egg nog tastes like luscious liquid custard but it seems to like me too much, attaching itself to me permanently around the hip area, so I try for just small sips. Sometimes that tactic is successful...

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? This is hard. Santa used to, and will a little bit this year, but all things considered I'd prefer St. Nicholas on December 6, with little treats left in shoes. Christmas is for celebrating the Nativity.

3. Colored lights on the tree/house or white?Ah, now you've hit a bone of contention! I like white lights, or honking big old colored bulbs, which we do not own. I wonder if I could beg my dad for his old set? He built his own dimmer, which back in the sixties required some mighty interesting wiring hidden in a 12x12 inch wooden box. It's probably not safe, but the cool factor is very high. My husband prefers little colored lights. Our solution, like so many we have come up with, is to treat each other, with some years for white lights and some years for little colored lights. This year is a colored-light year. My ultimate wish? Real candles Christmas Eve, like the gentleman who writes a Passion for the Past.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? We have once or twice. It grows here in Kentucky and in the depths of winter when the oaks and locusts are bare, it's a welcome bit of green high up in the trees. People used to shoot it down from branches and sell it, my husband's father says. Oh my, I just looked out the back windows and it's snowing pretty heavily and someone is running a saw. A holiday sound I associate with cutting firewood but I fear it's someone cutting branches that came down in yesterday's nasty winter winds. Did you all get wonked with them too?

5. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? My wonderful sweet understanding mother decorated the mantels with greenery and a snowman and the creche, and the corner cupboard and hutch earlier this week, and put up a fragrant wreath on our door while I helped to keep 20 little fingers to themselves. The tree? We go late, as in this coming weekend, but leave the tree up ostensibly until Twelfth Night, and sometimes after. We sigh when all the light and color fade to January's cold gray.

6. Favorite holiday dish? Sarah Jane, I hear you! My favorite moment is just before I bite into my first Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, when all the memories of how it tasted years past flood over me. The anticipation is rarely disappointed.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? There are many. Like the brrr-cold afternoon in our snug spot in Ithaca, behind foot-thick walls, making cutout cookies while snow squalls and the sun played king of the mountain outdoors. It was glorious. What a happy, minute little kitchen, with just one counter, 20-inch wide stove, and great big double white sink, all of it in powdered steel, built for the ages, and the window overlooking the wooded hillside behind us.

Or making a draft-cutter, a fabric tube stuffed with rice to stuff at the crack under the front door, with baby Noah in my lap, watching me turn the hand-crank sewing machine I'd set up on the coffee table in front of the fire.

Or the slow, snowy drives on barely plowed roads from Ithaca to Newark Valley to visit Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ken. Their den in the back, papered in browns, with a little tree next to the French door, and snow over the terrace out back, one wall all book shelves, and us all stuffed in there, adults talking, us wee bits just snuggling and listening, while their big fat kitty alternately froze her nose, pressed to old glass panes, the kind that weeps and grows paper thin at the top of each pane, at a window in the dining room, and heated her paws and tummy on the radiator. How I wanted to pet her, but she was Uncle Ken's devoted friend, not mine...

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? You know, I haven't a clue!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't; our minds change about this like the weather, or maybe we simply forget to think about it.

10. How do you decorate a tree? When I was very little, we lived in Schwabia, part of southern Germany, and my tastes were set there. Our tree sometimes has had popcorn strand garlands (probably not German style, except in the garlanding sense), sometimes gingerbread men strung on red yarn,  always the carolers with wooden painted heads, and little drums and little stuffed hearts made of a dark red velvet like you see in Europe, not the bright scarlet we use over here, trimmed with old-gold gimp. Mom made them while in bed with the bad flu that hit Europe in when, 1967?

When I grew up, my sister and I shared digs, and we had no money for a tree at first, so we put a begged branch in a bucket one year, and tied the round sticky husks from sweet gum trees to it. Then every year after we made a few ornaments, as like to those we grew up with as possible.

