An Irish Christmas (Advent Calendar, Day 12)

This post is brought to you by Tara Finnegan, a wonderful writer of spanking fiction from Ireland. She’s given many hours behind the scenes as a helper elf this year (Ana’s Advent Calendar takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours to put together) and can always be counted on for irreverent humor. I asked her to share some of her special memories of Christmas with you.

I was one of six children and Christmas was always a big event in our house, not so much Christmas day, but the run up to it, and especially Christmas Eve. I want to share some of those memories with you now.

Christmas Eve was always a hive of activity, where all of us old enough to walk were put to work like little helper elves. My parents had a tradition, taken from my father’s family, where they always hosted a party after Midnight Mass, yes I said after. So it was always a pretty late night.

There were two separate events being catered for in one day, the preparations for the Christmas dinner, and the preparations for the party. We’d be bustling around like blue arsed flies getting things done, the giblet soup for Christmas dinner was first on the agenda, as that would also be our sustenance for the day. Dad was in charge of that, he made the best soups, kitchen sink soup he called them, and just about anything went into the pot. Being an excellent director of operations, he had the kids peeling and chopping all of the vegetables as he took on the role of master chef. In no time at all, our good sized kitchen was fragrant with stock herbs and vegetables, making us hungry as we worked.

Then it was on to boiling and glazing the ham for the next day. Soon the smell of the ham mingled with the aroma of soup. One of us would then be transferred to glazing duty, for this we had to painstakingly stick cloves, one by one, in tight little rows into the fat of the massive ham joint. Little fingers were best for this job so the rows could be nice and tight. Once covered in cloves, the ham was tightly packed brown sugar and drenched in sherry and left aside to marinade. Bread rolls were baked, (although usually the pre-prepared variety) and salads were made. Then we’d sit down to a bowl of steaming soup and hot rolls.

Then we moved onto the tidying of the living room and lighting the fire, and once it was roaring, and the kitchen was under control, the festivities commenced. Usually this started with the arrival of my grandmother and her friend, who came to stay for the Christmas period.

My parents were in business in the town I grew up in, so once the party preparations were in hand, the delivery of the Christmas boxes (to colleagues and people who had helped out in various ways throughout the year) commenced. Usually at least two of us kids would volunteer to go on these visits – they were always great for sweets and sodas, things that were still rare enough treats in the seventies, and sometimes, we even got a fifty pence piece, a small fortune to us back then. When we in the car driving along, Dad would put on the radio; and we heard all of the Santy letters being read out. Of course, we were on the edge of our seats hoping maybe ours might be read, but sadly it never was (we didn’t know then that these letters had been posted to RTE and not to the North Pole!)

Three or four stops later, we were on the road home again. Then the magic would really begin. Dad always managed to spot Santy in the sky and he’d point him out to us. We kids would stare and stare, and he’d say “Look, over there,” and as we looked where he was pointing, we complained we could see nothing, he’d say it had moved and point somewhere else. This continued until we were convinced we spotted a light in the sky; it might have been the lights of an aeroplane, or a particularly bright star, or indeed it may well have been the bright glow of Rudolf’s nose, who knows the magic of Christmas?

Between the letters and the excitement of seeing the sleigh, we would be as high as kites, really getting wound up. We started to get nervous. What if we hadn’t been good enough throughout the year? What if he came to the rest of them and not to me? Would we like our presents? Would we get what we asked for? In a way I didn’t want the night to come because that excited anticipation would be gone.

Once home, we’d eat and chat with Granny for a while, then it would be time to for the little ones to go to bed and for the older kids to change for midnight Mass. Granny brought us to Mass while Mam and Dad got ready for the onslaught of guests. The leg of pork was starting to smell truly scrumptious, and we’d be dying to get our thieving little mitts on the crispy crackling before all the adults got it all. Before heading out the door, we’d leave out Santy’s whisky and mince pies, because everyone knew Santy came at midnight.

The Mass service was always lovely, it wasn’t usually a church for singing but on Christmas Eve the sounds of Adeste Fideles, Hark the Herald Angels, Silent Night and other carols filled the cathedral, accompanied by the magnificent church organ. Granny and her friend mortified us every time by ‘singing’ at the tops of their voices, making us cringe lest any of our friends heard them. And without fail, every single year, some person filled with more than the Christmas cheer, would walk up the aisle, drunk as a skunk and shouting; earning very disapproving looks from the priest while making the rest of the congregation laugh.

Mass was over – it was officially Christmas. We’d totter down the frosty steps from the cathedral to the car, trying not to fall and freezing in the chilly night air after the warmth of the church. Excitement would permeate our beings; it was after midnight, perhaps Santy might have been to our house already? But wait a minute, no! How could he have come already? Mam and Dad would have been up, working in the kitchen. No way could Santy have snuck past them. We’d have to wait ‘til morning.

We’d rush in the door. Some of those who preferred Mass on Christmas morning were already there and the party was in swing. We’d be sent upstairs to call the younger kids after their nap. And as we went to the bedrooms, there just inside each doorway, were parcels and stockings (my father’s biggest and stretchiest socks). The noise and excitement of us kids was drowned out by the din from the party downstairs but needless to say, the younger kids didn’t stay sleeping for long. Mam, Dad or both would follow up the stairs quietly to watch our faces, and they would marvel at how Santy had managed to sneak in, but they had been so tired from the work all day that they had fallen asleep. This was the line every year, and we bought it every time. J

Dad’s socks were always over spilling with unusual chocolates, soaps, bubble-bath, pencils, stickers notebooks and one of my favourite things were the tangerine oranges, which were a total luxury here at that time. Now as a grown up, I don’t really remember any of the “big” presents I got from Santy because the stockings were and still are my favourite part. As I go shopping for my kids each year, this is how I remember the magic of Christmas and even though this is likely to be our last Santy year as my kids are growing up, they will continue get those stockings each year until they no longer spend Christmas with me, just as we did, even when some of us were married.

One last thought, before I outstay my welcome: for most of us it’s an incredibly joyous season but there are those who approach this time of the year with dread. To those people in particular, I send my love. My mother sadly passed away a few years ago in the run up to Christmas, my own family always used to travel to spend it with her. So nowadays Christmas is always slightly tinged with sadness and loneliness. I’m lucky, I have my own family to celebrate it with and distract me but please spare a thought for all those who are missing someone over the holidays.

May you all have a magical and joyous Christmas. Thank you for sharing in my memories.

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221 thoughts on “An Irish Christmas (Advent Calendar, Day 12)

  1. abby says:

    I always find it amazing hoe traditions seem to transcend different cultures. We also had the tradition of gathering after midnight mass….oh to finally be old enough to be allowed to attend! Afterwards we gathered at my ‘memeres’ for a ‘reveillon’,,,,,at my grandmothers for a waking up party. We did not have a full meal, but always pork pie and cookies. We each received 1 gift….My grandmother had 9 children all of whom lived locally, so it was quite a gathering. We all went home after the festivities, to sleep a few hours so Santa could visit. I don’t think my parents slept at all…
    Thanks for sharing your memory,
    hugs abby

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Ah Abby, I had totally forgotten about that awful wait to be old enough to attend midnight Mass. I only had one older sibling so I think we probably started going together, but now that you say it, I do remember the younger ones begging to be let go to Mass instead of bed.

      It’s really interesting about your traditions. I am curious about what part of the world you are in as the “revellion” was totally unusual here in Ireland – none of my friends families did it and now I’m wondering where my grandparents got it from (funny how we always had pork too!)

      It’s a lovely way to gather a family together for Christmas, especially if families are too large to all come together for Christmas dinner. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Like

  2. angel says:

    Your christmas celebration sounds awesome I hope when my kids are older they can look back on great times Thanks for sharing and may everyone find a peace and joy this christmas and everyday xoxo Angel

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  3. thelongbean says:

    Tara, your recollection brings back childhood memories of Christmas in the 60s.
    On the morning of Christmas day, my job was to make sure there was plenty of wood for the fire in the big sitting room that we used during school holidays (we lived in a large country house converted into a boarding school). There would be small tree in the room, however the big one (15ft tall) would be in the corner of the hall by the door to the sitting room.
    We opened our presents after the Queen’s speech had been broadcast and we, too, were delighted to get lots of small presents, especially things like bubble bath etc.

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi thelongbean,
      Don’t tell anyone, but we often watched the Queen’s speech in our house as well!
      Your childhood home sounds amazing – I love old country houses. And a fifteen foot tree, Wow! Now I can smell the wood burning. Heave a great Christmas and thank you

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    • Michael says:

      Long Bean, your Christmas tree must have been very naughty, being put in the corner like that. And in the hall by the door where everyone could see! tsk tsk, naughty, naughty little tree.

      It is rumored that Mrs. Claus insists our little Ana keep her Christmas tree in the center of her front windows so the corner is free for Ana to display her rosy bottom after a trip over Mrs. C’s lap when she is naughty. Since “naughty” is Ana’s middle name she has been standing in the corner for most of the Advent season. Lucky Mrs. Claus allows little Ana out long enough to do her Advent Calendar updates.

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      • Anastasia Vitsky says:

        LOL! Hey now, my Christmas tree is in the corner. Um…and I make sure to keep the other three corners filled too, but that never seems to help.

        And my middle name is not Naughty. It’s…oh, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll hear it when Mrs. Claus finds out what I’m going to do to you. Hehe.

        Besides, corner time is a great place to plot out future misdeeds. 😀

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        • Michael says:

          Dear Ana, dear, sweet, darling, butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, Ana. Filling corners with furniture and nickknacks must be a naughty girl preventative measure because my beautiful Season is always trying such impish tricks. I hope Mrs. C does to you what I do to Season when she tries such ploys which is to clear the corner, spank her rosy then stand her on display in the empty corner. Maybe that will happen when you are visiting and you may indulge in some schadenfreude at Season’s expense. Actually, on Blossom and Thorn we call it spankenfreude because as one mischievous imp said “As long as it’s not my buns being blistered I like to sit back and enjoy the show.”
          On Blossom and Thorn there are a few posts about Spankenfreude like this one:

          http://seasonandmichael.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/spankenfreude/

          Ana, corner time is NOT for plotting further naughtiness. It is to be used as quiet reflection time to gather your thoughts and feelings after an emotional spanking, and think of ways to improve and correct your behavior moving onward.

          If your middle name is not naughty it might be the more formal Miss Behavior.

