The Best Holiday Home Memories
From a scrawny first Christmas tree to the sound of festive bells on the door, here are a few of your favorite moments from holiday seasons past
We've asked for your Holiday DIY Disasters and alerted you to Common Holiday Hazards to Avoid. Contrary to what we might have you believe, though, this is the most joyous time of year. Certainly, we've all got good holiday home memories to share. So, we went ahead and asked you for those, too. Here are a dozen of our favorite recollections, as told by you—our valued readers.
We grew up with very little, (six people in two bedrooms) but Christmas was always the best. My three sisters and I were sent to bed early on Christmas Eve; Mom would heat up bricks in the oven and wrap them in newspaper and put them at the foot of our beds (warm feet and the smell of the heated newspaper—ahhhhh!). At the crack of dawn we would rush downstairs and find, like magic, a beautiful tree decorated with lights and glass ornaments, with a train running at its base and the living room crowded with toys and doll houses.
I found out later that my parents would wait till we were asleep and stay up all night making that magic happen.
Today families decorate the tree and hang the stockings days, if not weeks, before Christmas. But I still remember lying in bed feeling like I would burst with excitement and thinking, "Was I good this year? Did Santa come?" I will be eternally grateful to my parents for all their hard work to give their four girls those wonderful Christmas mornings where every dream came true and Santa lived.
My fondest memory is of the years that our family friend and his sons would arrive on Christmas Eve with their horns, playing Christmas carols on the front steps. Some years, large flakes of what I call "Hollywood" snow would be falling behind them as we opened the door, and it would feel like a scene from a Bing Crosby movie. We'd invite them in, the adults would share a drink or two, and my cousins and I would play with his sons. Then they'd go home and we'd try to go to sleep.
We've built our own holiday traditions over the years, some of them wonderful...but the one thing I always miss on Christmas Eve is the Christmas-caroling brass ensemble.
I used to take my nephew Christmas tree shopping. He'd run all over looking and getting excited about every tree, but none were good enough, so he'd keep racing around until we found "the one." Thirty minutes later, it became obvious that he had pooped. And every tree looked like "the best one...can we go now?!" Always makes me laugh to think of it. He's 22 now.
We used to have a cat that loved bells; she'd ring them at every opportunity. Guess what we hung on our Christmas tree? You guessed it—bells, some high and some low. The littlest of our two cats decided that she needed to ring the highest bell; she had to climb that tree to reach it. The tree of course was not quite up to the chore of supporting a rambunctious cat, so it toppled. She never climbed a Christmas tree again she was so surprised.
We stabilized the tree by tying it to the banister for as long as she was with us. We used a high-test fishing line, and it worked very well.
Ann O'Brien Cooney
"It was Christmas 1948 or 1949, I think. As everyone knows, you must be good and not naughty or Santa will not include you on his long list of presents. My brother, Chuck, seemed to gravitate to mischievous deeds, like forgetting to walk the dog, or make his bed, arguing, feeding the dog his homework, etc. Back then, the normal parental response to misbehaving was, 'You will have nothing under the tree except a lump of coal.' Well, if you were in the East during the winter of '48 (or '49), you remember the big blizzard. So, we had no shortage of coal.
"At O'Dark Thirty, my brother and I raced to the living room. There were so many presents for me and only one for my brother. He was excited because it was a big box. The happiness only lasted so long. Inside was the biggest lump of coal anyone had ever seen. He wasn't the bravest boy after all, so once the tears dried, Mom had him go to the hall closet for the remainder of his gifts. I believe that was the Christmas we both received Lionel trains. His set was bigger, but mine wasn't bad for a little sister."
via TOH Community
"My poppy dressed up as Santa every year and I have to admit, it was years before we even discovered it was him. He knew we were watching for him, sneaking up to the stairs and peeking down at his shadow below. We'd peek through the rails and I'd tell my sister that her head would get stuck between them for sure if she wasn't careful. We'd quietly head down and peek into the living room so sure that Santa had squeezed through the chimney to bring us our gifts."
"Christmas has to be my favorite holiday. When I was growing up my father worked two jobs, so it was a treat when dad was home. We always had a real tree, so we would go to a tree farm look forever for that perfect tree and my dad would cut it down. When we got it home, dad usually put the tree outside in a huge bucket of water for a few days until he was home again and had the time to get it up. Mom would be in the kitchen making cookies and hot cocoa, and dad, myself, and my siblings would take care of the tree. After it was all done, we would gather around the fireplace and watch Christmas specials on TV 'til we fell asleep. My dad had to lug us all to our rooms one by one. We still help with the Christmas tree, but now Dad lugs his grandkids in to bed."
"I was just reading about the Charlie Brown story where he picked out a scrawny little tree and it reminded me of this: When I was a struggling single mom, I drove by a closed Boy Scout Christmas tree sale on December 23rd. There was one little, unsold tree waiting for trash pickup. I got out and rescued it so that my son & I would have a tree that year."
"My grandmother got an ornament for my dad every year, that represented what he was into or had achieved that year. My dad used to pull them all out and talk to me about each one, and I remember asking him to tell me some stories over and over. They've both since passed, but I love digging the box of ornaments out every year to revisit their lives. Now, I do the same for my kid. She's only 5 years old, so there's a Baby's First ornament, a ballerina, a puppy (for when we got our little mutt), and a few others. I'm looking forward to building her collection. It means a whole lot to me and I hope it will be just as meaningful to her, too."
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"For Christmas 1989, I was working two jobs and was just exhausted. I had not gotten a tree or any decorations. On Christmas night, I got off at 11pm and drove home tired and cold. I lived in a condo complex where all the buildings were alike. I pulled up to my building and saw a Christmas tree in the window, decorated and lighted. I was sure I had pulled up to the wrong building. It turns out that my neighbor and her son had gone to a tree lot, bought a tree, found my decorations and put the tree in the window for me! My best Christmas ever."
"When we were kids, I remember always listening for the sleigh bells my mom put on our front door. It usually meant that family members were coming in—with gifts. Now, every time I hear them I remember running to the door as a kid to see who was there and quickly scope for shopping bags and wrapped boxes."
"At Christmas time, on the radio they were featuring Christmas traditions one year. I heard all these wonderful traditions and kind of wished I had one of my own. I went to work thinking of a tradition for my family: I wanted it to be cheap enough, and easy enough to be carried on, but still touching. Well, my 9-year-old child said, 'Mom, I have the perfect idea. Let's write a letter to each other telling how much we love and appreciate each other and what is our best memory is of them this year. And let's put it under the tree and open it first thing Christmas Day.'
"That Christmas Day was the most beautiful and heartwarming Christmas I have ever had. We started out our Christmas Day being thankful for each other every year now. This is and will continue to be my favorite memory of Christmas."