Today the trees is a memory of the kind I grew up with, with some wooden ornaments received as gifts, a few red balls, always pinecones with similar red velvet bows tied at the top, my paper Sugarplum fairies and princes that I painted, and a few precious vintage blown glass ornaments, and a red velvet bow at the treetop. For a year or two I had a material moment and bought a lot more ornaments but each year they've grown fewer again. And that's it, until the boys' little ornaments join them.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I love snow, so long as you can play in it! When the boys get old enough, I hope we can sled and sled and sled and skate and ski and build forts and get blue lips with the cold, if I have the fortitude. And if we have the snow. Kentucky is fickle.

12. Can you ice skate? Yup, and still have my skates, but it's been way too long and I am sure they are dry-rotted. I think there's a rink here but it's indoors and frankly I prefer a (safe) pond or outdoor rink.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Golly, no I don't. There have been some sweet ones over the years, and I loved how my (then to be) husband gave me a real cashmere sweater and a winter coat the first year we dated. What an amazingly kind treat that was for a struggling graduate student holding down two jobs. We have since reined in extravagant giving.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you? Attending Christmas Eve service. It never fails to bring me such peace, especially the late service. That and being near family, my own and my husband's. His family is warmer than buttered toast with honey and being there in all the chaos of children and phalanxes of ham and ambrosia and transparent pie and red velvet cake and baked beans and green beans and country ham and warm rolls and that green molded salad with the pecans and Derby pie, with a chance to run outside on the farm if it's warm enough and to watch the boys take it all in.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Ambrosia. Hands down. Citrus and whipped cream!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Christmas Eve service, again, hands down. That is the essence and high point of the entire season.

17. What tops your tree? That dark red velvet bow, hand-tied and never straight. I can't tie well that high up and it's friendler that way, anyhow.

18. Which do you prefer-Giving or Receiving? Oh dear. I have a problem with the gift part of things. I love to give something which brings joy, but I get very stressed about all the shopping, and resentful about our culture's pressure to buy buy buy. I wish we drew straws with one gift for each person. That's why Santa Claus is not emphasized here, and the boys will receive a few special toys and books and needful things, but not reams of stuff.

19. Favorite Christmas song? Riu Riu Chiu, a Renaissance madrigal. Joyous and intricate!

20. Candy Canes-Yuck or Yum? One for old-time's sake. Where oh where did the pastel-colored cream mints and the ribbon candy go?

21. Favorite Christmas show? Growing up we used to like It's a Wonderful Life and Charlie Brown Christmas, but our 1980s-era TV is turned off except for the occasional football game. (Go SEC!) I prefer radio programs! I can't wait for the caroling ones to arrive.

22. Saddest Christmas song? There's an ancient lullaby about King Herod's horrible jealousy and the slaying of the innocents that has a tune to make you weep and lyrics to make a mother cry. Why they made it a lullaby I cannot fathom...but then, darkness and tragedy were a lot closer to Western daily life prior to the 20th century. Let's be thankful for the peace some nations have and pray that it finds its way to other nations still in the dark!

So there you are! A merry Christmas to you. May it bring contentment and joy and thoughtfulness.


Sarah Jane said...

I grew warm and happy just reading about your Christmas memories and traditions. You have a beautiful way with words that paints pictures in my mind.

Oh dear, the song you mentioned in your last answer sounds so terrible and tragic! I praise God my wee ones are safe and snug with me. . .how many other mothers have suffered the loss of their dear little ones. I feel so very blessed.

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Sarah Jane,
And I did reading yours! I hope you make Mexican Wedding Cakes this year. My mother promised to make a little batch for us and naturally the anticipation is building already.

Hoping you hug your tots happily this evening, as I did mine. The tub this evening became a garbage truck which they drove to Mamaw and Papaw's house, the faucet being the steering wheel. A while later the same faucet was an ice cream dispenser, blueberry the most popular flavor. That faucet sure has imagination, eh? No more than the twins'!
Natalie in Kentucky, where it's getting really cold again tonight

Dea-chan said...

I know this is years later - but the "saddest christmas song" that you described with herod slaying babies, etc. - I think that's Coventry Carol.

ZipZip said...

Dear Dea-chan,

Ah, is that the name. It has haunted me over the years, the more so now as I am the mother of boys...

Thanks kindly,