Since it’s Christmas time, let me reminisce about my Christmases.

When I was a little girl, we always traveled to my grandparents’ houses.
My mom and her two daughters stayed at her parents’, my dad stayed at his parents’. Fair is fair. Each set of grandparents wanted his kid home. We would spend Christmas Eve with Dad’s family and Christmas Day with Mom’s family.
There was a lot of food in both places. But no Christmas trees or gifts. My paternal grandparents had lost four of their children the same day when their house collapsed and there wasn’t much joy there. My sister and I were the only kids and we were often afraid to talk loud or laugh.
On Mom’s side, we had a lot of fun, screamed, laughed and played with my aunts who were more like older sisters to me. Hardly three, five, eight,.. years older. But with such a big brood to feed—as I said there was always a lot of food—my grandfather didn’t believe in gifts.
My parents made sure I received a book every year. I kept my ball and jumping rope for years and my sister had her big doll that came straight from Italy. Every year, we both built a manger with brown paper, in the bedroom we shared.

Once I had my own family, things changed to the other extreme. My parents, aunts, and sister lavished my kids with so many presents it was almost disgusting. We didn’t have enough space to store all the toys. I learned to cook and continued the tradition. Christmas Eve at my house and Christmas Day at my parents’.
My in-laws were always included in our gathering that reached forty or fifty people. We all gave gifts to each other. As a result, Christmas became a very expensive endeavor for our young family and brought a good deal of stress, but no one dared suggest a no-gift deal. I have pictures with mountains of boxes near the Christmas tree.
Now that we moved to the rank of grandparents, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations are both held in my apartment with sensible rules. Gifts for the kids only. My mom used to say that she was an old kid and we included her in the list. In addition to my children and grandchildren, we invite any friend who doesn’t have a family nearby. The friends know they should bring a present for the four little ones. It’s such a pleasure to see them opening their presents before supper.
After dinner, the four of them sit on my office couch and watch cartoons. And the parents snatch a few pictures. I have the same picture taken every year and I add it to a big frame. These pictures are my Christmas gift.
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12 comments

  1. Judy // December 20, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

    Mona, such fun to see the progression of pictures as you grew older. Christmas is one of those times when you look back at all the family traditions. My cousins and my brother and sister all lived in the same town but on Xmas Eve we'd always be together, hiding under one of the beds, telling present secrets... Just one of the many good memories...

  2. Beth Trissel // December 20, 2010 at 8:44 AM  

    Lovely post. Wonderful pics.

  3. Mona Risk // December 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM  

    Yes Judy, we keep remembering those good times as the family members get together. This year my mother will be missing.

  4. Mona Risk // December 20, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

    Thank you , Beth. I love the pictures of my little ones on the same couch. It allows me to see how they grow.

  5. Nightingale // December 20, 2010 at 1:59 PM  

    What a tragedy to happen to a family, but sorry it affected your Christmases. But your family traditions sound like real Christmases!

  6. Scarlet Pumpernickel // December 20, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

    What little cuties! You have such lovely grandchildren. Isn't it amazing the difference in our custom and those of our parents and grandparents. My paternal grandparents used to give my mother five dollars to split between the three of us! Now I spend way too much on my granddaughter. This year we have a new little one, but she is only four months, so I didn't go overboard on her. But just wait until next year.

    Merry Christmas everybody!

  7. Joanne // December 20, 2010 at 9:16 PM  

    Mona,
    I loved your holiday family story from beginning to end. Keep up the traditions--they are priceless.

  8. Mary Marvella // December 20, 2010 at 11:57 PM  

    Families are so different. We, also went to grandma Mary's(Mama's Mama) house and to Granny's(Daddy's Mama) house. Granny was poor and her house had no indoor plumbing and we often slept on pallets on the floor.

    My parents always bought groceries for Granny so she could feed us. She usually gave the kids a pair of socks or panties. Mama probably bought those.)

    There was a ton of love in both houses but the years and poverty took a toll on Daddy's mama.

    My granddaddies died before I was born.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Mona Risk // December 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM  

    Nightingale, my grandparents' tragedy aged them by ten years overnight.

  10. Mona Risk // December 21, 2010 at 12:50 PM  

    Scarlet, I agree with you. We spend way too much on toys and Christmas gifts. This year I put restrictive rules. LOL

  11. Mona Risk // December 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

    Thank you Joanne. It's up to me now to keep the torch, so to say, and the family traditions.

  12. Mona Risk // December 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM  

    Mary, isn't beautiful to remember all the love received in spite of harsh conditions?