Christmas Eve has always been a magical time for me. It is time spent with family – the most wonderful gifts of all. The coming together, sharing food, good times, laughs – even the cold weather makes it a special time. The cold outside makes the warmth inside even cozier.
When we were young Christmas Eve was spent with my paternal grandparents and Christmas Day with my mother’s parents. The little house in the St. Joe area of Marion County was filled to the brim with aunts, uncles, cousins, and various other assorted relatives and friends. I’m not sure how we all managed to fit in. But it didn’t really matter how crowded – we were too happy being together. Smells of delicious food slowly wafted through all the rooms and everyone was excited when it was time to eat. I’ll never forget the year my aunt bought matching nightgowns for all the girl cousins – and, yes, we all put them on for the rest of the evening!
December 21, 1962, my sister was born. We stayed at home that Christmas Eve. My mom’s sister came bearing gifts for the shut-ins. She surprised me with a special gift – a bridal gown and veil she made for me! It fit perfectly and I thought it a most wonderful gift.
In later years, when my grandparents were older, Christmas Eve was spent at home, with mom and dad. Just our family. We opened presents from each other, ate and enjoyed our time together. As boyfriends became husbands, and eventually grandchildren came along, our group became larger; it reminded me more of the Christmas Eve at my grandparents. After my dad died in 1986 we still went to moms for Christmas Eve. She and my younger brother and sister came to my home for Christmas Day. The house was lonely without dad.
I learned the joy of going to Midnight Mass long ago, when as a very young child we attended the services at St. Augustine Church in Lebanon. We sat in one of the front pews. The stable, with the manger and all the nativity figures, was right in front of us. I couldn’t take my eyes off such a lovely scene. All at once the church was pitch black. Then only the nativity lights came on, and from the balcony the sounds of Silent Night came from the organ. I have held that memory in my heart for a very long time – and it has not diminished in any way.
After coming home from moms on Christmas Eve, we took our children to Midnight Mass. One night after getting the two little ones in bed, we brought their gifts down from the attic – not remembering how many had to be assembled! It was long past 4:00 a.m. before we were in bed!
Now that mom has passed on, Christmas Eve is spent at my house. Last year was the first for our grandson, Julian. It was fun, but this year will be even more so. He loves the tree and all the decorations – especially all the santas and owls. And he stands with eyes wide looking at Ritchey’s village with lighted windows and blinking lights on the tiny trees.
Time has marched on from my early years when I went to my grandparents for Christmas Eve to my grandson coming to my house. Instead of the grandchild I am the grandmother. How did this happen so quickly? The years have flown by. Many, many memories are tucked into the recesses of my heart, but there is still room for more! It’s a lot like genealogy – one more ancestor to hold in your heart!