Saturday, December 27, 2008


Our immediate family got together in Bratislava, Slovakia for Christmas this year. Who would have ever guessed that this would be part of our reality! Just CA and I, JE-MA-JA, DM-MP-LG-KF--6 adults and three little ones [3-1/2 years, 20 months, and 11 months].

In all the confusion [joy-filled] we were never sure that the little ones got the Santa Claus connection.The two Slovak-American little girls celebrated St. Mikulas on December 5th--putting their newly-polished shoes near the door so that St. Mikulas could leave them candy and oranges, if they have been good... LG has been taught at školka that the Christ child brings the presents on Christmas Day... KF and JA are too little to understand much of anything...

They were all excited and very much into the retrieving and unwrapping of gifts, with LG offering her services to speed up the process! JA loved his airplane, and KF loved the xylophone that friends gave to LG. There were books and art supplies, DVDs and suckers. Grandpa and grandma gave each child new clothes purchased at Du Paril Au Meme in Paris, so they will be the height of fashion this season. By agreement, the six adults focused on filling each others stockings and they were full to overflowing.

Growing up we were never allowed to believe in Santa Claus. Christmas was the birth of Christ and not to be tarnished by mythological and commercialized idols such as Santa. I always felt like I missed out on something--not believing--so I made Santa a very important part of Christmas for DM and JE. There was too little fantasy and too much reality in my childhood world, but in their growing up world Christmas was magical.

Each of the five little girls always had a new outfit for the Christmas program at church, and new pajamas from our grandparents. For many years there was a doll for each little girl. I got dolls way too long and was never big on playing with dolls at any age. My favorite doll thing was to cut their hair! Didn't matter if it was my doll or not, just needed some nice long hair--preferably braids.

We didn't hang stockings, but it was tradition that we would buy each sister a 5 or 10 cent gift. So, for most of my childhood I spent my money at Kresges on combs and candy bars, friendship rings, and Tangee lipstick.

We celebrated Christmas morning at home and then had Christmas dinner at G&G K's house with a few more gifts to open from our aunts and great aunt. There was always a lengthy session of posing for grandpa's camera on the front steps or sidewalk. He would squint and twist knobs and squint some more. Determined to achieve just the right lighting and exposure--nothing was automatic in those days.

Every few years, randomly, we would make the 2 hour drive to Bowen to celebrate Christmas Day with my dad's parents. Grandma and grandpa would welcome us with enthusiasm and open arms. Grandma would have cookies in the jar, pies on the kitchen table, and soft and puffy 3-part dinner rolls baking in the oven. There would turkey and ham, potatoes and green vegetables, stuffing and cranberries. Grandma would have a table set up in the diningroom and one in the livingroom and we would fight over who got to sit next to her.

I remember being very excited about Christmas even though we never got a lot. It was enough, at least until I was junior-high age and had friends' Christmases to compare to ours, though most of my childhood friends were of modest means. My closest friends were twins with older parents--another sibling was born 15 years before the twins. So, they were very indulged and showered with Barbies and Kens, bikes and records, and beautiful hand-sewn clothing for them and for their Barbies. By high school my closest friends were from church where families were more well-off than in our neighborhood and school. The church friends had electronic gifts and trips to Florida in their world. I learned to stay under the radar at Christmas time.

In our grown-up world my siblings and I make a very big deal about Christmas. Everyone bakes and shops and wraps and cooks. The in-laws and out-laws gather with all the little ones and there are stacks and stacks of gifts and a table filled with homemade sweets. We do Christmas over-the-top! All the shortcomings of those childhood Christmases are long forgotten.

Our children grew up with big Christmas expectations and realizations. We made magic for them and now for their little ones. And, we do it all while still remembering that Christmas marks the birth of Christ--Christ who taught us how to live and then redeemed us with his death on the cross. Jesus Christ who is coming again. We live our lives in expectation of his arrival--following his word and serving him with the gifts he has given to us. Each of us--four living generations now--holds faith in God as foundational to our lives.

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