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            • Michael says:

              What I see, Ana, is one of your imp/elf cohorts coming to your defense despite the fact JC will just end up in the corner with you as her end will be as red and ouchy as yours after Mrs. C is through with her. Two radiant rear end book ends to decorate Mrs. D’s den; surrounding the volumes of the Naughty and Nice lists. Now that image is worth ten thousand words. All is right with the world. *sigh*

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                • Michael says:

                  JC, Ana, I thought you knew Mrs. Claus’ first name, Desiree. Mrs. D is my pet name for the little minx. But now that I think about it naughty girls like you two wouldn’t be allowed to address her by her first name or initial, especially when yelping over her knee or pouting in the corner. I’ll make sure to point out both your girls’ cheekiness when I next speak to Desiree, but this is her busy season, so many naughty imps to spank before Christmas, so you may not receive this punishment until early in the new year. Don’t worry though because I checked with Mrs, D and you are both on the naughty list so will be getting plenty of spankings and corner time before Christmas. Ah, isn’t it grand to be JC and Ana!

                  BTW Last night, with Desiree’s blessing, I emailed Ana a photo from her youth. She was beautiful then and is beautiful now, as you can see by Minelle’s fantastic artwork in the Advent Calendar header above.

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            • Michael says:

              JC, you will stand corrected on your belief that corner time is for plotting revenge. And Mrs. Claus will be the one standing you in the corner with your bare red bum on display after correcting you with her wooden spoon. To misquote one of my favorite movies, Christmas or otherwise “Every time a naughty adult little girl gets spanked an imp gets her devil horns.” And there sure are a lot of red imp rumps and devil horns around here, 😈

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              • Michael says:

                JC, I am not being mean. Desiree Claus and I are dear friends and to help her keep track of the behavior, or more accurately misbehavior, of her mischievous elves is an act of friendship. And to use a hoary adage, this is for your own good, young lady.

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      • thelongbean says:

        I like your thinking Michael.
        The tree was not that naughty, it us kids that were, we just managed to blame the tree…….
        I always thought Ana was a little naughty at times. I hadn’t realised that Mrs C was keeping her in the corner all the time:)

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        • Michael says:

          LOL blaming the tree for your own naughtiness. That is great, Long Bean. My brothers and sisters weren’t that creative, we just tried blaming each other but mom was way too smart for that and ALWAYS knew who the real culprit was.

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        • Michael says:

          Yes, Long Bean, Mrs. Claus has been deservedly strict with Miss Ana who now knows the wallpaper design in the corner down to the smallest detail. She now hates the image of tiny blue cornflowers.

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          • Anastasia Vitsky says:

            Now now, that’s not quite true. I just use the tiny blue cornflowers to imagine the red lines that will go across someone *else’s* naughty backside once he is in the corner. I’m not naming names, but it rhymes with Schmichael.

            And Long Bean, me naughty? *aghast stare* I thought you were a friend…

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            • catrouble says:

              Ana dear…I truly wish you would be a bit more careful about what you say here. No need to tell all the secrets regarding blocking corners and plotting during corner time…You know Mrs. C. is reading! And then you wonder why you get into trouble…SMH

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            • Michael says:

              Anastasia, you are imagining about me a lot. Seems I have taken up permanent residence in your imp mind. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing, but knowing how you will be imaging me it will be bad news for my butt.

              * doing my best Joe Pesci imitation from “Goodfellas” *
              “Marybeth, you think I’m funny? Funny how? Funny like a clown? Do I amuse you?”
              When I do that impression for Season I crack her up – yes, I used that terminology, Minelles 😈 – because with my New Jersey accent she says I actually do sound like Joe Pesci.

              Cat, we must let Ana express herself fully. For her to bottle up her thoughts and feelings would be unhealthy and could result in the Rockin’ Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu.

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              • catrouble says:

                Hey Michael…No danger of Ana contracting the Rockin’ Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu…she does express herself…very well! But…she doesn’t need to say them out here where Mrs C is reading!!!

                I think you just want Ana to get her bottom smacked and put in a corner! 😀

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                • Michael says:

                  Cat, dear little Ana getting her bottom smacked and exiled to the corner is the natural order of things. It is like the sun rising in the east and setting in he west, and many days Ana’s cute bum is as hot as the sun after Mrs. Claus is done putting the naughty imp through her paces.

                  Ana, am I not a real friend? I have nothing but your best interests at heart when you are yelping and kicking over Mrs. C’s lap as she tunes you up with the wooden spoon. That grin on my face is only an appreciation of Mrs. Clause manifesting her love for you in a tangible hands-on fashion. Very old fashioned as a matter of fact. 😈

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  4. Casey McKay says:

    I loved your Christmas memories. I agree, stockings were my favorite! Santa always left our stockings in our bedrooms and we were allowed to open them before waking up mom and dad to get to the presents under the tree (clever ploy for them to sleep a little later!)
    Merry Christmas Tara! I’m happy you have your family to make memories with and I hope all the awesome Christmas memories with your mom bring you some joy as well 🙂

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Casey, you made me giggle! Much and all as I adore the kids excitement at Christmas, dragging myself out of bed at five am to watch them check what Santy brought is always difficult. Especially since they’re high as kites and don’t get to sleep and Santy can’t usually deliver until about one am. I might try that stocking trick.
      Thanks for the Christmas wishes, I’m really looking forward to it. Wishing you and Mr McK happy Christmas too.

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  5. paul1510 says:

    Tara,
    a lovely post thank you. 😀
    Reminds me of the one Christmas I spent with Irish foster parents.
    After that I was in a home, and Christmas was never nice. 😛
    I hope that everybody who plays here has a wonderful time and makes beautiful memories. 😀
    Warm hugs,
    Paul.

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Paul,
      Thank you for reminding me how privileged I was.It’s all to easy to take things for granted. I’m so sorry to hear that Christmas was not a pleasant time for you and I really hope that has changed for you in adulthood. My Christmas wish for you is that 2013 may be your best ever, and that it’s filled with warmth and love.
      ❤ Tara

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Paul, I’ve said it before but I admire so much your generosity of spirit. You remind me the ways that I have allowed my own hurts to sometimes prevent me from being generous to others who might have something I didn’t get to have. I am glad you got to have at least that one nice Christmas with Irish foster parents. I hope Santa and Mrs. Claus will send you a very special, warm Christmas this year filled with love, happiness, and belonging. Bless you for coming here each day and sharing of yourself.

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    • Sherilyn says:

      Paul, your posts often remind me of all the kids in our area for whom Christmas is not such a wonderful time of year. We do our best to give toys and food to the organizations that are supposed to make sure everyone gets something. I also know they often fail. My prayer for you is that you have a particularly warm Christmas where you are loved and cherished. Certainly, you are cherished here.

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      • paul1510 says:

        Sherilyn,
        thank you for your kind comment.
        I think that I need to point out that I am nearly eighty and the time I am remembering was in the early 1940’s.
        I have a loving wife and family and my Christmases’ are just as I love them.
        Warm hugs,
        Paul.

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        • Marybeth says:

          Paul,
          Thank you very much for letting us know. I’m glad you have aloving wife and family.
          Times were hard then. My father told us many stories of going to bed hungry in the winter. We used to adopt children that were the same age and sex as our children. They would help to pick out special gifts besides the clothing that was asked for. Now, I pick a girl and boy, no special ages, and get gifts. We are fortunate and need to pass some on.

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        • Tara Finnegan says:

          Paul,
          I saw your follow up post about having a loving wife and family and Christmas being just how you love it, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt a huge relief. Your story reminded me of a man I worked with in London, many years ago. To tell the truth, I have been wondering all day if I should mail him and see if he was you! I know now he’s not as I know his age. His mother passed away when he was a young boy and he and his siblings were put in an orphanage. His dad eventually met someone else and he got them back again, and they did reunite into a happy family but there were many years of hardship and loneliness in the intervening time.
          I’m so delighted your story has a happier follow up than beginning.

          Tara

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  6. Emily Tilton says:

    Thanks so much, Tara! Christmas is the most wonderful time for nostalgia, for me. I think it’s because the pain of our distance from our childhoods seems less when so many people are sharing it, and when we all work together to make others feel joy.

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Very well put Emily, we can bring joy by working together and if there was ever proof of it, it’s been here, in Ana’s Advent Calendar. It’s funny how Christmas makes many of us nostalgic for our childhoods. There’s something about the season that brings out the inner child. I wish you and your inner child a fantastic Christmas. It’s been wonderful being a fellow elf and working with you to help Ana put this all together.
      Hugs Tara

      Like

  7. Roz says:

    Hi Tara, what wonderful childhood memories you have. I especially love how you continued to receive stockings even as adults.

    The stockings were my favourite part too. Ours were pillow cases left at the end of our beds. I remember waking up Christmas morning and the excitement at the thought santa had been. I would gleefully rip into the pillow case, which would be full of chocolate, fruit and a few ‘quiet’ presents such as books, puzzles etc. I would play with my new treasures for a little while then fall back asleep until I herd my brothers stirring in their room, at which point I would join then to see what santa had brought them and we would then wake our parents.

    Wishing you and your family and very merry Christmas Tara. May the fond memories of Christmas’s with your Mom warm your heart.

    Hugs,
    Roz

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    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Roz,
      Oh my wouldn’t we have loved a pillowcase 🙂
      It seems the stockings (or pillowcases) were firm favourites everywhere. And God bless the poor parents – kids waking them at ungodly hours.
      Merry Christmas to you and yours too Roz and thank you for joining in with your memories.

      Like

  8. Marybeth says:

    Tara, your Christmas sounds wonderful. It’s interesting to read about different customs. I am one of six as well. I have 5 older brothers. Christmas Eve was at my grandparents until they moved to Florida for the winters. Then, my mom took over. Her brother and sister and their families would come to our house and we would have a big potluck dinner. Mom would always make lasagna, there was ham (something about ham on Christmas!) And lots of other stuff. My mom would have her tea ring. That was always gone by the end of the night. Then we would open presents from our grandparents. Sometime during the evening, grandma and grandpa would call from Florida. They would talk to everyone! Sometimes on the phone for over an hour. After everyone left, we would nap and then go to midnite mass.
    Thanks for taking us down memory lane.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Marybeth, what lovely memories. 🙂

      You have five older brothers! No wonder you are one strong person. I bet your family was like mine where I could pick on and tease my younger sisters but woe anyone outside the family do that. Growing up got into many scrapes protecting them.

      Like

    • Michael says:

      Also, we always had lasagna on Christmas too. My mom made it twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, and we kids couldn’t wait for it.

      Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Marybeth,
      Christmas at your home sounds just like the joyous, hectic family feast it should be. My poor brother was the reverse of you – one lad among a gaggle of girls. I hope you were spoiled rotten!
      What is it about the ham? seems universal!
      may the joy of the season fill your home and your heart.

      Like

      • Marybeth says:

        Hmmmm….spoiled rotten? That depends on who you asked. My brothers would definitely say yes. I would say no. Chores in our house were divided traditionally. So there were 5 to do the outside stuff and only me to help mom with cooking, cleaning, dishes, etc. I still hate cleaning! But, I am really close with mom because of all the time we spent together.

