Search This Blog

Monday, December 14, 2015


This is the first year in recent memory that has me approaching Christmas with my gift-buying complete. Of course, if I don’t get the gifts wrapped and mailed, all my “early” will disappear like last year’s eggnog.

Every Christmas is different--but every one is the same. For me, Christmas is memories of midnight church services with a hundred voices singing Silent Night by candlelight; playing the flute with my mother at the organ; with champagne and fudge at home afterward, celebrating the joy of Christmas. We still welcome Christmas this way, from our candlelight service with Silent Night to gathering with the family afterward.

As I write stories set in the Old West, I think about how our ancestors celebrated Christmas. Alone on a patch of ground, the nearest neighbor a mile or more away, with work that must be done regardless of the holiday, did Christmas become just another day? How did the mother of five add all the holiday baking and decorating and gift making to her already too busy schedule?

Pioneers and soldiers in remote forts decorated their homes with what was at hand: evergreens, pinecones, holly, nuts and berries, popcorn or paper strings, and homemade decorations like dolls made of straw or yarn; cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread men. Women would start their holiday baking weeks ahead of time. Gifts were homemade, things like sachets from the roses, carved wooden toys, embroidered handkerchiefs, and knitted hats, scarves and socks.

In my short story, Her Christmas Wish, my heroine, Katie, kept her family traditions alive by making the special foods of her childhood.

What about you? What traditions do you have that mean Christmas to you?


  1. Tracy, I have enjoyed reading about how people celebrated the season in my research. They made do with what was at hand, and seemed to relish the time spent together. For me, it's more about friendships and connections than gifts, but the gifts are nice. Have a wonderful Christmas. Doris

  2. Tracy,

    When I was growing up, my dad's side of the family always got together Christmas Eve for exchanging presents and a supper of chicken noodle soup, vegetable beef soup, and oyster stew with pies and various finger foods (always this menu). Christmas morning was spent at our individual homes opening gifts from Santa. Then my dad's family would gather again for a ham and turkey dinner with all the fixin's. My mom's side didn't have much in the way of traditions, so hers blended with my dad's when they got married.

    I more or less kept these traditions going for my kids, and now that they are grown with children of their own, we still try to gather on Christmas Eve, but not so much on Christmas Day. It was easier to have these family gatherings when I was a kid, because we all lived within a reasonable distance of each other. Nowadays, it seems that families are spread out all over the place, which makes it hard to spend Christmas with everyone together.

    I've encouraged my children to make their own traditions. I find it interesting that my two sons have taken on many of their wive's traditions, and my daughter has continued the traditions she grew up with in her family.

  3. When I was a child, we always spent Christmas Day with my mother's family. When my grandparents passed, Mother kept the tradition for my two siblings and me. When I married, we spent Christmas Eve with my husband's family and still went to my parents' on Christmas for dinner and gift opening. Now that my parents are gone and I'm alone and my one child has a family of her own, my never married sister usually comes to spend Christmas week with me. On Christmas Eve we go to Communion and then come back to my house and talk until the early morning hours or she gets on my computer to see what I'll be writing next. My only child and her family spend Christmas Eve with her husband's parents. And still on Christmas, as it always was with my family, they and their two children come to my house for a Christmas night dinner and exchanging of gifts. They don't care what I serve except, as he's done for years, my now nineteen-year-old grandson will request my special cream cake and I'll make it for him again this year.

  4. Great post. As children, my brother and sister and I prepared a Christmas Eve program that included the Bible story, reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and singing Christmas carols. Christmas Day it was a big dinner with extended family. I always knew when the food was about ready when the mixer started. It meant they were mashing the potatoes.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

  5. This year will be a bit different for me. We will celebrate by going to church for candle light service like we do every year, but then we will all meet at my daughters home to snack on goodies and open presents. The big difference this year is we won't be having Christmas Eve at my house. I cherish the memories of Christmas' past and am so thankful to have such great memories'. I guess this year I will be making new ones, different ones.

  6. Those are some very warm memories for you, Tracy. My eyes couldn't help attaching to the word Champaign. I would love me some of that.
    My dad and I used to tramp out into the forest to get the live Christmas tree. Pop always like pine because he liked the smell best of all. One year we were cold, hungry, and tired of getting snagged by the blackberry briars, so we chopped the first tree we came to--best one we ever had. Mom was always baking goodies in the kitchen and shopping for everyone's presents. She was very sentimental and loved Christmas. It was never as bright and cheerful after she died. Pop, on the other hand, was a Grinch--he didn't mind the decorating chores so much, but everything else just made him grumpy in a sorta sweet way though. My sister and I were all into it, filled with good cheer and crazy for charities. Sometimes we gave toys to charities we weren't really ready to part with, but we wanted so much to do our part. Great times had by all. I really love those happy memories now.
    Thank you for your special remembrances of Christmas.