Christmases Past.

Maybe I’ve been navel-gazing too much lately. It’s the holiday season, the end of the year, and the coming of winter, and I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff.

What kind of stuff?
Well, since you asked, my mind has been wandering through nostalgic memories of Christmases past.

For most of my childhood and adolescent years, my brother welcomed our big family on Christmas Eve for the annual party. My sister-in-law was a talented and gracious hostess to our large brood, and we always looked forward to the traditions of that night.

We’d all file in and settle into the living room, perching on chairs or whatever horizontal surface was available. The house would be filled to the gills with us. Once the chicken wings and macaroni came out of the oven, we’d make a beeline to the fabulous buffet that always included a variety of tempting desserts, and of course we always ate too much.

My favorite part of the night was the singing. Out would come the caroling song books (handy, especially when singing the third and fourth verses). Sometimes we’d have piano accompaniment, but most of the time it was a cappella with three- or four-part harmonies. It makes my heart swell just to remember it: Mother’s voice was warm and true; my brother’s full baritone added color; Wendy always sang harmony; and sister Rob’s clear, sweet soprano could always reach the highest notes of O Holy Night. The rest of us would fill in around them. The house rang with music — all the songs you can think of, and more. Everyone requested their favorite carol — mine was always We Three Kings of Orient Are; Missy always requested Winter Wonderland. (What’s yours?)

I can’t even begin to describe the joy and love in that moment.

The gifts had to wait until one last tradition — the reading of A Visit From St. Nicholas, (you might know it as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore. Mother would sit and the children would crowd in at her feet. She loved poetry and knew how to read it aloud, engaging her young audience. She knew it by heart, so she just turned the pages to show the kids the pictures. I’m sure my nieces and nephews remember it fondly. I sure do.

Next came the mad scrabble gift exchange. We all know what that’s like – squeals of delight, oohs and aahs, and lots of hugs and thank yous. The din was terrific — my ears would still be ringing the next day. Not long after the last gift was unwrapped, it would be time to go home, tired but happy.

In later years, my young adulthood, sister Wendy hosted the party at her house, but the traditions were much the same. It didn’t matter where the party was or what food was served — the main ingredient was always love.

I hope you all have memories like this, the kind that warm your heart. And I hope you’re all making more memories just like them, whatever your traditions may be. As much as I miss my parents and my sisters, I am eternally grateful for the memories that envelop me this time of year. I am thankful to my brother and sister-in-law for hosting this event for so long. My traditions are quite different now with my own family, but I believe that it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you do it with those you love.

Merry Christmas!



Photo credit Alan Cleaver

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Aging like a fine wine. ;-)

8 thoughts on “Christmases Past.”

  1. Oh, how I wish I could have heard the entire Vant family singing carols at Christmastime! I remember the echoes of your mom and Missy’s voices from church . . .

    Much love to you in this season, my friend.

    1. Thank you, Bobbi.
      I wish I had a video to share. The memories are wonderful and poignant; I get all misty when I think back. To this day, the singing is what touches me the most. Young and old joined their voices in song, and it always felt so good to sing. That is Christmas to me.
      Much love to you and yours this season, as well. xoxoB

  2. I’m navel-gazing too. Tried to write a blog yesterday about Christmas of 2010. Just couldn’t do it.

    Yes, our Vant family had/has something very special. Many people do not have anyone to celebrate Christmas with, and we have (if everyone showed up) dozens of people to fill up rooms and fill buffet tables to overflowing. Poker in the living room, board games in the kitchen. Kids running around swiping cookies when nobody is looking. And the laughs. Oh, the laughs and laughs and laughs.

    Being so far away is painful because there is so much to miss. But at least I have something to miss.

    1. Amen. At least you have something to miss.
      The longer I live, the more I am convinced how lucky I am to be part of this big family. Not perfect by any means, but big and goofy and messy and fun and warm and generous and welcoming. We are lucky to have this group of people who love us no matter what. I wish everyone had that.

  3. This is the hardest time of year to ‘move on’. Living here as I do I am surrounded daily, hourly, of Christmases past. It is both heartwarming and painful. I, too, am glad for the memories to remember and it is the singing which I miss the most after the people themselves. I feel badly for those with no memories. Or with bad ones. Mine were all good. Merry Christmas!

    1. I agree it is bittersweet. Can’t begin to say how much love is in that house, soaked into the very structure. It was built with love and rebuilt from love, so how could it be inhabited with anything else? I am grateful for the love of our parents who built the house and the family and the legacy that lives on. xoxoB

    1. Mahalo, and Mele Kalikimaka to you! Here’s hoping the lava takes a rest and that life in Pahoa gets back to normal – your new normal in the land where palm trees sway! Hugs! xoxoB

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