        God bless you and your family as well!

        Like

  9. minellesbreath says:

    What lovely memories! It is funny we do our ham almost exactly the same way. However I use ground cloves now. It tastes wonderful!!
    The day you had sounds so full of family, friends and love!
    Santa always manages to forget the stockings ….here…ahem and when my kids were YOUNG…I would find all the stuff outside the front door and we ‘WOULD REALIZE” how busy Santa was and that he at least left it for mom and dad to finish.

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  10. constance Masters says:

    What wonderful Christmas memories Tara! Christmas has become so much about expensive presents that sometimes it’s easy to forget to find the unusual things for the stockings. I have hunted high and low before for lollies that look like they might have come from the North Pole 🙂

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Constance,
      Yeah, it’s exactly those little unusual goodies that make Christmas special. Did you manage to find them? And it’s also sadly true that nowadays children’s expectations of gifts can be somewhat excessive, often putting parents under immense pressure. We just remind ours that Santy has to visit EVERY child and to be reasonable in their expectations.

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and you find those lollies.

      Like

  11. Michael says:

    Tara, thank you so much for sharing your magical Christmas memories with us. Your story unfolded like opening up a special Christmas present, and indeed, it was a gift to us all. I love how your family celebrated the day with a party right after midnight mass. A lot of work but a lot of fun. Growing up I went to midnight mass with my brothers and sisters but when we got home we went to bed after we wound down a bit.

    Earlier in Ana’s Advent Calendar event you also mentioned your family tradition of leaving whiskey out for Santa (LOVE that!) but now you mention the drink was accompanied with mince pies. I bet Santa made your home the first stop of the night, and I am surprised he ever left. 🙂

    Again, Tara, thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing these special memories.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Michael.
      I’d put my life savings on it that you kissed the blarney stone! He left us – reluctantly- every year but he always came back when he finished his world trip to put his feet up and enjoy the spoils 🙂
      The party was a lot of fun, it was all the extended family and family friends. I used to feel sorry for my friends who had to go to bed after midnight Mass and wait for Santy ’til morning.
      I’d like to add that I have totally enjoyed reading your comments each and every day. Sometimes I’m really putting manners on my fingers not to be rude and jump in to start a discussion with you just for the fun of it.
      I wish you and Season a wonderful Christmas.

      Like

      • Michael says:

        Tara,

        Kissing the Blarney Stone? You make me blush. Thanks. 🙂

        No surprise Santa came back to your warm welcoming house after he finished his rounds.

        Never thought I’d say this to a mischievous imp but please don’t mind your manners. Jump in with both feet to start a conversation. You won’t be rude, but on the off chance you are Mrs. Claus knows how to take care of misbehaving adult little girls. Just ask Ana as she knows first hand as she is ouchily learning by the seat of her pants and panties. Oh, but don’t ask her when you are both standing in the corner as that will just get you more lap time with Mrs. C. 😈

        Like

        • Anastasia Vitsky says:

          Yes, please, Tara, start a conversation with him so he’ll start teasing YOU instead of me! 😀 I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sit again after all that tattling he did to Mrs. Claus. I TOLD her there was no proof, but would she believe me? Hmph!

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          • Michael says:

            Ana, my dear friend, we all know you love my teasing, and if given a shot of truth serum – in your bum, of course – the extra attention from Mrs. Claus is pleasing you even if it is at the cost of eating meals standing for the rest of 2013.

            Psst, don’t tell the other girls but you are one of Mrs. C’s favorites. Something about leaving the flock to correct the prodigal daughter or the squeaky imp gets the paddle strokes. 😉

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        • Tara Finnegan says:

          You may well regret inviting me to misbehave before advent is out Michael! Ana is quite right when she says my humour is far to often irreverent. No doubt I will lose control of my ever itchy fingers one of the days 😉

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          • Marybeth says:

            Tara, please do. I love reading Michael’s and Ana’s “discussions” Makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. Then I have to explain myself to my husband. he just shakes his head. LOL

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          • Michael says:

            Tara, I like irreverent, but I must warn you that if you cross over to full blown naughtiness you will end up over my knee, young lady. But I think you are an angel, unlike that cheeky imp, Ana, who is making a career out of carpet gazing.

            LOL Marybeth, I love that you laugh out loud then need to explain to your husband who must think we are all nutty. I also love that you are experiencing “spankenfreude” as little miss Ana is put through her paces by me and Mrs. Clause.

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  12. Renee Meyer says:

    Tara, thank you sharing such lovely memories. In our house we make a big deal out of the stockings too. More so than the “big” gifts. I am even packing stockings for our adult children to mail since they won’t be home for Christmas this year. Nowadays we track Santa’s journey on an app for the phone. We usually start about noon on Christmas Eve. The kids have drained my phone battery for the last few years “watching” Santa’s trip. Have a wonderful Christmas.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Renee,
      Thats so sweet that you are mailing your kids Christmas stockings. What a big smile you just put on my face.
      We watch Santa’s journey on the internet too, but I didn’t know about the phone app, I must download it for this year, the kids would love it.
      Wishing you the joys of the season.

      Like

  13. quiet sara says:

    This was positively lovely to read. My father always enjoyed doing the stockings for us, putting in tangerines or oranges too, various nuts like walnuts and almonds still in their shells, candies, and little toys such as balloon cars and kissing dolls. The stockings were mine and my siblings favorite for sure… talking about this makes me want to give my brother a stocking just for old times sake. My sister lives a few hours away but she says to her it’s not Christmas without the stockings. I think I agree. Merry Christmas.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Sara
      Go on – do it – give your brother a stocking. I bet it will make his Christmas, especially if you fill it with your childhood favourites. And I’ll bet you get just as much a kick out of it too. And what’s more, I’m going to do the same, thanks for the lovely idea.
      I’m curious – what’s a kissing doll?
      Thank you so much for your kind comment and I wish you a very happy Christmas.

      Like

    • quiet sara says:

      Oops, sorry I missed this comment or I would have responded. A kissing doll is one that you put lipstick or a stamping ink (depends on the doll) on the lips and then you push a button on the back of the doll which makes her head move forward. Place paper on the lips and a kiss is left. Hence, kissing doll. He found me a little one that I just adored.

      Like

  14. Marybeth says:

    It was more like being an only child. The boys did their thing and I did mine. And, they weren’t allowed to hit girls. No such restriction for me!

    Like

  15. pao says:

    Wow, Tara, thank you for sharing your memories 🙂 That sounds so lovely… from the preparation of the meal to Mass and to the stockings. Christmas wasn’t a thing we really celebrated so it’s always somewhat magical to read or hear stories about how people celebrate it. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I hope that in continuing these traditions with your children warm memories of her stay with you.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Pao,
      Thank you for your sympathies, yes Mam stays with all of her kids through our memories and even the silly little sayings we all use with our kids. It’s funny but as women age I think they almost turn into their mothers and I can’t help but smile when I hear one of my siblings say something like “it’ll end in tears” or “Stop your antics and nonsense” – we all use the same expressions and always with a smile- like family catch phrases. And we especially remember her at Christmas.
      Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday.

      Like

  16. terpsichore says:

    What wonderful memories of Christmas times…thank-you for sharing. I love the wonder of Christmas Eve, reading “The Night Before Christmas” and “The Polar Express” always ringing the bell at the end of the story…spending time with family…and there is always something magical about seeing the stockings hung by the wood stove, empty and one-dimensional, and then overflowed with treats and surprises on Christmas morning! I send my love and friendship to all those who may feel lonely this time of year so they need not be alone. Merry Christmas wishes…. PS – the ham with the cloves and brown sugar…sounds delicious!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi terpischore.
      I LOVE The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express and I have to add The Snowman to the list too. Again I’m smiling, as I am after all the comments I’ve read.
      Totally agree with you about loving looking at the empty hopeful stockings hanging by the fire too, and then the joy of seeing them bulging with goodies.
      The recipe for the ham can be found on day nine of Ana’s advent calendar in my reply to that post if you want to give it a whirl. It really is yummy.
      Wishing you a joyous Christmas.

      Like

      • terpsichore says:

        Ah, yes, the Snowman is a great book too. 🙂 I will look for the ham recipe…I was overwhelmed cutting and pasting recipes for all the treats so I could try them later! Hugs

        Like

  17. Mona Lisa says:

    Oh, Tara, what a nice story. It was like stroking my soul ..
    Although I come from a different country so much I recognized., And Midnight Mass with all these beautiful songs ..

    Christmas is really special family time.
    I hope my children will remember their Christmas as positively as I do ..

    And we eat fish for dinner, no ham because of fast…. Meat can we eat after Midnight mass..

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Thank you Mona Lisa,
      Yes, the carols really are lovely aren’t they. They gladden the heart of the listener.
      And I’m sure your children will remember Christmas as positively as you do, because you are the one there making their magic for them.
      Hope this one is magic for you too.

      Like

  18. Michelle B says:

    Oh Christmas memories – there are so many! I guess the “biggest” tradiiton we’ve had started after my little brother was about 5-6 (making me about 11-12). Along with the typical preparation mayhem (similar to those mentioned in Tara’s story), we’d of course get ready for midnight mass. Once we were all ready, all 3 kids could select ONE gift – from the stocking! – to open before heading to church. We’d then hustle into the car that had been warming up for us and wait for my mom “to finish getting ready” (yeah, because everyone knows women are always late right?). The truth was that she was rushing around delivering all the “big” gifts under the tree – I guess that makes her one of Santa’s elves! 😀
    After mass, we’d come back home, dive under the tree and go through all the goodies. Meanwhile, a homemade meatpie was warming up along with a few trays of homemade cookies (see some of those recipes posted on Dec 9th or check out my blog listed below) and other treats.
    Once the food settled in our tummies and the adrenaline wore off, we’d all shuffle up to bed for a few hours of Christmas-induced coma.
    The following day would be family visit day – we’d either host or travel around the area to visit our cousins and the grand-parents.

    Of course, I have plenty more memories from my earlier days, but this was our best, albeit short-lived, tradition! 😀

    Ho Ho Ho!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Michelle,
      I bet you always wondered why your mom was so flustered when she got in the car!
      Your Christmas eve sounds a lot like ours. Wasn’t the mayhem fun when you look back on it 🙂 LOL about the Christmas induced coma, how apt!
      Thanks for adding the link for the recipes – I’ll definitely look them up as the kids are always looking for cookie recipes.
      Merry Christmas to you

      Like

  19. chickie says:

    Oh, thank you for sharing that! I was also the clove sticker inner kid. Only difference was Grammy marinated the ham in spiced rum. My greatest Christmas memories were on Christmas eve, with my dad’s family. Christmas Day was filled with the drama our everyday lives were and then had to spend most of the day with her family – horrors! Oh, but Christmas Eve!!! Santa always stopped by to give us a few things. Right after dinner, we’d hear the clanging if a big bell that hung outside Grammy’s basement door. All the cousins would jump up from our dessert plates and go tearing downstairs to see the spoils. One time Santa’s coat got caught in the stone of the fireplace and left a torn piece of red fabric behind.

