Sometime not long after Thanksgiving, the sounds of Andy Williams Christmas songs would fill my childhood home daily, and the house would smell of the cookies and candies my mother baked for church members and friends.
It always seemed like the most wonderful time of the year.
It was the same time of year my siblings and I would drag out the Sears and JCPenny Christmas catalogues, circle those things we wanted most, and make sure my mother knew exactly what they were.
A time or two each holiday season, Mom would drag all four of us, and sometimes a cousin too, to the mall. I have no idea how she managed — especially when we got a little older and would do things like run up and down the escalators backward — but as far as I know she never lost any of us, and we always made it home safe and sound.
On Christmas Eve, we’d have a big feast at our home with my paternal grandparents, then would gather around the tree and wrapped boxes in the living room, anxiously waiting for the ladies to finish cleaning dishes so we could tear into the presents. And every year, each one of us would eventually find that one thing we really wanted under the tree.
On Christmas Day, we’d awake and open stockings full of candy and neat little gifts, then later in the day we’d head to Lynchburg to visit, eat and exchange gifts with my mother’s side of the family. There were lots of us, and I remember it like something out of a Norman Rockwell scene, with a little chaos thrown in.
In the years since the routine has changed. Some we used to celebrate with have passed on, but new generations have stepped into their place. And although I no longer hear Andy Williams on a daily basis in December, I still have mother’s album and can listen to him via vinyl or on my phone. The latter, with ear buds, would no doubt be best. Because my kids and grandkids would likely croak if I subjected their ears to sweet sounds of Andy Williams.
We still all go to my parents’ home each Christmas Eve. There are just a lot more of us than there used to be. Then Christmas is an all-day affair at our home.
We usually sleep in a little, eventually mosey downstairs for breakfast, then gather in the living room around the Christmas tree. After a round of opening gifts — one at a time so everyone can see, which takes a while — we take a break for lunch. Then come the Santa gifts. After that there is usually a time of putting together and playing with all the new gadgets and toys, followed by opening the stockings that are much like they were at home my childhood home long ago.
By then it is usually well past dark. Some go other places they need to be, or some leave and come back. There’s supper, if anyone has room left after all the snacks, and before it seems possible another Christmas day comes to a close.
One day before long the current tradition will change, too. There will be new traditions and new children and new places to be.
And that is good. Because all those we have ever celebrated Christmas with are still with us in our hearts, and the more memories and traditions we create, the more we have to celebrate.
Here’s hoping your holidays are the most wonderful time of the year.
And from myself and everyone at The Times-Gazette, have a very merry Christmas!
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.