Sweet Memories of Heirlooms and Traditions

When I was a younger woman and lived at home with my parents, my mom and I would get ready for Christmas together. I can recall with crystal clarity loading the stereo with a mixture of Christmas albums that would play while we baked cookies or made ornaments for the tree. I had my favorite Christmas songs and made sure that those albums were among the first played. It wasn’t the Christmas season until Frosty the Snowman was blaring over the speakers of the Hi-fi.

The Important Role of Music

Music is so powerful, isn’t it? It has such power to affect our emotions and bring a flood of thoughts and feelings to the surface. Christmas music is particularly powerful. Listening to Silent Night, Caroling of the Bells, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful all bring back memories of being a little girl on Christmas night, sitting next to the lit Christmas tree and looking out the window at the stars twinkling in the frigid winter sky while the pale moon shone on the freshly fallen snow.

Our traditions continued as I grew into adulthood and married. Mom and I would plan our cookie date and spend the entire day making batch after batch of cookies and candies to share when the rest of the family came over on Christmas Day. As always, the stack of albums played all day long. We’d sing along with Mitch, dance around to We Need A Little Christmas, belt out Let It Snow! (By Steve and Edie of course) and hum along as Bing Crosby crooned The Little Drummer Boy.

Hearing Amy Grant singing anything off her original Christmas album and her Home for Christmas CD reminds me of being a young mom. Tender Tennessee Christmas was reworded to reflect our northern location, and Heirlooms always brought tears to my eyes. The song, Breath of Heaven is especially emotional for me as I remember it playing in the car as I drove to my parent’s house to care for my dying mom that last Christmas in 2008. Breath of Heaven, hold me together…be forever near me… were lyrics often whispered in prayer as I watched my beloved mom and best friend slip away from this earth that sad holiday season.

Significance of Heirlooms

My Christmas tree is loaded with memories and heirlooms as well. Every ornament on my tree has significance. As I am hanging the glass hand-painted ball from Poland I am reminded of my heritage and the mission trip we took to Europe. I carefully place the beaded trees and pearl angels my mom made up high to keep them safe. Likewise, all the ornaments my boys created on Christmas Craft Days throughout the years. This year, I laughed when I hung up the garish ornament to represent Bambi the chihuahua, and shed more than a few tears when I gently placed Buddy’s ornament on the tree. He crossed the rainbow bridge this spring. Deck the Halls, Sleigh Ride (by the Boston Pops) and Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland were playing over the television sound system as I decorated the tree and the house.

Because of Pandora, I can hear all those songs that I’ve literally listened to my entire life. They bring me both joy and sorrow as I reminisce about those wonderful old days. It seems that almost every song carries a memory of something for me, and I have no words to express how thankful I am for that.

Creating Traditions for Future Generations

Funny thing…I’m the grandma now (how’d that happen?!). I’ve created several of the traditions my grown and married children carry on in their own homes. My sons have eggnog and slice and bake cookies the night they put up the tree, and my daughters-in-law all make the Christmas Quiche along with the accouterments for Christmas breakfast. This year I’m thinking about how I would like to create cookie baking traditions with Ellie when she is older. I’d like to tell her about what her great-grandma (and her namesake) and I did together each December while these same songs play in the background and we cut out and decorate sugar cookies and place tiny amounts of raspberry jam inside cream cheese pillows. I’d love it if when she was a young woman and would hear Johnny Mathis or Nat King Cole singing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, she would have fond memories of me and our time together. One Christmas, I will present her with an heirloom ring that was given to my grandma by my mom.

We live on through our traditions, that much is clear. Please allow me to encourage you to begin traditions of your own if you haven’t already done so. There is something so precious about seeing your kids adopt things they grew up with and make them their own. Oh, and lest you think the only traditions we have are void of spiritual significance, the best tradition we ever had was to read the entire Christmas story on Christmas Eve before the kids went to bed. We’d come home from church, get in our jammies, and allow the boys to open one small gift. Then the Bible would be opened and they would go to sleep with the story of our Savior on their minds. That is the most important tradition of all. Heirlooms and traditions…precious things…precious memories…

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!