    With my kids, daddy takes a laser pointer at the sky out back when it’s overcast now and then. Rudolph is having training sessions back there. The kids can usually hear bells when they see the little red light. Rudolph has been known to make an appearance even in the summer. Fun times!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Chickie and fellow clove putter inner (Always nice to meet a fellow one!)
      I’m totally enchanted with the idea of a bell announcing Santy’s arrival. How absolutely wonderful. I can just picture the mad dash of manic kids.
      And the reindeer training is just inspired. It always astonishes me just how inventive people can be when they want to spread a little magic.
      Have a very merry Christmas.and new year

      Like

  20. Erzabet Bishop says:

    What a lovely memory. ♡ We had a tradition on Christmas Eve that we got to open one package. It was always a rowdy affair. My favorite still is an anthology that I read every year.

    Merry Christmas and Blessed Yule to you all. I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying spending each day with you.

    ♡♡♡ Erzabet

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Erzabet,

      I remember you saying one of the earlier days about the Anthology and how you still read it credit it in helping influence you become a writer which I thought was really wonderful. I love to include books in my children’s stockings. Even in this age of technology, a book is still the best way to fire a child’s imagination I think.
      Wishing you all the joys of Christmas,

      Like

  21. Arleen says:

    Tara, Thank you for sharing your Irish customs!!!. I love to read about all the different ways people spend Christmas. My own experience was more English in origin. We do more on Christmas Day it’s self instead of Christmas Eve. We usually visit others and do a candle light service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day we open gifts and get together with family. There used to be turkey for dinner with all the trimmings and plum pudding for desert. The menu has changed over the years but the gathers are still the most important part. Christmas is just full of magic no matter how you choose to celebrate it. I hope you all enjoy your way of celebrating the holidays!!

    I just finished you Christmas book Ana. It was wonderful and so different. I loved the way you had the side conversations with Claire. What a clever idea. It was just the kind of story I needed at this time of year!!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Arleen,
      Generally in Ireland, Christmas day is the more important day too and very similar in tradition to England. My story, while very typical for my family would not have been the norm.
      You’re so right, Christmas can be full of magic however you celebrate it and the joy is in the gathering, the taking stock of the year past and the pleasure of one another’s company on a day when the world stops and we are thankful for what we have.
      May yours be blessed.this year.

      Like

  22. robskatie says:

    I loved reading about your childhood Christmases Tara! 🙂 Sounds like you had lovely traditions to draw from as you have moved forward with your own family. I loved how you went with your dad to deliver things, and how you described the way he led you on a sky search for Santa. Made me giggle. That must have been so much fun! I also thought that your stockings and parcels- the joy of discovering them, as you described it sounded like such a wonderful childhood time! Lastly- Santa’s snack was whiskey!!! Whoa! I guess in spite of it all, he still managed to steer the sleigh and make his way around to all the other good boys and girls. LOL!!! Good thing he wasn’t pulled over by the sky police! 🙂

    I had to smile at Casey’s comment. My mother always put our stockings on the end of our beds in the night, and we did it for our kids. Rob and I would often hear the kids wake up at crazy hours like 3 am, discover their stockings, go wake another sib to check theirs out too. The laughing and giggling and joy that we heard was awesome. They’d usually go back to sleep but not always, depending in the time. Best known secret to buy parents a few more hours of sleep before heading downstairs!!!! Last year was first year that they had their stockings downstairs. Yes I still fill them for all four- even though they are teens and young adults. It is fun to do that for them. I better get on it! Lol!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful Christmas memories and traditions, Tara. Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Robskatie,
      Yeah, in hindsight, the whiskey might not have been the smartest idea 🙂 But times were different then. Even the ground police tolerated a certain amount of drink driving here, there was so little traffic back then and the sky police were totally chilled about it!
      This stocking in the bedroom is getting more and more attractive by the minute, I have to say. Would it really buy me a little extra shut eye on Christmas morning? It’s tempting.

      I’m glad you keep the stocking thing going too, its such an integral part of the magic of Christmas. It’s pleasantly surprising how many people keep it up even when the kids are in their 20’s. You’d better get shopping! Thank you and have a wonderful Christmas.

      Like

  23. Kelsey Summer says:

    What a great time you must have had with your family on Christmas. A bigger family seems like so much fun. It’s funny how we remember the small things and not the big gifts. Christmas has become so commercialized these days that people spend all this time stressing over the big gifts. As you said, Tara, it’s the food, and the things in the stockings that you remember the most. That and spending time with loved ones.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      There are definite pros to a bigger family Kelsey. Lots to share the excitement with.
      I agree, it’s sad to think that families feel under pressure to go into debt to satisfy modern “needs” when really the stocking, and the love and the time together are the most lasting memories created.
      Wishing you the blessings of the Season Kelsey, and thank you

      Like

  24. Leigh Smith (aka Sunny Girl) says:

    What lovely memories you have and are passing on to your children. We always put out cookies and hot cocoa for Santa as well as some reindeer food. That ham must be a world wide thing, I too remember sticking in the cloves but we used pineapple and cherries too.

    Reading here I was thinking that I remember the traditions but have very little recollection of the presents I received. Only three stick out in my mind. Proof that it is more about the love and traditions than the material things that provide the magic of Christmas.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Thank you, Leigh.
      It’s funny but as a child, the arrival of Santa, and getting the right gift seems so important, and yet as you say, everyone here as they dug into their own memories remembered the things like family time, how and where they spent Christmas, and the luscious food.

      I really hope that in time these are the things the next generations will remember too. But I’m guessing my parents probably said something like this about my siblings almost forty years ago, thinking we were too spoiled compared to their day. When I decided to write about my real family Christmas I sent the post to them all in case they would prefer I didn’t, they all sent back little bits I forgot (some of them accidentally on purpose). Again the memories were of events or people, not presents

      Like

  25. Joelle Casteel says:

    This Christmas, I’ve been thinking a bunch of two things- the wall of presents when I was growing up and the guys’ summer sausage. From when I was growing up, my siblings are 12 and 8 years older than me, so it often felt like I was an only child. This was no more evident than at Christmas time. Very materialistic, barely paying attention to the religious or the family togetherness parts of the holiday, my parents (especially my mother) outdid themselves. And while my siblings still had piles of gifts, mine would cover one whole wall, about two feet out from the wall. In contrast to that, my teen has been largely looking forward to finding out if they think he’s old enough to have a summer sausage in his stocking (that’s if they do stockings this year- I’m unsure how they’ll do it because I’m refusing to spend the night and put up with more than a few hours of her abuse so I can see the family I want to)

    Like

      • Irishey says:

        Joelle, I’ve been sitting here reading through all these comments and drinking far too much coffee (according to some – ha!). I felt sorry and worried for you trying to think and type with no coffee in you at all. That can have very unpredictable results. What were you thinking?! Never mind, no-coffee brain means you weren’t thinking clearly. Maybe you need to hang a reminder somewhere that you can’t miss:

        COFFEE FIRST!

        I have a person in my life who makes things very difficult and unpleasant for me and other family members. I have no choice except to deal with this person as best I can, and I go above and beyond what others think I should do. It is particularly heartbreaking and aggravating during holidays and other significant events, and really detracts from the fun and goodness we strive to create and experience. Still, I keep going back wearing my nice and helpful hat instead of my royal b*tch beanie. It’s simply less stressful for me to approach it this way. However, like you, it’s in my best interest to keep these encounters as brief as possible. I would avoid it completely if it was possible!

        I hope you can find a way to enjoy the time you feel you must spend with your mother. If not enjoy, I pray you can at least guard your heart against further pain, anger and disappointment. You deserve far better than to feel miserable during what should be a time of joy, peace, caring and sharing.

        I’d say to go in and own your own happiness, and let that show in the face of any attempt to bring you down, have your own fun and ignore the rotten nonsense. I don’t know the intricacies here, though, and don’t want to suggest something that might backfire and make things worse. Miserable people can be quite single-minded in forcing misery on others, especially those trying to be happy.

        Have tons of fun and good times with everything else you do this session. Hugs to you!

        Like

          • Joelle Casteel says:

            lol Irishey. I just got up from a nap; my Master mentioned getting food for myself before starting His- I’m hypoglycemic so this is a regular thing in our household 😀 but when I started reading your comment, I stopped to get up, grind some coffee beans, and get a pot going

            I do hope the plans I’ve made around when I’m going make things easier this year.

            Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Joelle,
      I have to admit your comment made me really sad. You remember a wall of presents and and no togetherness.
      But you have your own family now and one thing I have come to know about you is that you are a remarkably strong person and you will have broken that cycle with your teen, even if you do spend it with with your mother, I bet you still manage to find some special time for you three, maybe at breakfast before you go, or at supper when you return. I wish you all some special time this Christmas.
      Hugs
      Tara

      Like

      • Joelle Casteel says:

        thanks, Tara. I’m just really stressed, leading up to the holiday, more than usual. My mother was rather nasty when I mentioned Shaman’s laying off. I do hope though that having breakfast at home then going down- it’ll get teen and I there around noon- then leaving about 4. It’ll get us back home and with Shaman around dinner time. Dinner will be relaxed- teen will probably be on the PS3, Master on His laptop, and me on mine- but I won’t be dealing with my phony mother 🙂

        Like

        • Irishey says:

          Pfft. Forget the phony and come have Christmas with the real thing. My parents love to meet new people and have special guests. You’ll be calling my mom, “Mom,” in no time, and my dad can tells stories that will have you laughing and spitting coffee on everyone.

          Hey, that’s an idea if you really have to go to your mom’s. Just tell stories, laugh a lot and spit coffee on everyone. You might wear out your welcome very quickly, but at least you’ll have fun! 😉 (Okay, I don’t really advocate you do that. But…Oh, boy! Now you have that visual to take with you! I KNOW you’ll be sitting there at your mom’s, all demurely miserable, and the fantasy of spitting coffee will spring to mind. I hope it makes you grin!)

          Like

        • Tara Finnegan says:

          Maybe you can’t skip the charade entirely, Joelle. But perhaps you could shorten your trip? Dang it, last minute, someone invited themselves over for dinner and you have to go cook, maybe?
          Hugs. It’s not easy, I know.

