“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” ~Charles Dickens
It happens every year in December. Once Thanksgiving gets pushed out of the way by the onset of Christmas songs non-stop on the radio, we start hauling out the holly, lights, and tinsel, and the Christmas season gets launched at Mama’s Empty Nest.
And just like clockwork, I commence remembering past Christmases. What is it about this holiday celebration that elicits so much nostalgia? My birthdays don’t produce such a foray into the past. I don’t reminisce about Easter or the Fourth of July or any other holiday quite as much as I do Christmas.
Thoughts of Christmas always take me back. To my childhood. To remembrances of family now gone, my parents and grandparents. To my childhood home. To memories of decorating the Christmas tree, or getting that one special present, or riding in the back seat of the car bundled up in hat, mittens, and scarf exclaiming oohs and aahs while our family observed brightly colored Christmas lights decorating houses in our area.
Christmas invokes remembrances of the hustle and bustle of downtown Christmas shopping when the air was brisk and my breath made visible vapor and my parents’ arms were loaded with Christmas packages to take home and wrap.
It reminds me of home baked aromas of goodness filling the house and the scent of pine in the living room from the real Christmas fir tree. I close my eyes and remember how it sounded to hear bells jingling outside your house and how my heart seemed to skip a beat at the prospect of Santa and his reindeer up on the rooftop.
I can envision the old-fashioned glass Christmas ornaments placed on the tree, the tinsel and shiny icicles hanging from the boughs. Christmas time meant carols played and sung at the upright piano. It meant worshiping the new born King at church services. It meant ribbon candy, and candy canes, and a sweet smelling orange at the bottom of my Christmas stocking.
Augusta E. Rundel wrote, “Christmas… that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
Yes, that’s it. I’m spellbound by Christmas, engulfed in the enchantment of nostalgia. The Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit me, but he never allows the other ghostly visages from A Christmas Carol the opportunity to show themselves.
Here in our little town, a stately Federal style house built in 1842 serves as home for our county’s historical museum/genealogy society.
A weekend Christmas Open House at this house enticed my sense of old fashioned sentimentality enough to want to take a tour and the opportunity to get a glimpse of Christmas from yesteryear.
Each room of the house sported a different Christmas tree and decorations, many of them vintage, sprucing up the antiques and relics on display.
It was a nostalgic wonderland, a trip down memory lane. My husband, being the history and military buff that he is, enjoyed the “military room” immensely.
I loved the parlor with its antique organ, piano, and furnishings bedecked with old fashioned Christmas decorations; the sewing room with its display of hand-made antique quilts; and the kitchen with its homey and familiar cooking utensils from the past all festooned with yesterday’s Christmas flair.
Each room of the house caused my mind to wander with memories of my parents and grandparents. In the kitchen, tin cookie cutters decorating the tree were exactly like those my mother used to bake Christmas cookies. Vintage Christmas greeting cards festooned a pine garland and reminded me of my grandmother as did the old sewing machine and kitchen utensils.
As we departed the house and stepped back into the 21st century, climbed in our car, checked our cell phones for texts or missed calls, and drove back home, I pondered.
What will our children remember about Christmas? Will they wax nostalgic for the traditions and special memories their dad and I tried to create for them? Or will it just be another holiday like so many others?
Each December as they ready their homes for Christmas, will they remember and relive special memories of us and growing up in Mama’s Empty Nest?
Only time will tell.