Many of us have fond memories of Christmas time as a child. It is full of wonder and of excitement. We remember the smells of our mom’s or grandmother’s baking. We have vivid memories of nativities, of lights, and of stockings that were traditionally displayed each year. 

I have thousands of memories from childhood, into my teenage years, and as an adult with my family at Christmas time. As I think of traditions, there are many that come to mind. We would listen to Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music often. Music was always a big part of our life anytime of the year, but it was extra special at Christmas. We would drink egg nog in fancy glasses while we decorated the Christmas tree, and every year would watch a Muppet Family Christmas together. Dad would read passages out of Luke and we would talk often about Jesus’ birth. I remember the candles Mom would light often, the Precious Moments nativity she would set out, but most of all, I remember time together as a family. I remember reading books together by the fireplace, Christmas Eve services and programs, drives in pajamas to look at Christmas lights, and hot chocolate with candy canes. 

As a child I remember seeing my dad sit somewhere quietly, reading his Bible. Usually it was early in the mornings, but more often at Christmas time, it was in the evening. Sometimes there was quiet music playing in the background, sometimes only a dim light was lit, or he was near the Christmas tree. But what maybe he didn’t realize at the time was how impactful that was for me to see as a child. Nothing disturbed him. He was spending time with Jesus. He didn’t tell us to go read our Bibles or to go spend time with God. He just modeled it, and there’s something so inspiring and peaceful about that as a child, especially at Christmastime. 

As a child I remember seeing my mom, and as a mom of 4, she was always busy. But what strikes me even more as an adult, is realizing the type of “busy” she was. She was never a rushed, frantic mom with a controlled set of schedules or agendas. She was baking cookies for someone. She was wrapping a gift and telling a story about the person it was for. She was cooking a meal to take to someone who was sick. She was singing a song to calm a crying child or tucking in someone for a nap. Sure she could juggle multiple loads of laundry, carry at least 2 kids, with 2 in diapers, clean, cook, etc, but those weren’t of large value to her. You know what I remember? It never mattered what she was doing—she was always looking out for us as kids. There was always a smile, a hug, or something encouraging from her. She would drop anything to read with us or sit on the couch together. I don’t remember criticism or harsh words from her. She rarely sat across from us as kids or stood in front of us. Do you know what she did? She held our hands. She sat next to us. She was on the floor playing with us. She did life alongside us, no matter how great or how terrible the day was. She displayed a peaceful strength that I see an even greater amount of to this day, especially at Christmastime. Not only does she have 4 kids, but 4 spouses of those kids. She has 8 grandkids with 2 on the way. She takes care of my 97 year old aunt, manages much more than she did in her 30s, and is still a beautiful example of love to my dad. Her focus, especially this time of year, is of our Savior. She is the gentle reminder to my go-go tendency self to just be. To love each day and make memories.

You know when you have kids, you find yourself re-living parts of your childhood again? Some you’d like to forget, and some you definitely rewrite for your own children, but over these last 5 years I’ve found that so many things I experienced as a child with my own family, I am still able to experience with my own children. What’s even better is that because my own parents have continued so many of our family traditions into adulthood, they are now sharing those things with their grandkids, and we all get to experience it as an even bigger family. 

We always loved baking cookies with mom when we were kids. Now, we have a traditional baking day with both of my parents, all my siblings, and our kids. It’s a blast and something we look forward to every year. When we are together on Christmas Eve, there is still eggnog. There are still some of the same decorations that were up as kids. Now the grandkids look at them. We used to watch Muppet Family Christmas as a family of 6, and now as a family of 18 together. We used to read stories together as a family of 6, and now I see my mom reading to the grandkids, next to them on the couch with blankets. I see dad holding one of the youngest grandkids, and seeing an even greater joy than we saw from him as a dad. 

I remember this time of year as a kid, teenager, or college student. Usually busy or anxiously awaiting something—a piano recital, a school program, high school finals, or a college research project. I remember as a kid my mom sitting with me on the couch or on the piano bench, telling me there was no reason to be nervous. More often, she would just be there with a hug. Silence but being together was more impactful. I remember Dad driving to the Dana College campus to help me study for finals. We would go to the library and he’d quiz me on biology terms. He’d help explain all the concepts that I couldn’t grasp in class. But where do you think he sat? Next to me. He’d call to pray for with me over the phone before my last college final or before a huge presentation that he knew I was nervous for. These are all vivid memories I have in December. They stuck with me and probably always will. 

So this December? The baking day was a blast. Last one in this house before moving soon, and I could write a whole blog about that afternoon. The kids have shared special times with all of their grandparents, which I am so thankful for. As a family of 5, we have baked, sang so many Christmas songs, listened to music, read our advent scriptures as often as we can, and have watched a few of their favorites—A Muppet Family Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, and A White Christmas. We’ve turned on the fireplace and had quiet time (yes, it’s possible with 3 energetic boys), and although parts of life have been busy, the Christmas season itself has been calm. I remember being on the phone with my mom and when she asked how I was doing one afternoon, my quick response was, “Good!” Thankfully, my mom is another gentle reminder that when she asks an honest question, she wants an honest answer. Out of habit I gave my answer, but then I paused and said, “Actually, I’m exhausted. Trying to pack up the house, take care of 3 energetic boys, still do Christmas things as a family, teach piano lessons, take care of others, and be pregnant is tiring. It’s like the next level of multi-tasking that I can’t do.” Her gentle response was, “Yes, I know. Well, time for a night off all that.” When I was a child she would have sat with me and looked at the Christmas tree with me; that next day, she drove to my house, picked me up, and we went to one of our favorites, Olive Garden. We did our traditional Christmas shopping for the boys from Aunt Jean, but this time she said, “Tonight you get to let me shop for you. Time for some new maternity clothes, and you don’t worry about gifts for anyone else right now.” When I began my typical, “No that’s ok,” she interjected with, “Dad already said so” to which I smiled. We had one of the best evenings together. 

I’ve highlighted some wonderful memories, both decades old and current, but not every Christmas season has been easy. There are bittersweet things that arise at many holidays for many of us. Not all family members are present like they used to be. Sometimes hard circumstances happen or continue through the Christmas season. Holidays, particularly Christmas, tends to trigger past events, conversations, and those may be difficult. But what doesn’t change, is the joy we have from our Savior’s birth. Memories are wonderful. Traditions are something I’ll forever cherish, but they have no comparison to the steadfast love of our Jesus. 

6 days until Christmas, and this week we are continuing our traditions as a family as we pack up to move soon, but we are so thankful for the peaceful gift of Jesus. Merry Christmas!