          Like

  26. Laurel wilbanks says:

    I smiled when I read about your dad pointing out Santa in the sky. It brought back memories of my dad doing the same thing. With my kids we get online and track Santa on the NASA website and listen to citings on the radio as we are traveling to look at lights, which is a Christmas tradition for us. I love being in the car with my kids as we look for the best Christmas lights on houses, the excitement and family time are what I hope my kids remember about the holidays.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Laurel,
      I love how so many are looking back into their own childhoods today and remembering some particularly happy thought.
      I spent one Christmas in Canada and I couldn’t believe how the houses were let up. It’s something that has only started happening here in the last decade or so. It sure does brighten a dark winters night. My understanding from my childhood was that the reason for the Christmas lights are to welcome a weary traveler, If the lights in the houses are anything to go by, there are a lot of warm welcomes. 🙂

      Merry Christmas and happy new year.

      Like

  27. Merna says:

    What lovely Christmas memories. We always got tangerines in our stockings too. And you are right, I remember the stockings better than any other presents. I think it may be because they were pretty much the same each year. My parents are both from farming families in middle U.S.A. Since there are six of us children, a lot of our gifts were things we needed anyway. Like socks and underwear. But we always got a special something also. I remember my paternal grandmother always made flannel nightgowns for us, and my maternal grandmother gave us store-bought pajamas. We loved them both.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Merna,
      What a heartwarming tale, the store bought and the homemade equally loved. Now as a grown up I bet you miss those hand made nightgowns. I don’t know about the US, but here gifts are seldom handmade any more, and yet a handmade gift is such a generous gesture of time and love, not easily reciprocated.
      My best wishes for you and your family for Christmas

      Like

  28. JoanneBest says:

    Oh Tara, what wonderful Christmas memories you have, I could smell the ham as I was reading, remembering my own childhood Christmas over here in the USA as we always had a Christmas ham as well as a Christmas turkey with all the trimmings.
    Christmas Eve always seemed to go on forever as my 2 brothers and I waited anxiously for Santa. I’ve only been to Midnight Mass once, when I was a teenager with a group of friends, as a child we would go to Mass on Christmas morning after we ripped open our gifts left by Santa…ah those memories come back more and more with each comment I read. As I mentioned before, we had the stockings hanging but we didn’t have a fireplace so my Parents would put up a fake Christmas fireplace (to us kids it was just as lovely as if it was a real fireplace) and hang our stockings there, each stocking was painstakingly embroidered with our names on them (Mom was really good at crafts) and we’d dump them out in excitement, grateful for all the Christmas goodies in each one, with a perfect tangerine at the bottom followed by nuts and chocolates and candy canes; Mom would try to get us to eat breakfast but let us slide that one day as we filled our bellies with chocolates as we ripped open the presents in a flurry; all you’d hear was loud cries of joy and ooohs and ahhhs as we unwrapped everything, Christmas music playing in the background.
    We’d hurry and get dressed to go to Christmas Mass then hurry back home to eat an early Christmas dinner then climb into Dad’s car and go to my Grandmother’s house where the entire family met. My Mom had 7 brothers and sisters who all had children so it was a full house, we’d bring in a bundle of gifts and hand them out to Nana and Aunts and Uncles, my Grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve so it was a double celebration (he sadly passed away when I was 8 years old- on my Parents wedding anniversary; as the story goes, he was a coal miner then got a job as a train conductor until his train was involved in a head on collision with another train- he was never the same after that, and while the other conductor sued the company and got a few million dollars in the 1950’s but Grandpa said the company would take care of him- they never did, but I digress).
    So it was a madhouse at Nana’s place and it was glorious but after awhile I’d find myself curled up in a corner reading whatever book I could get my hands on- I had all boy cousins until I was around 4 or 5 years old so I was awkward and shy and would spend a lot of time hiding from my Uncle Jimmy who found it funny to tease me mercilessly and then give me a penny, inevitably I’d end up crying because I was a big crybaby and he was my Godfather (and I wonder why I have issues :-D).
    Finally, we’d go back home, get in our pajamas and play with our gifts until we were sent off to bed to dream happy Christmas dreams.
    As we grew older and all married and moved away, we would meet at Mom’s on Christmas Eve for a lovely Christmas brunch then on Christmas Day we would all go to my older brother’s house for Christmas dinner- it was always beautifully done, with 3 fireplaces roaring, tables set formally with name tags for seating, the whole fancy deal and I hate to say it but I never liked the formality; they live in Rumson NJ (aka hoity-toity-ville in my mind) but I preferred the more hectic harried Christmases where you sat where you wanted and were able to relax.
    This year, as you all know, will be the hardest thing ever without my Mom, she embodied the Spirit of Christmas every day of the year. Every year she made beautiful handmade decorations for the tree and now almost every decoration on my tree was made by Mom or bought in Cape May with my Mom. I’ve been dreading Christmas this year but for one thing, you have all made it easier for me to cope, and each post and comment I read here fills my heart with joy and hope.
    Yesterday I received a package in the mail from Aunt Judy, my Mom’s youngest sister who told me that she wanted me to know that she would be there for me, to think of her as my Mom because she thinks of me as a daughter; anyway I opened up the package to find a beautiful Irish Christmas card and 2 tins of homemade fudge, my Mom’s recipe, and in the note she said she always talked to my Mom when she made fudge as she did with this batch and that my Mom was guiding her because it was the best batch of fudge she’d ever made.
    I took a bite of that fudge with my eyes closed and for a moment I pretended that Mom made it because it tasted exactly like Mom’s. It’s weird to smile with tears running down your face, but they were happy tears because I felt my Mom there.
    And once again, I talk too much 😉
    Merry Christmas Tara, and thank you so much for sharing your Irish Christmas, my Mom always told us kids that if she didn’t get to Ireland before she died she’d come back and haunt each and every one of us; thankfully, my older (much richer) brother planned a trip with his family and took Mom with them to Ireland for her 70th birthday. There’s a tiny bit of me that wishes I had the money to take her, but just the fact that she got to visit her Motherland makes me so happy.
    As do all of you here ❤

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Joanne,
      You do NOT talk to much. Each and every day you have graced our hearts and computer screens with the most lovely tales from your life and today is no exception. You have been incredibly generous with sharing your thoughts and feelings and making us feel like we are an important part of your life and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say you have honoured us with your openness.

      Your mother’s hand made decorations sound truly wonderful and the fake fireplace is definitely one of the most original ideas I’ve ever heard.
      Bless you, but my eyes filled with tears as I thought of you biting into that fudge. Treasure your Aunt Judy, she’s a link with your mom, and someone you can share the best of memories with, but remember your mother lives on in you too.
      I really hope this Christmas isn’t too terribly hard. I know this sounds a bit trite and probably you’ve heard it a million times already, but time does make it easier. It’s not that you ever forget, but one day you realise it’s ok to smile again, and for the smile to come all the way from your soul, not just your lips.
      Hugs and blessings of the season.

      Like

    • Sherilyn says:

      Ah, Joanne, I didn’t get to read your post earlier when I got on to comment, so I’m chiming in late! I’m sending you a big hug, as I sit here wiping tears away. I wish I could do it in person. I know many of us here will be holding you in our hearts during this Christmas.Treasure your Aunt Judy–she can’t take your Mom’s place, but she will be able to share your loss. I imagine she misses her, too. Take care and remember you are not alone this Christmas.

      Like

  29. Holla Dean says:

    Tara, that was a wonderful story of your Christmas memories. Thank you for sharing it with us. My parents and grandparents on my dad’s side were immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1950. They were from Austria and Hungary and brought along their own Christmas traditions. We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve and my mother always cooked special things. She made Austrian dumplings which is a peasant dish of meatballs made from a mixture of leftover meats, garlic, onions, and other spices. Then they’re wrapped in a potato dough and boiled. Served with sauerkraut and are so delicious. But a major pain in the you know what to make. Christmas Day we played with our new toys and dad would take us tobogganing if we had snow while my mom and grandma made Christmas dinner. My aunt would play Christmas songs on the piano and we’d all sing along in German. As the years went by, the family grew and more relatives came to the U.S. At one point, for a few years, we had gatherings of 40 or more people on Christmas Day. Now that the family is even bigger and more spread out across the country, our gathering is smaller but still is over 20 people.
    May your Christmas be filled with joy and lovely new memories. Thanks again for sharing.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Holla Dean,
      Can I just say that your Christmas festivities sound wonderfully joyous and that meatball dish is making my mouth water. Christmas songs on the piano and a singalong, now you’re making me smile some more, and gatherings of up to 40 people, my goodness that’s some sing song.Tobogganing is something we rarely got enough snow for in this part of the world so the kid in me is shrieking in delight for you as you let fly down those hills. And when we did get the snow, our toboggans were simply refuse bags – how I used to look at movies and envy kids playing on proper toboggans. Thank you for painting that beautiful picture. I hope this Christmas is just as wonderful as those that have gone before.

      Like

  30. Thianna D says:

    Ahh, Tara, thanks so much for sharing that!

    I have very few memories of my childhood, but I do remember one year ‘spotting’ Santa and his sleigh flying across the sky. 🙂

    And I think we now know why Santa gives great stocking stuffers to the people in Ireland. Instead of milk and cookies, you left him whisky and mince pies. Considering the cold…I’m sure that warmed him up something fierce 😀

    Like

  31. JC says:

    I have loved reading all the Christmas memories. Thank you everyone for sharing. I don’t think my family had any traditions that were done every year like most are sharing. I think traditions are important and one day hope to start some with my own family.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi JC,
      While traditions are a wonderful part of a family life, they don’t have to be old to be special. And often times you have them, then you decide they no longer suit and you reluctantly let them go for a new tradition that is more in keeping with your own ethos or lifestyle. I’m sure you’ll do a great job of coming up with your own when you have a family to make their childhoods a very special time. A very merry Christmas to you

      Like

  32. Irishey says:

    Tara, I love reading about your Christmas traditions and memories, and those of the others commenting here. I am intrigued by the many similarities and fascinated with the huge differences in what we all do/did for the holidays. Thank you for sharing!

    One of my most treasured and poignant Christmas memories from my childhood is listening to Christmas hymns and other holiday music while helping my mother and grandmother with baking, candy making and making decorations. At Grandma’s, there usually was at least one cousin, often more, plus my siblings joining in to cut out the sugar cookies and decorate them, and make all the many other goodies and pretties. What a hilarious mess, but oh so good! Grandma would tell us about Jesus birth story, then relate her own memories of Christmas. She played the piano or one of her other instruments, while we would sing traditional Christmas hymns – her favorite. Wonderful memories.

    At home, my mother was and is amazing in all she makes and does. She always makes Christmas very special, even as she has aged and slowed down quite a bit with the all the doing. It’s her being, that giving spirit, that brings joy in Christmases spent with her.

