Mom Mentors’ Fondest Christmas Memories

Dad-Daught-roadOur Mom Mentors inspire us throughout the year with ideas for family closeness and faith. It’s no surprise their own fondest Christmas memories revolve around people. Enjoy a walk in the past with them, and see what you might carry with you into your special Christmas occasions.

What are your fondest Christmas Memories?

Kona Brown: My parents divorced when I was six. Life before their divorce was tumultuous, life thereafter complicated, but the one constant of my childhood was the presence of my maternal grandparents. My simplest and fondest Christmas memories are of being at their house, a place that radiated peace, love, order, a sense of belonging, the kind of things I cravedKonaBrown most as a child. My Granny engaged in the “traditions” of Christmas time (family, feasting, etc.) in a way that made me recognize her agenda was to serve and comfort her loved ones, more than the demands of the season, gluttonous excesses or any form of religion-cultural habit. The table was decorated not because that is what the season called for, but because she wanted to make each one seated there feel welcomed, wanted, found, blessed. My grandparents celebrated the birth of Christ to which we have added such a myriad of “traditions” chiefly by reflecting His love, not just to us their family, but to everyone in their circle. The priorities on the day where clear, God’s presence was sought, the gift of His son was celebrated and at their house, Christmas was not as a commercial event, but a relational one.

SusanHeimSusan Heim: I was raised in the Catholic Church, and every Christmas Eve, our whole family bundled up against the cold Michigan night and headed to Midnight Mass. I remember my excitement as a child about being allowed to stay up so late. I can still hear the crunch of our boots as we stumbled through the snow in layers of clothing to get from our car to the church door. As we approached, we could hear the great organ playing Christmas carols as we hurried to find a pew that could fit our family of four before the church became standing-room-only. A reverence filled the air as the service began. The priest distributed the scent of incense as the Advent candles burned brightly, and I craned my neck to see the Baby Jesus in his manger at the altar. The service always ended with the entire congregation singing “Silent Night” together a cappella. Filled with warmth, we’d stumble back to the car with the certainty that we had spent the evening in God’s presence, sharing in the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Christmas had begun.

JillWilliamsJill Williams: I honestly struggle with the celebration of the holiday of Christmas, not with Christ’s birth. The focus on what we all want and the money we spend on gifts and the eye-candy everywhere, especially luring my kids to want more. I love Thanksgiving—giving thanks together with family—no gifts, please. Gift giving, however, is one of my dad’s spiritual gifts. Every Christmas, at least my memory says every Christmas, he would surprise us with a gift beyond our expectations. One that was hidden, not under the tree. He’d wait until we thought we’d opened everything. Then, he’d have so much fun giving us more. We’ve done this with our kids a few times, too; the gift of gift giving didn’t fall too far from the tree. It is really fun to share in the joy and excitement that comes with the surprise of receiving more than was expected. I think moments like this do hit my fondest Christmas memories list. Despite the commercialization that can come with gift purchasing and the entitlement that can come with too much gift receiving, in giving more than is expected lies a beautiful picture of the gift we are given in Christ. One that clearly is beyond our expectations.

Audra Haney: My fondest Christmas memories all seem to revolve around Christmas Eve. I think as a kid, I might have been more focused on the excitement of unwrapping gifts. However, as an adult, my fondest memories revolve around my fondest people.

Audra HaneyI can remember always going to candlelight service with Grandma and Granddaddy “C.” She’s in heaven now, but I’ll never forget all the years we watched her sing O Holy Night from the choir loft. I remember my mom forcing us to drive around town afterwards and look at lights. We moaned and groaned, but these days, I really am thankful she made us listen, really listen (like 12 times in a row) to the lyrics of “Mary Did You Know.” I can see my dad kicked back in his leather green recliner afterwards, smiling at us delighting in gifts that must have been so hard to provide some years—as he enjoyed yet another piece of Jesus’ birthday cake.

But, my favorite thing of all was sleeping in the same room with my brothers every year. Cozied in matching PJs–we giggled, listened for Santa, and tried to guess what would be waiting under the tree. There were years we were sure we saw the flash of a sled through the window and another year we heard a bellowing “Ho Ho Ho.” I’m an adult now but I would make a hefty trade for one more night of being 7 years old—on that hard wood floor spending a night of magical anticipation with two of my best friends.

CharissaCharissa Kolar: I have always loved Christmas. My endearing Christmas memories are a gift from my Aunt.  My Aunt Jeanette hosted Christmas Eve dinner at her house from the time I was 4 years old till my late 20’s.  It was the one childhood tradition that never changed.  All of my local family would gather, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. In the early years, she hosted us all in her 2 bedroom 1 bathroom cozy little condo.

My Aunt Jeanette organized the dinner menu and I have memories of she and my mom cooking together.  The kitchen windows would fog over with steam from potatoes on the stove and ovens blazing with turkey or ham.  Besides an amazing dinner, my Aunt decorated her house and put up the biggest tree she could fit into her home. The house smelled good and looked good. We would dress up to attend.  I played games with my cousins who we otherwise didn’t see too often. We always opened gifts last and they were appreciated but not the focus of our night.  The joy was from being together.  My Aunt is no longer with us, but our favorite Christmas memories are forever shaped by her.

JulieKierasJulie Kieras: Some of my fondest Christmas memories include listening to my Dad read Luke 2 on Christmas morning, stringing popcorn, setting up the manger scene, and the huge family dinner at my Italian grandma’s house on Christmas eve. These days, my dad still reads the Luke 2 story to my kids, but we have some new traditions and memory-making! We have been doing Advent calendars with our boys for years, and especially love ones like decorating a Jesse tree and other Bible based activities to prepare for celebrating the birth of Christ. Whatever my children’s Christmas memories will be, I hope they remember Christ at the heart of all our celebration!

Chere Williams: My most memorable Christmas started out somewhat perfect! A few years ago my parents and my brother visited from Pittsburgh to celebrate the holidays at my house. I was excited and really felt like a bonafide adult! I had never hosted Christmas at my house and I was determined to make it extra memorable since my grandmother had passed away December 26th a few years ago. I wanted my mom to kick her feet up and enjoy a little Yuletide spirit. I spent hours baking. I decorated the house until it resembled a glorious wonderland, and every gift was wrapped meticulously. Yes, this was going to be a day to remember and boy was it!

Chere_Williams_PictureChristmas Day arrived and we all gathered around the tree watching Anya rip into her gifts and enjoy the Barbie Cadillac complete with motor and working radio that my generous brother bought her. Then it was time for dinner. The turkey was cooking and boom! The electricity went out! As luck would have it my stove was electric. So there we were with no food and it was getting dimmer in my house by the minute! The one thing I forgot…candles! Luckily Anya saved the day with her glow doodle that gave us some light as we cuddled close on the couch playing games and reading stories. The electric eventually came on and we made gingerbread houses as we waited for dinner, which we ate around 10:00 pm! Regardless, of all the mishaps it was a beautiful Christmas that gave us tons of laughs and lots of love! In its imperfection it was totally perfect! 


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