A Christmas Tag

Thursday, December 18, 2008

{circa 1979: I'm on the left}
{circa 1983ish: I'm in the back, on the left}

From my friend Stacy, who's blog Christmas playlist is playing happily in my headphones this very minute. Thanks, Stacy!!

1. Do you like Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? I have TRIED to love eggnog.... It sounds so charming and seasonal... but nope. Can't do it. I am a hot chocolate girl, all the way. Joe is a hot chocolate junkie even more than I am, if possible!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree? Growing up, we'd come to the living room to an array of unwrapped Santa gifts... but Santa also wrapped a few. Oh, how I LOVED getting my first glimpse of that dimly-magically lit living room that seemed overflowing with new gifts that appeared overnight. When in actuality, I KNOW that "Santa" usually had very little to work with.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I am a traditionalist and want white lights on the tree. They are meant to represent the candles of old, and I like it that way. Outside, I am fine with a mix of color and white. I would probably just do white to keep it easy, but I LOVE seeing what other households come up with.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but I love the tradition. I just don't make the effort to go find some.

5. When do you put up your decorations? Growing up, we had a decorating binge the weekend of Thanksgiving. I love that, and will likely move toward that as my own family grows... For now, though, we get started the first or second week of December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Ooh... good one! I really don't have a FAVORITE... I just love holiday food!! Our family always does a buffet-style Christmas luncheon, with turkey, ham, various side dishes, and lots of Christmas goodies. I love that. Does that count?

7. What is your favorite Holiday memory as a child? Oh, where do I begin? My heart just swelled WIDE open with that question. I deeply cherish my Christmas memories with my family. All of my crazy siblings, always in a too-small house with pets and noise and laughter and the Spirit and joy.... The countless hours my mother put into making so many of our gifts.... I think, perhaps, (and not to take yours, Stacy), my true favorite might have to be our Cabbage Patch year, as well. It was the mid-eighties. I was eight or nine, and Cabbage Patch Kids were IT. The IT toy. But in a home of six kids (five of which were daughters), with a grad-student dad, how could Santa possibly make all those little girls' Cabbage Patch dreams come true? Add to that the Care Bears fad, and, well... Santa had his hands full with our lists.
Yet, come Christmas morning, lined up on the couch, right next to our full stockings, were five Cabbage Patch Kids. ....AND five Care Bears. Each totally unique, each tailored to us as individuals. Each with a completed birth certificate and a sweet little outfit.

But HOW?

My mom MADE every last one of them. MADE them. Clothes. Dolls. Bears. Birth Certificates. She named them, prepared them, set them out... and we, all of us, got the Christmas of our young dreams. I still remember my doll's name: Bethany Lynn.

And yet-- this is but ONE of a million similar memories-- of countless nights of work after we were all tucked in bed... countless hours of care and love crafted into our presents.

I am so humbled by all of it.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Growing up, we didn't. But Joe's family opens pajama pants on Christmas eve, and I LOVE that tradition, so we are totally doing the same.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? We have a hodge-podge of homemade and storebought ornaments, so our tree looks homey, cozy, loved, and timeless. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way. No theme trees for me here... no way. Not for our main tree.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I LOVE the first few times. I yearn for true White Christmases, yet have only had a couple. I love sledding. I love snow angels. I love it all. I just get tired of it after a while....especially if it is a small covering of dingy, old stuff.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I think that one of the best things about my Christmases is that it ISN'T about the presents. So I actually don't have a FAVORITE that stands out above the rest. Growing up, my parents set a very limited budget for each of us-- never more than $40 a child... And so we never had massive piles of fun things... Or even one BIG gift worth a lot of money. So a lot of my gifts over the years have blended into other years' memories. And frankly, I love the idea of a small Christmas, present-wise. This year, Joe and I each got each other two things. Totalling $30 apiece. And I am happy as a clam.

14. What is the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Finding that wellspring of JOY that floods my heart at the most unexpected times throughout the season. Joy that comes from grasping, even for a second, the truth and real reason for Christmas. Catching hold of that feeling and praying so hard that I can keep it. Which of course, I never can. So I relish it while it lasts, then begin seeking it out again. And again. All through the season. And I hope that I can bring some good into the universe as a result of feeling those deep and true feelings. This video, today, brought this elusive feeling I am trying to explain to you.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Fudge. Cream cheese mints. Sugar Cookies. Truffles. Okay, all of them. YUMMMM!!!!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? My family's Christmas Eve: first, a dinner of KFC. (Don't ask. It's weird.) Then piling in the car and driving to our favorite neighborhoods to look at lights, taking turns choosing the next Christmas song we'll all sing. All of us, singing in harmony, old hymns, family favorites, cheesy kid ones, etc. Then coming back home, piling into the family room in our pj's and watching Scrooge while eating cookies and drinking hot cocoa... Then all of us sleeping in the same room so no one can sneak out to go peek at the presents any earlier than the rest of us. (I was one of the guilty ones!)

