Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Tag Archives: I Love Christmas

Why I Heart Christmas: The Sibling Edition

If you missed Part I of this four-part post, “Why I Heart Christmas: A Little Background”, click here.

Today’s post is somewhat a tribute to my siblings. The fond memories I have surrounding this time of year and the Christmas season are in large part to my siblings. Excitement from one child spreads to another like Chicken Pox before the wide-spread use of its vaccine. Being the oldest of five children (with seventeen years between us), I enjoyed the holiday as a child with a couple of my siblings and helped generate the fun for the younger two when I was a teen.

Do you remember when the original Nintendo Entertainment System came out? I’m not talking about the Wii. Or even the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m talking about the old school, gray, red, and white console with the simple controllers (up/down/right/left, start, select, A and B buttons). We had gone to a friend’s house and their son had one. He let us play a few games and we were enthralled. We begged for one for Christmas. My father (who doesn’t appear to be, but really is a big softy) told us that it was way too expensive and there was absolutely no way that we could afford one. We believed him. So we didn’t expect it. But, at what I believe to be the first of many Christmas scavenger hunts, my father revealed that he did indeed purchase the gaming system for us. I believe that my reaction to that gift is the most excited I’ve ever been to any gift I have received. I jumped up and down screaming, “Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy! Thank you daddy!” over and over and over and over. There’s even an embarrassing video of it. I’m surprised my parents didn’t show it at my wedding. My sister jumped alongside me with a smile as wide as mine. My younger brother was excited too, he was just too young to really know what was going on. We played that thing until we couldn’t blow on the cartridges and console any longer to get it to work. We thought Excite Bike was the coolest game ever. Duck Hunt was so much fun. We beat Mario Brothers many times over. And I have never forgotten how excited and surprised I was.

Speaking of scavenger hunts, I don’t remember a Christmas without one. There were good scavenger hunts and bad ones. Typically, a scavenger hunt would consist of a series of bad poem-clues written by my father that eventually led us to our “big” present for the year. There have been several variations of the scavenger hunts over the years, like the year that my baby brother was born a few days before Christmas and all dad did was hot/cold. Or, the year dad decided to do a “trust walk” in which our younger siblings had to be blindfolded as the older “grown up” siblings led them to their gift (side note: my younger sister Hannah picked me that time and instead of leading her to her gift, I led her to my husband who jumped out from behind the door and scared the crap out of her – good times). Or a few years ago, when my brother Matt got so confused that he thought the clue was at the mailbox at the end of our cul-de-sac so he ran out into the cold in his pajamas to look for it and found that he was wrong. Regardless of the variation, they were always fun. We always laugh a lot during scavenger hunts, whether we’re the ones scavenging the gift, or just watching the hunt take place. Now that we’re all grown up or almost grown up, scavenger hunts don’t carry the same excitement as they did when we were kids. As we age and start our own families and traditions, perhaps we will pass the fun along to our children.

I think my brother Dan gets excited about Christmas as much as I do. At least when he was four he did. He wasn’t reading yet, but he knew that his name started with a “D”. Because he was so excited, he decided he would open up his Christmas presents early that year, without any of us knowing. However, he didn’t just open his presents. He found all the presents with “D” names, which means that he opened all the presents for “Dad”, “Debbie” (my mom’s first name) and “Daniel”. A few days later, I was changing the sheets on my bed when I found the CD that I had purchased for my dad under my mattress. “Weird. I thought I wrapped that and put that under the tree already.” As I continued my task, I found the stash. Apparently my brother’s act had caused him such great guilt that he decided to hide all the opened presents under my bed. Being the good big sister that I was, I ran upstairs, “MOM! DAN OPENED ALL THE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!” He tearfully confessed and on Christmas morning he didn’t have any beautiful presents under the tree – they were all inside of paper grocery bags.