    I wish you a warm, joyful Christmas, Tara. Peace and blessings to you and yours.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Irishey,
      Yes, the similarities and the differences are quite amazing aren’t they? It has been such a delight to see everyone delve into their past and share a memory, happy or sad.
      My two girls would love to have been in your grandma’s kitchen. There is nothing they enjoy more than getting their mitts into baking dough and cutting, shaping and stealing (when they think I’m not looking) You’ve evoked the loveliest of images there. I can just picture the enthusiasm you must have felt. And how lovely that you heard the Christmas story as you baked alongside your Mother and grandmother. It’s wonderful to think of three generations of women working side by side making Christmas magical.
      I hope you have a wonderful and happy Christmas Irishey, and enjoy the blessings of your mother still making it remarkable.

      Like

  33. Terry says:

    Hi Tara,
    Thank-you for sharing with us your family’s traditions. What wonderful memories you have of Christmas growing up in Ireland. It’s great that you have brought those traditions forward for your children to enjoy. I love the idea of all your little gifts in the stockings that continued way beyond each child’s belief in Santy. We had Christmas stockings also but they were filled with fruit, nuts and candies.

    Our Christmas celebrations started on Dec 23rd because it was my Dad’s birthday. He didn’t like cake so my Mom would bake him an apple pie instead. We would still put candles on the pie, sing Happy Birthday to him and watch him open his gifts that had to be wrapped in birthday paper not Christmas paper.

    On Christmas Eve we would go to my Aunt’s house to see family on my Dad’s side. The cousins would get to open gifts from each other and there would be plenty of wonderful things to eat and drink. Christmas Day my Mom’s side of the family would come to our house to celebrate all over again. Our dinner would also included ham but without the cloves. Instead we would put pineapple slices and sweet cherries on the ham with tons of brown sugar for the glaze.

    I hope that everyone can spend this Christmas or Holiday time either with family or with people you love who become family.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Oh wow, Terry, you got three Christmas days each year. How wonderful, it must have really stretched out the holiday. I’m sorry to see that your Dad’s birthday was on Christmas eve rather than is on christmas, so I’m sure you must miss him very much at this time of the year.
      I really like that you got to exchange and open gifts with your fathers family on Christmas eve, rather than having to wait for Christmas day, because that meant the people responsible for the gifts got to see the pleasure you took in them.
      And then you did it all over again with your mothers family the next day.
      I hope this Christmas is full of all the wonders of yesteryear and the joys of the season to you and yours.

      Like

    • Marybeth says:

      Terry, my dad didn’t like cake either. My mom made apple pie too. She had this special pie pan the was HUGE. Big enough that there were 8 generous pieces of pie and leftovers!

      Like

      • Terry says:

        Marybeth
        Did your Dad like a slice of cheddar cheese on his apple pie instead of ice cream? That was my Dad’s favorite dessert. It would strange to find someone else in the world who liked it the way he did. Your Mom’s special huge pie pan sounds like just the thing for parties.

        Like

  34. P.T. Wyant says:

    I think my favorite part of Christmas was decorating the tree. We made a party of it — Christmas music (records: remember those?), chips and dip, and eggnog (cut with root beer generally). There were some special ornaments that were my favorites and I was allowed to put them on the tree — with supervision as they were very old. (Come to think of it, most of my Christmas memories revolve around trees and decorations.)

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi P.T.

      Decorating the tree is a joy out on it’s own isn’t it? And how you treasure being allowed to put up the special ornaments is so sweet. Being granted a special privilege as a child is something that can live forever in our memories. It gives a real sense of worth.
      Have a wonderful Christmas and new year.

      Like

  35. Ami says:

    Our memories of childhood Christmases follow us down the years, don’t they? I have lots of disjointed memories: a turkey so big no-one wanted it and it was bought cheaply on Christmas Eve and then had to be wedged, on end, in the oven because it wouldn’t fit; what seemed like hundreds of great aunts and elderly uncles nodding in armchairs after dinner; always sitting to hear the Queen’s speech with silly party hats on; pulling crackers and the contents shooting into everyone’s dinner; crackling logs on the fire; playing silly games such as ‘sardines’; playing boardgames such as snakes and ladders and ludo; going for a walk across the fields with long woolly hand-knitted scarves; Brazil nuts and tangerines; the smell of port and cigars; tinned salmon, tinned peas, tinned pears and Carnation milk for tea; toasting crumpets over the fire; freezing my butt off perched on the edge of my grandmother’s bit wooden ‘outside’ lavatory; the grandfather clock in the hallway chiming the hour.

    Thanks for sharing your memories with us. They certainly made me remember lots of things I had forgotten!

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Tara with all your family around you!

    Hugs
    Ami

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      They sure do Ami,
      I’m guessing your great aunts and uncles were the equivalent of our Granny and her friend. Did yours manage the odd squabble too?
      It really is so lovely hearing everyone’s memories. I think the board games were universal. Usually one of the gifts. Remember frustration? God that was so aptly named as your marker kept getting sent right back to the start. Gah!
      And now you make me wish I had a bottle of port in the house, how nice it would be to have a glass as I read all these amazing stories.
      A very merry Christmas to you, and watch out for that egg nog.

      Like

  36. Blondie says:

    Tara, your Christmas memories are what I think of when I dream of a wonderful Christmas. Tradition, I believe, is so important. My husband and I grew up without any kind of tradition. Both of our parents and grandparents before, were really a melting pot of nationalities. We have tried to start traditions here for our little family and hopefully they will have some good memories. You were truly blessed.
    Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Blondie,

      You’re quite right, I was blessed, and I totally loved reminiscing as I wrote the post.
      I know I said it before to one of the other commenters, but traditions don’t have to be old to be special. And that you are trying to create some says you are truly bringing some magic and love into your children’s lives which they are sure to look back fondly on and also pass on to their children.
      I wish your family all the joys of the Christmas season.

      Like

  37. Kitty says:

    what lovely memories it brings back some of mine. like for us it always started of x-mas eve night we always opened one present always a nightware we’d put them on and the have r traditional late night snack of “drum roll please” i know it sounds gross but we’d have oyster stew well thats what we called it. (1 cup milk, a jar of oysters, tablespoon of butter, and little wistashere sause to taste) it’s been a long time since i thought of that. we’d have it on new years eve to.

    Like

    • Irishey says:

      Miss Kitty! There is nothing gross or strange about oyster stew on Christmas Eve! My mother has made that for us every Christmas Eve since I can remember. We don’t put Worcestershire sauce in it, though. Now that is weird. Lol! My mother buys the little oyster crackers to serve with the stew. We always accompany the stew with honeyed spiral-cut ham sandwiches on fresh rolls, devilled eggs, and trays full of veggies, fruits, cheeses, a variety of hard sausages, and all sorts of baked and cooked sweet things.

      We don’t have oyster stew again on New Year’s Eve, but we always have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. You?

      Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Kitty,
      Two great traditions.
      I have to admit I’ve never had oyster stew, but now I want to try it! I love shellfish at the best of times.
      I really like the idea of you opening your new nightwear for Christmas eve night too- dressing for bed in your Christmas finery so you’re all shiny and new for Christmas morning – a preparation ritual.
      Have a happy and peaceful Christmas and thanks for sharing your traditions with us today.

      Like

    • Marybeth says:

      Kitty, on New year’s Eve, we got to stay up to ring in the new year. We always had ice cream sundaes (something we rarely had) Mom would have ice cream, bananas, strawberry jam, pineapple topping, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and nuts and maraschino cherries. I still do this every New Year’s Eve with my kids! Lots of fun.

      Like

  38. Ria says:

    Hi Tara – Some of your activities remind me of ours.

    Our family went to midnight mass and many friends and relatives dropped by for punch d’creme after mass. It was not a full a full blown party and everyone drifted home shortly.

    In the islands, it is always warm so we would sit out on the porch and call out Christmas greetings to neighbours. We did not have chimneys nor fireplaces, so there were no stockings to hang. However, like your father, our dad would deliver presents and packages Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

    Mummy was a marvellous cook. She, with all six of Santa’s helpers :-0 plus any friend who dropped in, would be making 3-4+ dozen breads and sweet breads and 200 pastelles. Ginger beer, sorrel and punch d’creme are also typical Christmas drinks. Neighbours and elderly folks always received a bag of goodies from Mummy.

    My mom passed away in 2009 and my cousin presented her eulogy. Here is an excerpt from it “Her children remember her baking bread on Saturdays – 40 loaves of white / 25 sweet breads. This works out to approximately 110,240 loaves of white and 68,900 sweet breads.

    At Christmas all had to chip in to make the mandatory 300 pastelles for the season. This amounted to 15,900 during the course of her life. Add to this the black cake, pelau and coconut ice cream and you will have an understanding of how nourishing she was. And during all of this, there was her great sense of humour. (I have not been able to calculate how many joke books she read – but I do know that not all of them were repeatable in church!)” .

    Yes, like you Tara, I had a marvellous childhood. I wish so many other were as luck as I was. It has certainly helped to sustain me as I grew older, 🙂

    Reminiscing is so very refreshing to my soul, :-0. I Like it!!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Ria,
      I’m totally astounded by your tales of your mother. Good heavens, she was amazing. As were all her little helpers, I’m sure. You must be really proud to have been able to call her “Mummy.” What a generous, giving way for her to spend the run into Christmas, and so utterly in the spirit of the season. I think the man above will more than forgive her her penchant for joke-books, she more than earned her indulgences 😀

      You certainly were blessed. And I love that it sustains you. Life isn’t always kind, sometimes harsh or cruel things hit along the way, but memories and love can make things that seem insurmountable easier to cross.
      Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story and blessings of Christmas to you.

      Like

  39. Katy Beth McKee says:

    Growing up we opened are presents within family on Christmas eve. Christmas morning was the stockings and Santa gift. My parent’s had an open house so we had pineapple upside down cake and apple coffee cake for breakfast. Then there was a ham and other side dishes. Family and friends came and went all day long.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Kathy Beth
      Pineapple upsidedown cake and apple coffee cake for breakfast – the stuff a kid’s dreams are made of. What other day of the year would you get to do that? Open houses for Christmas are lovely, it’s a great day for people to pop in and out. Sometimes when life is busy and everyone is running to a work schedule we don’t get to call to our friends and neighbours as often as we’d like, and Christmas is a great time to make up for that.
      Happy Christmas to you, Mary Beth.