And look--- We still do this!! {photo circa 2006:}

17. What tops your tree? A tin angel with maribou feathers rimming her skirt hem. She's cute!

18. Which do you prefer, giving gifts or receiving them?
Oh, I have come to ADORE finding/preparing/pondering the perfect gift for the people I love . I LOVE giving gifts. I wish I had all the money or time it would take to give everyone I know a hand-picked or handmade gift. I love that feeling!

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? I'd say "O Holy Night".... but.... lately... the Latin song "O Magnum Mysterium" has come back into my life, and it is deeply moving to me. I got to sing this incredibly beautiful song in college, and the whole choir always ended up so emotional towards the end of it, as the chords crescendo'ed, that we all secretly hoped the person next to us was going to be strong enough to keep singing while we all quietly choked up.
The song is about the animals in the stable... and what a great and powerful mystery that the god of all should be born among animals. It is such a pure song. And last year, in particular, after finding the song on iTunes after years without it, I would not listen to it without bawling, as I held my newborn baby boy and truly GOT it, for the first time. UNDERSTOOD this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes... So... there. That is my favorite.
(here, an unexpected school choir does it justice.)
(or if the school auditorium annoys you, the formal recording.)
(Personally, I was moved, once again, by watching this teeny Filipino choir make GORGEOUS music out of nothing. Made me miss it all over again.)

20. Candy Canes? Sure! Best when added into peppermint bark.

21. Do you feel Christmas is too commercialized? Yes, I do. But if even the commercialized version bring people to a period of giving, kindness and thoughtfulness, then I say, it is still worth having. I just hope that we can all, individually, try to nudge the worldliness away a bit and try to simplify and dignify the true holiday. And keep trying more and more each year.

22. Favorite Christmas movie? Mr. Krueger's Christmas, with Jimmy Stewart. Oh, I love so MANY of the classics! It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Scrooge, Meet Me in St. Louis (hey, it has Christmas IN it!)... But that little 25 minute film Mr. Krueger's Christmas gets me EVERY time. I love Jimmy Stewart.

And there you have it! Oh, this whole things has been good for my heart tonight. Thanks for reading the whole, sappy thing. And if you actually took time with those links, thank you even more. (If you didn't, well, I completely understand! I have been guilty of the same!)

Anyway.... I won't tag specific people.... it's too busy a week for that kind of pressure... but if you want a little burst of Christmas cheer, I dare you to fill out your own Christmas Tag!


  1. Beautiful post Emily. You teared up writing it and I teared up reading it. Those are exactly the kind of memories I hope to provide my children.

    Oh, and that 1979 pic of you...Noah, TOTALLY! He looks just like you (you lucky dog...or is he the lucky one?!?)

  2. It makes me wish I had a lot of brothers and sisters! :) I love that everyone's Christmases were never the big things always the little things! :) I agree with Andrea...Noah does look just like you! :)

  3. Um, are we the same person? We totally had that Cabbage Patch doll/Care Bear Christmas too! In fact, I still have both of them. I am constantly in awe at what mommies come up with to make their children's Christmas better, even when there isn't enough money to go buy amazing things.

    Also, Mr. Krueger's Christmas is my favorite too. Such an amazing movie.

  4. I was hoping you'd do this! I did this tag on my 'meme blog' WAY before Christmas (even way before Thanksgiving...) because I was trying to cheer myself up--it worked!!

    OHEMILY!! I totally forgot about the CREAM CHEESE MINTS!!! Oh good HEAVENS those are fantastic. Once you gave me about a hundred and I ate them in a very short period of time.

    And bless you for mentioning Meet Me in St. Louis. I don't care if there's only a few Christmas scenes, dangit, that's a Christmas movie! I'm inspired to play it tonight. :)

  5. Emily~in Japan KFC is the big thing at Christmas, though they don't celebrate "Christmas." They like the decorations and the gift giving but there is no meaning behind it. One guy said that Christmas was time to spend with his girlfriend before he was forced into family time for the week of New Year that they celebrate. But the Colonel gets a santa hat and the lines are long on the 25th. Now, I wonder what your weird story is??
    I love the pictures and the stories behind them. Thank you for sharing more bits of your life with us!

  6. I'm so glad you did this. I knew you would be the nostalgic, thoughtful type that would put everything into it. I listened to the whole song and loved it. I have so many memories from beautiful Christmas songs sung in choirs throughout the years. The fondest is this version of "Once in Royal David's City" written by my highschool choir director. I have also sung it in choirs since then. I'm actually singing it as a solo in church on Sunday with a few adjustments, hope this link works and you can hear a version of it:
    Thanks for sharing, it was touching as always :)

  7. re: eggnog - I have a good alternative (Mom and Dad are going to look for it at Gerbes this afternoon) if you just have to have something eggy and noggy - "holiday custard" - it's seriously like drinking pudding. Yummy (but hot cocoa is still the best...

    As the first sister to comment, I just have to say thanks for capturing the essence of our family childhood Christmases (sp?) My Cabbage Patch kid was Elizabeth Ann (and she got a brother a couple of years later, Evan Bradley)

    But I also love that you are creating your own sets of traditions as well...

    And I am glad we get to spend some time together this week - see you soon!

    Love you,

  8. You're amazing :)...and apparently your mom too!


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