Christmas Memories – Please Share Yours!

Last Friday was our staff Christmas party and the ladies at my table got to talking about what Christmas was like in years past, as children and later on as parents.   We got around to the topic of the cost of Christmas and most of us grew up in rather poor households.  We all agreed that Christmas doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg in order to be enjoyable, even though it seems like parents spend far too much money.

The first Christmas I remember was the year I was eight.  I don’t ever remember believing in Santa Claus.  I remember that my two younger sisters had already been put to bed, and mom and I jingled bells and ate the cookies and milk that had been left out for Santa.   The next Christmas I remember was the year I was eleven. My mom had a new husband and we were a little more stable financially.  My stepfather had a silver Christmas tree with a disc light that was red, yellow, green and blue that shined on the tree to make it appear to be colored differently.  Remember those?

[easyazon-image-link asin="B000Y8EKLI" alt="Color Wheel for Artificial Christmas Trees Early Years" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/517%2BeX4jsvL.jpg" align="center" width="463" height="473"]

I didn’t like the fake tree, much preferring a real tree.  I remember that year my new Grandmother who lived in California sent wrapped presents, and my new little sister who was two years old found the closet with the presents and opened everything!  Mom of course had to rewrap everything.  My frugal Grandma (my mom’s mother) made us slippers almost every Christmas.  She would trace the shape of our foot and asked us for our favorite color.

The year I turned fourteen I remember that I got a cookbook.  A Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. I remember feeling disappointed and cheated, because it was the only gift I got.  But it was what I’d asked for, my mother explained, and she was only able to spend about ten dollars on each of seven children for Christmas. My stepfather worked two jobs just to make ends meet, and there wasn’t a lot left over for Christmas.

[easyazon-image-link asin="0470556862" alt="Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid)" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61ugHa3NjKL.jpg" align="center" width="431" height="500"]

I don’t remember many other Christmases as a youngster.  When I was sixteen my mother sent me to live with a foster family and I felt like Cinderella in that family.  I was made to feel like a burden, and even though I worked full time and handed over my entire paycheck, my mother was still urged to pay “child support”.

As an adult I’ve always been rather frugal at Christmas.  Most years I tried to find something frugal to make to give, until my children were older.  Eventually they began to be more selective.  I realized it was  best to try and buy them exactly what they asked for, than to buy the things I wanted to buy for them.  Now before you get the wrong impression, let me explain that more fully.  You see, even though I was a welfare mother with debt, I managed my money carefully so that I could buy my children most of the toys and things they wanted throughout the year, within reason of course.  As a result, when Christmas came around, they often had only one or two things they really wanted.  I remember one year I tried buying a bunch of gently used toys, but my children really didn’t like them all that much.  Children with Down Syndrome tend to be bluntly honest and if Big A didn’t like something, he expressed his disappointment.  I realized I was spending money on several items that the boys really didn’t care about.  It ended up being more cost effective and less expensive to get them the one or two things they really wanted.  And they were a lot happier as a result, and that made me happy.

This caused me to really examine my motive when giving presents.   To this day, unless I know someone extremely well, I tend to give gift cards, rather than something I choose, because I want the recipient to get what he or she truly desires, not what I think would be ideal.

Nowadays we don’t do much for Christmas.  We have an artificial tree but haven’t put it up in years.  I always plan a nice meal for the day.  I love to wait until Christmas morning to unwrap presents, but my husband can’t wait to give me whatever he’s bought me the minute he gets home with it. :-)

So how were your Christmases growing up?  And now that you are an adult?  Do you go all out, or are you frugal throughout the year?

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10 comments to Christmas Memories – Please Share Yours!

  • Do you still have the cookbook? I have one just like it from 30 years ago!

    I’ve had many wonderful Christmas memories, but the Christmas right after my divorce stands out. My ex would not let me have any of the Christmas decorations and when my new church (a church that frowned on celebrating Christmas — and divorce btw!) learned of that, they all chipped in and got my kids and me an artificial tree, lights, decorations, even a Christmas turkey! But my kids were dismayed that there was no star for the top. I mentioned that to a few families that came to the drop-in day care where I work; and lo and behold, a little boy walked in a few days later with a light-up angel for our tree. His mom took me aside and whispered that it was his treasured night light that he had used every night since he was a baby. I asked him over and over if he really wanted to part with it but he insisted that we needed it more than he did now. I still tear up when I remember him!

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Deborah Collins, awww, that is a sweet Christmas memory. :-) Thank you for sharing with us!

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Deborah Collins, oh I replied but forgot to answer your first question! I don’t think I have it any longer. It could be somewhere around but it was pretty beat up over the years. Your ex was a meany! I’m glad your church pitched in, that was sweet of them to overlook your shortcomings.

    [Reply]

    Deborah Collins Reply:

    @Mrs. Accountability, Thanks, Mrs. A! I hope your new year (and that of your lovely family) is full of joy, good health, and financial stability!

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  • The first Christmas I can remember was our first year in Arabia. I must have been about 2 1/2 or 3 years old.

    There was SO much hype around Santa Claus and Christmas and all those ooooooooooh! PRESENTS we were gonna get up, that I was all wound up like the proverbial top.

    I woke up very, very early, just as dawn was barely cracking, ran out into the living room to see the pile of riches that would be waiting for me, and found…nothing.

    Not one toy, not one candy cane, naught.

    I started to SCREAM LIKE A BANSHEE, wailing and crying and bawling at the top of my very noisy little lungs.

    My parents, who must have thought I’d stuck a fork in a light socket, bolted out of bed and came flying into the living room. When they asked what on earth was the matter, I yowled, “SANTA DIDN’T COME!!!!”

    They were nonplussed.

    They had to explain that today was Christmas Eve. Santa comes at night on Christmas Eve, so the presents would appear tomorrow morning, not today.

    LOL! So I had to wait through yet another endless night of eager anticipation to get the loot.

    Greedy little kid…

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Funny about Money, this is a cute story! I love it! I hope you are writing a memory book for your son. Speaking of which I should do the same for my own children. :-) I guess they can just read our blogs, lol.

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  • We actually went out and cut a christmas tree this year for our 3 year old! Not that he understands much, but we did have fun!

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  • I don’t remember believing in Santa and my Mum told me when I was 3 years old I found the doll she had brought me for Christmas in a closet before the day. I don’t remember but she said I can running into the kitchen and cryed “I don’t want it – it’s got no clothes”. She had brought it like that as it was cheaper and she hand made all the clothes in the days before Christmas. Every year Penny (my doll) got a new outfit for Christmas right up until I was about 14 years old.
    My Mum was a solo parent of 5 kids and she was amazing – Christmas day was the only day in the year when we didn’t have to ask if we could have a biscuit or piece of cake (all home baked and in cake tins). Of cause by the time we had had breakfact, opened our presents and had a big Christmas lunch we never bothered with helping ourselves to biscuits or cakes. Very wise woman my Mum!

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Lisa Clark, that is really neat that your mom made your dolls new outfits every Christmas. I would have loved that. Your mom sounds like a great lady and you are lucky to have her in your life!

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    Lisa Clark Reply:

    @Mrs. Accountability,

    I am very blessed and very thankful!

    [Reply]

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