Christmas on the farm – the mere words conjure up visions of snow gentling falling while the animals stay warm in the barn quietly eating their hay. Sleigh rides with bells rhythmically jingling as the horses prance along. Warm nights around the fire after working outside in the cold to take care of the animals needs. At our farm, all of the images above are true (well except for the sleigh rides, but we did go sledding) along with a treasure trove of other memories growing up in a multi generational home.
Baking Christmas cookies every year was a key activity and a major operation. Extended family was brought in for the extra hands and we quickly formed an assembly line – baking, frosting, decorating – we did it all. My mother had a large collection of cookie cutters and everyone had their favorite. When favorites were duplicated among family members, we always ended up with quite a few bells, or Santa’s or whatever shape was popular. Mom also had a cookie press, which I was never strong enough or adept enough to use and would just end up with a glop of misshapen cookie dough. Large trays held the cookies for packing up at the end of the night and sharing with all.
Christmas Eve brought a trip to my maternal grandparents house. My mother’s two sisters and their families would arrive and I would dart in and out underneath the maze of people as they arrived, coats flying about and presents being brought in to place under the tree. My grandmother would prepare “stockings” for the grandchildren. Each grandchild had a personalized stocking hung on the mantel, but the presents were not placed in them, but in a ziploc bag – no need to stretch out and potentially harm the treasured stocking. I would rip into the bag and pull out candy, an orange, perhaps a small toy. These were exciting presents, because they were rare the rest of the year. But the best part was the nut bowl – my grandmother always had mixed nuts in their shell out for everyone to enjoy. I would hog the bowl and would spend most of the night trying to get the filberts, hazelnuts and walnuts to give up their meaty fruits inside of the hard shells.
Most years, I would fall asleep on the ride home and was carried in to bed. Awakening in the morning, would bring the realization that Santa had been there. Tearing down the stairs and through the house to the living room, I would see the gentle glow of the lights on the tree and the presents that had appeared overnight, thanks to Santa. I would start making piles of the gifts for each family member, even before they had joined me. Then there I would sit on the floor, waiting for everyone else to get up.
My stocking always held a Lifesaver candy book – it had every flavor of Lifesaver there was. I would savor each roll and it was well into winter before I would finally run out of candy. I would always ask for a Barbie doll, but each year I would get something else (though equally exciting). Until one year, as we sat opening gifts, I tore back the paper and there she was, a ballerina Barbie with a beautiful dress and a crown on her head. I sat stunned and disbelieving, Santa had even left extra beautiful outfits for her. I sat there all day, dressing her and changing her outfits.
The joys of Christmas know no bounds when you are a child – enthralled with all of the magic and wonder. As adults, we should capture and hang on to that innocence and remember that it is the simple things that bring the most happiness. Every once in a while, I still get out my Barbie doll, who is tucked away in my closet, along with all of her clothes and remember…Christmas as a child.