      Like

  40. octoberwoman says:

    What a lovely story! Our Christmases were all over the place, between my mom’s family and my dad’s, sometimes we had Christmas at our home, sometimes at one of several relatives’ homes, maybe in our state, maybe in another state. So every year was different. The two Christmases I remember the most though are the two years separate years that I came down with the flu and spent Christmas day throwing up!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Octoberwoman.
      It can be very difficult for some families to split themselves between all the places they need to be and the pressure is on to divide time equally and not cause offense to those you are leaving out. There is no doubt that when time has to be split between one place and another Christmas can be more harried. I can’t help wondering if you stayed home those years because of your illness and the pleasure of Christmas in your own home is what made it memorable?
      I hope your grown up Christmases have been more peaceful and relaxing.
      Wishing you a calm and happy Christmas

      Like

      • octoberwoman says:

        Both of the years I was sick my family had traveled to my aunt’s house in another state. I was around 12 or 13, and after the second year it was a big family joke (that side of the family anyway) that I would be sick on Christmas. Fortunately both times it seemed to the 24 hour variety so it didn’t ruin the entire holiday.

        Like

  41. Leona says:

    thank you so much for share your christmas tradition and memories.. and to everyone else.. They are Beautiful.. I would like to share a Christmas eve tradition my family and I did every year.. and believe it or not we pretty much saw santa flying every year on are way home.. Maybe we were half a sleep and imagaion.. But this my favor traditon.. We start right after super was done.. so around 7pm.. were all dressed nice and got what every treat or gifts to drop off.. and we start at on family or friends house. had goodies and One year Hot milk and cream cookies.. Yummy.. we always ended up at my mom friends house last.. dad would be feeling not to bad. Too much Eggnugggggg. haha. and always made stuff for us.. and we play games with her daughter who was about 8 yrs older then us.. We did this every yr.. even when my sister and brother left home.. But we did stop for a few yrs.. after my Uncle and 4 cousin died on the 30 Th of Dec and log house fire. It was hard for the whole family.. But has time goes by, the heart heals.. But you never forget your loves.. they are always their in spirt.. So I hope with all my heart that you have a wounderful Christmas… with old or new tradition..

    Hugs.. Leona 😉

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Leona,
      Gosh, I’m lost for words. What a horrendous tragedy for you and your family to have gone through. I can only imagine that there were a few very sad Christmases to be got through. So many gone at once. Even though it was some years ago, I still wish to offer my deepest sympathies.
      You are right of course, time does heal the heart, and loved ones always remain in spirit and in memories, but my God, your family had a hard cross to bear. And yet I love how you can still seem hopeful and cheerful – its inspiring. May God bless you this Christmas, and may your cheerful spirit continue to reign supreme. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Like

  42. Sherilyn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Christmas, Tara! I’m sure your mother’s spirit is with you at this time of year. I didn’t get to go to Midnight Mass until I was an adult, during the time before I had children. I remember going to pre-Mass parties, screeching through the church door at 11:58, and standing (sort of) in the back because all the pews were full. There would be a crowd of people like us, so we could prop each other up. We all swayed in time to the music! Nonetheless, the majesty of the service always brought home what we were celebrating and the parties after were a little more subdued.

    My childhood memories are spread all over. For years, we went to one set of grandparents for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas. One year, they were bickering about who we’d go see, so my parents packed us up and we went down to Monterey, Mexico. This was before it became a tourist haven. We mostly had the town to ourselves. My brother and I roamed the streets and were spoiled by the merchants because they knew Mom and Dad would be coming behind us. We brought home the most amazing junk! When we lived in S. Korea, we started the tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas from our grandparents, so we slept in scratchy flannel jammies that looked great for the Christmas pictures! By the time I remember much, my favorite gifts were always books and music. One year, my brother and I got a complete collection of Gilbert & Sullivan, for some reason. It was a family treasure for a long time and probably contributed a lot to the family’s sense of the absurd.

    This Advent calendar has been so much fun! It’s wonderful to share memories with everyone, even with Mrs. C. keeping her stern and watchful eye on us!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Sherilyn,
      That Christmas in Mexico sounds so exotic and wonderful! I’m glad your family were bickering over the festivities so you got to experience it. And then South Korea. You must have some amazing memories of your childhood.
      I’m laughing about looking great for the Chirtmas pictures. We used to get annual family photos from our relations in America, and everyone was always so spic and span.
      Books and music are wonderful gifts, not just at the time but forever as the appreciation of both is nourished and developed for the rest of your lives. And Gilbert and Sullivan were brilliant.
      Thanks for sharing your memories and have a merry Christmas.

      Like

      • Sherilyn says:

        I should say my father was in the Army during a time when he would get re-assigned every 2-1/2 years. We spent Christmases in a number of places!
        Love your comment about everyone being spic and span! It also makes me wonder what your pictures were like! I’m sure you were spic and span as well!
        Merry Christmas to you, too!

        Like

        • Tara Finnegan says:

          Moving around every 2 or so years? That must have been hard in ways as a child, but looking back now, I wonder if there wasn’t a lot of unique memories created.

          LOL, no doubt we were spic and span, but the photos weren’t a big part of our childhood, and any that were taken were just for the family album, not for others to see. So I don’t remember that scrubbing up stage, apart from one year when it froze so hard our water went off and we had to go to friends houses for baths for Christmas eve.

          Like

  43. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    Loved your Christmas story, Tara. Traditions, like our memories, make us what we are today. As a child from a divorced home, my Christmases weren’t huge family gatherings. Instead we’d have a quiet celebration in our apartment with my mom, step dad and me, then we’d travel to the grandparents where I had two additional Christmases. Not bad for the child, but I’m sure the civil greetings and exchanges that occurred when my mother took me to my father’s parents were difficult for her. My paternal grandfather didn’t blame my mother for the divorce. He knew his son was at fault, but there was still an uneasiness between them that as a child I was blissfully oblivious to. Also, being an only child I missed out on the fun of having brothers and sisters to mess around with, although I can’t say I regretted that growing up, either. Only children tend to be creative, since they play by themselves a lot. (Okay, you can stop snickering now. That’s by, not with). Left to their own devices, only children will wile away the hours with stories out of worlds created from their imaginations. That’s not to say that children with brothers and/or sisters can’t be equally or even more creative, but for an only child an active imagination is almost a requirement.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your holiday memories. I feel like I’ve been invited in to homes from all over the world, and it’s been fun.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Kathryn,

      I know I’m bad but I didn’t even get that double entendre until you pointed it out. Honest!

      Three Christmases would certainly have it’s plus points for a child, but I can only imagine what your mother was thinking as she went to your paternal grandparents. I’m sure she dreaded it, but she did it each year out of love for you and duty to her ex in-laws and that must have taken a lot out of her each year and yet as a child she never made her discomfort known to you. Quite an admirable trait.
      I see your point about an only child having an active imagination. I bet you had lots of imaginary friends, maybe some of them grew up to be characters in your books years later.

      What a great observation you made about being invited into everybody’s homes today from all over the world. And from different generations too. It was delightful to be part of it, whether it was sharing the joy or the pain. The entire community have been incredibly giving of themselves throughout Ana’s Advent Calendar and it has been amazing to take part in it.
      The happiest of Christmases to you,

      Like

  44. sassytwatter says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you fr sharing your holiday traditions. Your words danced on the page like little elves getting ready. Your holiday traditions sound wonderful filled with food, family & friends. Made me think of my holidays spent with my maternal grandparents in Sweden. My mother is on of 9 and the only one to have left Sweden. I loved going there for the holidays the house was always filled with people and made the holiday come alive. We also cook a ham the same way only also inject it with sugar. I still go back every couple of years to celebrate the holidays sadly since my grandfather passed away right beofre the holidays 13 years ago it seems that many of the wonderful traditions have been forgotten. But thy live on in my memory.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Sassy,
      I’m the one who should be doing the thanking here. I got to ramble on and then as an added bonus, I got a peep into all of your hearts, and so many big hearts there are in this event.
      I’m so sorry about your grandfather passing away in the Christmas season, it’s such a tough time to lose someone. It’s really great that you go to visit your grandmother every couple of years.To my shame, I’ve never been to Sweden even though it’s only on my doorstep. Is it as beautiful as they say? I can imagine the novelty of all those aunts and uncles must have made for some marvellous holidays, especially given how delighted your mom must have been to return home each time. Perhaps you can keep some of those traditions you loved alive in your home as well as your memory. Traditions travel pretty well, I think.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family

      Like

  45. Laurel says:

    While we never had a Christmas tree we got to put up our stockings ( we used the biggest we had.) we awoke early on Christmas Day and had to wait until our parents got up. Their were lovely little gifts ( today we would call it crap) we tried to stretch out the time because it was such fun. Then we had a special breakfast. What wonderful memories.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Laurel,

      You just made me smile as I remember stretching Dad’s socks to figure out which ones would hold the most. I know what you mean about how nowadays the kids might think the stuff we got years ago was crap, but one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and the stockings were treasure to the kids of the day :).
      Happy Christmas and thank you

      Like

  46. Jaye Peaches says:

    Oh yes, tangerines in the stocking. Then there was cooking the mega ham for hours. My mum used to cook tongue too, it would be stuffed in a bowl and weighed down with heavy books to compress it. Not forgetting the christmas cake marinating in the pantry for months. Christmas provides such unique memories, thanks for sharing yours.
    Jaye

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Jaye
      I love the Christmas cake and if it was in my pantry months early there’s no way it would survive ’til Christmas. I remember eating tongue too, but I haven’t seen it in years. Have a great Christmas.

      Like

  47. catrouble says:

    Thank you for sharing such lovely Christmas memories Tara. Our stockings were always hung on the fireplace and when we didn’t have a fireplace, they were placed under the tree.

    When my children were growing up, I would place a few small ‘quiet’ gifts in their stockings. The rule was that they could get up early and open their stockings but could not open any other gifts until mommy got up. Allowed me to sleep in until at least 7am! LOL

    Oh and Santa filled a stocking for every member of the family including our pets. 😉 And still does!

    Blessings…
    Cat

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Cat,
      Seven am sounds like heaven. God I really missed out on the point of this whole stocking mallarkey didn’t I? – I never knew it was supposed to buy me time. All those wasted years 🙂
      Aw, your pets all got stockings – that’s so cute. Our dogswould envy yours, although the kids do usually buy them doggie treats as a Christmas present even if Santy by-passes them.
      Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful Christmas.

