As Christmas day approached, (and I was up at zero three in the morning writing this article, because I was up) I found myself thinking of the different places where I have celebrated Christmas. Not counting the usual at home celebrations, I do remember celebrating Christmas in a desert tent in Saudi Arabia, during Desert Shield/Storm; camping overnight around 6,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; by myself in my quarters in Okinawa, Japan; and at a FEMA camp in Baker, Louisiana. I don’t remember celebrating Christmas the other times when I know I was deployed away from home. For deployed troops, the holidays can be just another day, although often there is a special meal.
Most of us have general memories of celebrating Christmas, or Hanukkah, perhaps Kwanzaa, or other religious or secular holiday tradition, and perhaps even specific memories of certain family traditions. With Christmas, some families open presents Christmas Eve and others Christmas morning. Some people combine traditions where you open presents from family Christmas Eve and then open presents from Santa on Christmas morning. Some people string popcorn, or put on tinsel, or put “spray on snow” on their tree and others would never dream of doing such a thing (pick one or all). Living in the southwest for more than two decades now, I have come to accept luminaries and tamales (with the single green olive) as part of my Christmas experience along with Lefse (a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk) – a family tradition my wife Laurie keeps alive, along with serving warm Black Eyed Peas on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Growing up, my family opened our presents Christmas Eve, and we played all night with our toys, like Play Doh, Lincoln Logs, Matchbox Cars, Tinker toys, and Slot Cars. I am surprised that some of these remembered toys are still sold, like Lincoln Logs. That Lincoln Logs can compete with Xbox games is amazing to me. Writing this article got me to research Lincoln Logs out of curiosity, and to my surprise, Wikipedia reports that Lincoln Logs were invented around 1916–1917 by John Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright! Lincoln Logs were based on the architecture of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo designed by his father.
I also remember getting a long desired “Wham O Superball.” I took it outside, threw it down hard to see what it could do, and it flew high up in the air and never saw it again.
The Christmas and New Year season is a time when old memories are recalled, and new memories are formed. Some of the new memories are from blended family traditions or different cultural influences. What are the things that in future years, you will remember, with fondness, about these times?