Family Christmas Traditions

This season I have been reflecting on childhood, holiday memories. Following my father’s death in November, I am the sole survivor of our nuclear family. It’s a sobering experience to become the lone repository of the jokes, stories, mores, values, and traditions that made us . . . US.

The holidays began with the selection of the perfect tree. We set out in our Ford Fairlane Station Wagon like characters from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The experience always mutated into a scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Next came the decorating of the tree with the bald spot facing the wall. School-made ornaments made priceless by our hands adorned the branches. Trains of tinsel along with strings of popcorn and cranberries girdled the tree.

Our father worked as an executive with Sears-Roebuck on Ponce de Leon, and it turned out that Santa used the Sears’ catalog as well. My sister and I spent countless hours dogearing pages and circling gifts in The Wish Book for the Jolly Old Elf’s attention.

Each December we piled into the car to view the neighborhood Christmas lights. The short ride typically ended with the children squabbling while our parents scolded, “Don’t make me come back there!”

On Christmas Eve, stockings were hung by the chimney with care. We prepared a note to accompany Santa’s midnight snack of milk and cookies. Then we settled into bed while visions of sugarplums toys danced in our heads.

Christmas morning dawned bright with wonder. When we opened the door to the living room, it felt like a Polar Express had magically transported us to the North Pole. We fell asleep exhausted that night, already anticipating the next Christmas a long year away.

We cannot travel back into the past. However, we can make memories with our loved ones in the present. May God grant all of us a grace-filled Advent and Christmas season, full of laughter, love, and joy.  

5 thoughts on “Family Christmas Traditions

  1. As Bob Hope used to sing at the end of each of his shows, “Thanks for the memories!” I know it has been a hard couple of months for you with your Dad’s passing as well as Glenn’s, but I’m wishing you and your family a meaningful Advent season of expectant anticipation and a joy filled Christmas as we reflect on Jesus’s first Incarnation!


  2. This is beautiful. And almost identical to what I grew up with as well. I too am an orphan. You are not alone in that respect.
    And thank you Dr. Burch for sharing these memories


  3. Bill, I’m the person who gave you free car washing coupons – – just wanted to tell you my husband, Carl, passed away in July. He had double pneumonia and the virus. He
    was all alone for two weeks in the hospital and I wasn’t able to see him. We had a service for family only at Arlington. I miss him more very day – we were married 41 years. I have been in this house since March. Would you pray for me, please?


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