Then there was the year that Dad reluctantly brought home a wild German Shepherd puppy a few days before Christmas. His co-workers had found the abandoned litter near their work station. We argued over what name he should have. We had decided to use a Bible name, since he was a Christmas puppy. However, we hadn’t agreed on a name yet. I don’t remember what the other name options were. I will forever remember this puppy as “Joseph”, which was my choice. For two painful days, mom and dad worked to house train the pup. On Christmas Eve, after cleaning up the mess that puppies leave, my mom tied him up in our back yard. We left for our family Christmas activities. Upon returning home, “Joseph” was gone. Not only had he found a way to untie himself, but he also found a way out of the fenced-in yard. My mother, feeling terrible, loaded us back into the car to search the neighborhood for our puppy. For thirty minutes or so, we slowly drove the streets calling out the various name options. Sadly, “Joseph” was never seen or heard from again. I dreamed that he went back home to his litter, was reunited with his mother, and roamed the streets like Benji, visiting various people who randomly fed him. However, I’m much more realistic now. He probably either got hit by a car (we lived near the highway) or got picked up by Animal Control. If he was lucky, he was adopted out and lived a long and happy life with a family who loved him. We can only hope.

Finally, there was the year my brother received an electronic fire truck toy from one of our relatives at our Christmas Eve festivities. He loved that truck. Secretly, my sister and I did too. It was the stuff annoying toys are made of, bright lights and loud “waaa waaa waaa waaa” siren sounds. If my parents had not been tired and had a little more foresight they would have hidden that toy away for all eternity. To their credit (or discredit, I’m still not sure), they let my brother sleep with it. The next morning, after rising at 5 a.m. as we typically did on Christmas morning, we discovered and emptied our stockings. When we got tired of that after a few minutes, we worked very hard to wake mom and dad. They would not rise. Me, being the genius child I was had the brilliant idea to use the toy firetruck. It worked. But mom and dad were not pleased. We couldn’t understand why. Fast forward 25-ish years. I understand why now. What I don’t understand is how my mom didn’t pick up that stupid firetruck and attempt to shatter it into a million pieces by throwing it against the wall. Or why my father was able to pretend that he couldn’t hear it and keep snoring. Or how my mom didn’t get up and duct tape us all to the wall. Or how my father kept his cool and calmly told us to go back to bed. Three times. Amazing people, my parents.

So many memories. So much fun. But only because my family is so great. These instances were just a few in the string of many that solidified the strong relationships we have with one another to this day. But as children often do, we grew. We left for college. We married. We started having children. We started making new memories.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some of my favorite Christmas memories I share with Hubs. He’s a great guy. So, if you haven’t tired of my Christmas ponderings, come back for another dose of holiday cheer.

How have your siblings affected your holiday memories?

Why I Heart Christmas: A Little Background

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite holiday. Today’s post is the first of four that will outline some of my fondest memories of the holiday.

So, sit back. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of eggnog. And take a walk with me in my Winter Wonderland, delusional as it may be. Just an FYI, I’ll be watching The Secret Santa episode of the Office, from Season 2 via Netflix. So, if there are any “That’s what she said” references, you’ll know why.

I’ll admit it, I’m a Black Friday junkie. For the last two Thanksgivings, I have stayed up all night to get some deal or another on Black Friday. My family has been doing Black Friday sales since I was a kid. This year, I drug my family out to stand in line all night to help me purchase gifts for my girls. My parents, as grandparents, are just big pushovers. They’ll do anything for their grandchildren AND my dad can’t resist a good deal. While some people abhor Black Friday, I find it fun. I may have to go to a Support Group for it in the future.

But that’s not why Christmas is my favorite holiday. There are some much more significant reasons why I love Christmas. Of course, the most obvious reason I love Christmas is because it celebrates the birth of my Savior and God’s incredible grace to a dying people. That is why I celebrate Christmas. But I also have so many warm and fond memories associated with this time of the year that make it the best for me.

I have two favorite Christmas songs. One is “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney and the Wings.