      Like

  48. Janey says:

    Oh the excitement of Christmas Eve, I loved it. My dad used to see Father Christmas in the sky too and I remember him once knocking on my window and my dad lifting the curtain and speaking to him. Of course I only heard my dads side of the conversation; ” no, she’s not asleep yet. If she manages to get to sleep in the next ten minutes will you come back and try again Father Christmas?” I remember shooting down under my covers and screwing my eyes tight shut to help me sleep.
    And oh the year I was finally allowed to go to midnight mass for the first time instead of on Christmas morning, trying to stifle the yawns in church in case they changed their mind and took me home again!
    We didn’t have stockings as such but Father Christmas always left three or so small presents on the ends of our beds (the rest he left in the living room) our end of bed presents usually included a book or colouring or puzzle book to give us a way to occupy ourselves between when we first woke at about 4am and the earliest we could possibly attempt to wake the rest of the household; about 8am! One year though he got it a little wrong and left us a mug each on our beds. We were all woken early when one of us turned over in bed, stretched out a foot, knocked the mug to the floor and smashed it!
    I love the little traditions and have enjoyed mixing those of my family with those of my husbands to make new memories for my own children.
    Thank you for helping me to relive some of the excitement through this post

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Janey,
      Your excitement really shines through. I love the image of hiding under the covers and screwing your eyes shut. I wonder how many millions of kids have done that over the years fervently wishing sleep would come so Santa could follow?
      I’m giggling at the mug. Bad forward planning on Santy’s part I think!
      Mixing your traditions and your husbands means that your kids will get a set of traditions that are uniquely theirs and that’s wonderful.
      Blessings of the season to you all.

      Like

  49. TL says:

    It’s such fun to hear about other people’s Christmas tradition and how similar or different they are from our own. Bucko and I have started a few of our own traditions and I can’t wait for us to get to share the magic of Christmas with lots of little ones. Thank you for inviting us into your little world and sharing your story with us.

    My favorite Christmas memories are when I graduated into being one of Santa’s elves. I didn’t have the thrill of Santa anymore, but getting to be part of the magic was really cool too. Seeing my baby sister so excited and knowing I helped create that was awesome.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi TL,

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed being Santy’s elf. I hated the idea of the first year my son was no longer on Santy’s list (except the stocking of course!) But like you he completely embraced the elf role and he likes to take part in all of the Santy activities, including the shopping, which is remarkable because under normal circumstances he goes mental if I mention the word shopping! There really is as much pleasure in creating the magic as there is in being on the receiving end of it and as long as people feel like that the magic will live on.
      I can’t wait for you to get to share the magic with your own little ones either because it sounds like you’ll be a master magician.
      Happy Christmas to you and Bucko. (BTW here we often call a boy bucko, coming from buchaill, the gaelic for boy)

      Like

  50. Sheila says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories. My memories are more of Christmas Day. We’d go to early mass then come home for ham and eggs. Some years we’d go to my aunt’s. Other years everyone came to our house. It depended on where my grandfather went. There was always lots of food, laughter, and noise.

    Like

  51. pieclown says:

    Your story reminds me of our Christmas. We went to church after supper Christmas eve. When we came open the family gifts. Then to bed. My sister and I got up Christmas to see what was there. We had Christmas stocking that had been filled with candy, Avon “stuff”, peanuts, an apple and an orange. Your telling getting an orange in you stocking reminded me of the fruit we got. I too have a little sadness with Christmas. Six years ago, my mom passed away and Christmas was her favorite holiday.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Pieclown,
      Thank you for sharing your memories. I can’t help but smile, we tell our kids that Santy will bring them an apple and an orange, and they’re horrified at the thought of it. And yet there was a time when such fruit was luxury, and it’s not so very long ago – certainly not as long ago as they seem to think.
      My sympathies about your mom, I know exactly how you feel – for me its been five years to your six. It’s long enough ago for people to think you should be “over it” – but is there any getting over losing your Mother, regardless of what age you are? While life does go on, there is always an empty space that nobody else can fill, and certain things such as Christmas, birthdays, and Mothers Day remain somewhat tinged with sadness.
      I wish you blessings of Christmas and happy memories to make you smile.

      Like

  52. Tara Finnegan says:

    I’ve really been enjoying the insight everyone has been sharing into their Christmas memories and traditions and look forward to reading and responding to each and every one of them.
    Thank you all for being so generous with your lives.
    I’m sorry to say that I’m on different timezone to everyone and I’ll reply to all remaining comments tomorrow. Hugs to all. Goodnight.

    Like

  53. Leah says:

    What a great story. Made me hungry just reading it. Your grandmother singing too loudly sounds awfully familiar to me. And stockings are my favorite part of the gift giving as well.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Leah,
      I think it’s obligatory to have at least one relative that will embarrass you along the line. It’s written in the book of life as rule number something or other!
      Hope your stocking is filled with goodies this year.
      Happy Christmas

      Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      ROFLMAO, Marybeth,

      This comment is obviously in reply to another, and I know you left a few replies, but this one popped out of nowhere and I read it thinking, “my dad didn’t like cheese with it?” What in the honour of God is this woman on? Until I realised it had just come out of context!
      Happy Christmas again and thanks for the giggle

      Like

      • Terry says:

        Tara and Ana
        Marybeth is not going giddy giggly ( love that phase). She was replying to my post about my Dad and her Dad liking apple pie instead of cake for their birthday. My Dad always put a slice it cheddar cheese on his pie instead of ice cream. I never knew anyone else who did this. Marybeth said that although her Dad didn’t like cheese with his apple pie her grandfather did. The strange post mystery solved. Glad that your morning started off with a laugh.

        Like

  54. Laurel says:

    We were Jewish and other than the stocking we didn’t celebrate it. My brother and I always felt gyped because we were both born on thanksgiving and Chanukah also came around at the same time. We always had company on thanksgiving and the guest sang happy birthday. No presents. Then on Chanukah we got one gift each day for 8 days. These were very small gifts and we never got birthday gifts. Thinking back I was happy to get any gifts and being young I was a selfish brat. We certainly were not deprived and received gifts through the year. When I was twelve I got and English bike and I loved it and road everywhere.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Laurel,
      I always felt sorry for kids who celebrated their birthday around Christmas as they were almost deprived of their one special day which should have been for them and nobody else. And being caught by both Chanukah and Thanksgiving really was double the misfortune in many ways.That said, I like the idea of one small gift for each of eight days. I’m sure it helps cut out the overconsumerism that the feast of Christmas has become. I can’t help but wonder has Chanukah till survived the comercialisation, even now? If so, I can’t help but congratulate Jewish people for keeping the true spirit of the religious occasion.
      Wishing you a happy holiday.

      Like

      • Anastasia Vitsky says:

        One of my friends has delighted in blue and white outdoor lights, an enormous inflatable lighted dreidel bear, and all kinds of other white and blue decorations. Oh, and he’s so proud of himself! It’s really kind of sweet.

        Like

  55. Penelope says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post, Tara – just so beautifully evocative. I could picture everything, feel everything, smell the lovely things in the kitchen 🙂

    Even though my family’s Christmases were different to yours in a number of ways (no church for us heathens, for one thing) there are so many aspects that resonate, so many details and feelings that ring true in my heart.

    I love the way you capture the excitement and wonder of it all as a child: I may have grown up in a different place and time, but I know just exactly how you and your siblings must have felt. Clever Santa used to leave gifts at the foot of our beds, ready for delighted small persons to discover at 5am (and keep us occupied while parents slept)…

    I don’t recall my parents ever expressing the slightest surprise at this miraculous annual happening, as if Santa’s visit each Christmas Eve was the most natural thing in the world. I love the beautiful fantasy that parents create; an expression of love that money can’t buy. And I quite agree about the ‘small’ presents being the best!

    I hope your last Santy year is a great one xx

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Penny,
      I want to quote you:
      “I don’t recall my parents ever expressing the slightest surprise at this miraculous annual happening, as if Santa’s visit each Christmas Eve was the most natural thing in the world.”

      What a lovely appreciation you have for how your parents created Christmas.
      That’s part of the magic in a way isn’t it? That your parents invent this world where you’re special enough for a strange man to call and leave gifts because you were good! Even the naughty list, and the fear of it adds to the sense of worth because you had enough “nice” credits during the year for Santy to call.
      Christmas certainly does vary the world over, but for those that can look back on it and remember a little magic, however small, it’s a precious gift to be treasured.
      Wishing you a happy Christmas full of magic and joy.
      Tara

      Like

  56. M. Palmer says:

    What lovely Christmas memories, Tara! We had a very specific set of Christmas eve traditions in our house too… Christmas eve service early, followed by dessert at my aunt’s house.Only one gift was opened on Christmas eve… but it was always the same thing: new Christmas pajamas! Even though my girls are teens it is still fun to “surprise” them with pjs every Christmas eve!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi
      Again, I’m reading with a smile. I do hope your teens are totally “surprised” with their Christmas eve gift. The soft fluffy p.j.’s usually come in the stocking in this house but I think they’re a pretty common feature in a lot of houses.I’m wondering will they keep that traditiion alive when it comes to their turn to create their family Christmases. Bet they do!
      Have a wonderful Christmas and new year

      Like

  57. Tracey Gramiak Horton says:

    I remember many years of going to Christmas Eve mass at midnight and remember coming home in the snow in Upstate New York. We would be allowed to open one present when we got home and we also opened a present that had our new pajamas for pictures in the morning! Very nice memories Tara, brought back some of mine too. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Tracey,
      Ah, that is one thing that was sadly too often missing from my childhood Christmases – the snow! How we prayed for it every year.And on the rare occasion we got it the magic increased tenfold.

      I’m so glad the post triggered nice memories for you, it can be lovely to reminisce once in a while.
      Happy Christmas

      Like

  58. bellabryce says:

    Christmas memories for me are snow-white winters, fire burning for hours, sledging down an enormous hill, the first photo was taken with my cousins and me putting our presents on our head, dinner, dessert, cheeseboard and games. I don’t recall there ever being an argument or unhappy memory – although Christmas was the one day every year I truly felt safe and happy – mainly because it was at my grandma’s house on 80 acres. Of course, there was midnight mass the day before and I always felt so special getting to stay up late to go!

    This is the first year my husband and I will experience those memories together – I’m taking him there this year. I haven’t been back for that Christmas since 2008, so it will be incredible special.

    Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Hi Bella,
      Now that really is something special, sharing your magical childhood Christmas with your husband for the first time. I hope it’s just as perfect as those of your childhood memories.
      Happy Christmas and new year

      Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Thank you Sarah, and I have no doubt they will look back fondly, because you want them too. And if you want it, you’ll make it happen, creating your own brand of magic.
      Have a wonderful Christmas.

      Like

    • Tara Finnegan says:

      Thanks Natasha,
      That’s one of the blessings of parenthood isn’t it? Making memories for our children. As long as they look back one day with a smile on their face and think fondly of us, we’ll have created something special.
      You have a fabulous Christmas too.
      Tara

      Like

  59. laurellasky says:

    Dear Ana,

    I just noticed what great legs you have. I would kill for fine legs and a great butt. Since this is a bit inappropriate should I stand in the corner? lol
    This blog is so much fun. I have met some wonderful people which is great as I am somewhat shy. Lol

    Warmly,

    Laurel Lasky

    Like

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