I remember sitting in the car on Christmas Eve, waiting for my mom to finish loading all the holiday goodies so that we could begin the festivities at my Grandparents’ home. The radio was playing Christmas music, of course, and this song came on. I remember being so excited (because I still believed in Santa Claus then). Christmas was about to start! All the anticipation that had been building for weeks in my child mind was about to pay dividends. I listened to the song, loving the electronic sounds, the British accents, the children singing “ding dong ding dong”. It’s a good song. Now, every time I hear that song I can’t help but smile. The song embodies all the anticipation and excitement of Christmas for me. I once told my husband that I equated his coming home from Iraq to the anticipation and excitement of Christmas morning when I was a kid. It’s just a great feeling.

My other favorite song, in case you were wondering, is “Sleigh Ride” by Boston Pops Orchestra.

No real memory associated with this song, I just like it a lot. And it can’t be any other version of these songs, it has to be the songs by these artists, or it doesn’t count in my book. Christmas doesn’t start for me until I hear both of these songs. I used to listen to the radio waiting with baited breath to hear either or both of these songs. Now that there’s such a thing as youtube and itunes, Christmas can start whenever I want, even in July.

I ALWAYS helped Mom put up the tree. Many ornaments held special meaning for her, which meant they held special meaning for me as well. Even this year, when I put up my tree, there are a few ornaments that make me think of people, places, and times throughout the years. One ornament we hung on the tree this year was given to us by a little girl who was a friend of my niece’s (our niece lived with us for a few months). She came from a somewhat troubled family who was in a difficult situation. While the ornament itself isn’t anything special, I remember hanging it on my tree last year thinking that I would always remember who gave it to us. I would hold on to it and say a prayer for their family every time I pulled it out of the box (because we weren’t the sort of friends who would keep in touch). When I hung it on the tree this year, I thought of her. Each time Lil’ Linus pulls it off the tree and I return it to a naked branch, I say a little prayer. There’s one ornament left that Hubs and I gave as gifts at our wedding. I have a few ornaments from my childhood. I have a strange knack for remembering the people associated with certain things (like I can almost tell you who gave us all of the wedding gifts that we still own). And so it is with the ornaments on my tree.

When I was a child, my family had many Christmas traditions. Both sides of my family lived in town, so Christmas often began as early as the 23rd (I have two siblings who have birthdays very close to Christmas). On Christmas Eve, mom’s side went to the Candlelight Communion service. After, we went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a light dinner and gifts. Grandpa often gave a speech. We took turns opening our gifts.

Then we went home (and sometimes we fell asleep in the car). “Santa” needed us to go to bed so he could visit. Mom and Dad would put our stockings out. My sister and I were joking about this the other day. Now that we’re parents ourselves, we understand that this was more of a survival technique. IF When we got up too early, we were only allowed to play with what was in our stockings. This allowed Mom and Dad AT LEAST thirty more minutes of sleep.

Mom always made cinnamon rolls from the tube (i.e. Pillsbury). That was the only time of year that we got to eat them. So they were always a special treat.

After Dad finished his morning run, we opened our gifts. We usually wore some new article of clothing we had received. Then we took the twenty minute drive to Dad’s side of the family, where we opened more presents. After a huge feast, we’d either take a nap or take a walk. Then we’d head back over to Mom’s side of the family just to say “Merry Christmas!” and snack some more.

There were other traditions thrown in here and there. My dad reads the Christmas story from the Bible before we open gifts. One year we went around Grandma and Grandpa’s neighborhood and sang Christmas carols to all their neighbors. We did that for several years. After presents on dad’s side, we went bowling a few years in a row. Then there were a few years where we all went to a movie.

Christmas has always been a time of celebration and family togetherness. I’m sure there was drama here and there. But I was unaware of it as a child. Christmas was (and still is) a magical time for me.

Mom and Dad made sure we understood why we celebrated Christmas. They gave us the best gift a parent can give their child; they gave us the gift of truth. That a perfect and holy God became a tiny baby, was born under inauspicious circumstances, and came out of love to save the world he created.

Come back tomorrow to hear more about Christmas with my siblings (I have two brothers and two sisters).

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