Nutcracker memories

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Little One’s fascinated by them too.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved the classical music of The Nutcracker, written by Tchaikovsky. I mean who doesn’t love the idea of a sugar plum fairy dancing in your head while you listen to that beautiful music?

A long time ago, I started a small collection of different nutcrackers and they almost always adorn someplace in our home at Christmas time. I don’t really recall which one I acquired first, but over the years, I’ve added more. But before the collection became too large, I decided to stop and just keep it small.

Of course, The Nutcracker is a famous ballet, usually performed during the Christmas season and I do have a vague recall of having seen it televised when I was a child in the early 1960’s.

Later, as a married adult I attended a live performance of The Nutcracker danced by a ballet company in the city where we lived at the time.  And as our children came along, I decided that one day we would take them to see the ballet as a holiday treat.

We managed to accomplish that, although our son, who was pretty young at the time, fell asleep and missed more than half of the performance. Still it’s a lovely memory in my mind: the five of us all dressed up in Christmas finery traveling into the city to enjoy a live ballet with a Christmas story line.

Our oldest granddaughter seems to share my fascination with nutcrackers. We’ve read the story to her and she remembered that Nana has a set of nutcrackers that decorate the top of the piano at Christmas time.

While Papa and I were hauling out the holly to set our house ablaze with lights and decorations, Little One was here as it was a baby-sitting day.

“Nana, can I help you get the nutcrackers out?” she asked. Well, I’m a grandmother, a doting one, and even though I probably never allowed my own children at her age to help with the nutcrackers in fear that they would break one, of course, I said, “Sure!”

I found the plastic storage bin where the nutcrackers were located, opened it, and one by one, Little One helped me release them from their protective layers of tissue and bubble wrap. Something needed my attention in the kitchen, so I left our granddaughter in the dining room with the decorations.

Re-entering later, I found myself amused that she had lined them all up mostly by height and was enjoying them. So I left again to do something else.

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“Okay, all of you nutcrackers, line up!”

Soon, I heard a little bit of thumping. I called to her and asked if she was alright. She assured me she was. A few minutes afterward, she sought me and asked me to come into the living room. I was shocked at what I found.

My four-year-old grandchild has an eye for decorating! She had crawled up onto the piano bench and placed the nutcrackers, one by one, in a very nice fashion. She was so proud of her accomplishment that she dragged her mama, when she got back from working, in to see her display.

We all chuckled when she announced that she did it all by herself and “I didn’t even get distracted.”

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Little One’s display — just as good as Nana can do!

Those nutcrackers gave me yet another Christmas memory to cherish. And some day, when she’s just a tad older so she won’t fall asleep, this Nana and Papa will take our granddaughter, dressed in her Christmas finery, to see The Nutcracker ballet in person.

And that will be yet another Christmas memory for her and me, I hope.

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale.” ~ Vera Nazarian

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Filling the stockings with thanks

blogIMG_6536The stockings are hung.

Just like in the famous Christmas poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore.

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.” 

Even though our three offspring are all adults over 30, Papa and I fill stockings with little essentials and yummy treats when they all come home for Christmas. It’s fun for us and likewise for them to dump out their stockings and feel like a little kid on Christmas morning again.

This year, only two stockings hang on our mantle – one for Little One and one for Middle Daughter – since the others will not be celebrating with us this year.

As I cozy up on our family room love seat these chilly winter nights leading up to Christmas and catch a Hallmark movie on TV, my eyes are drawn to the fireplace mantle where those two stockings hang. 

Stockings. Why do we have this tradition of hanging socks for Santa Claus to fill on Christmas Eve?

The popular legend describes a poor widowed father of three girls worried that because his girls would have no dowry, they would not be chosen for marriage even though they were beautiful girls.

Saint Nicholas happened through the widower’s town and heard this sad tale and decided to help them anonymously. So he slid down the family’s chimney one night to leave gold coins for them.

Finding the girls’ stockings hung up to dry on the chimney, he filled them with the coins. So every Christmas Eve, children began hanging stockings up for St. Nick to fill.

 A lovely little legend, isn’t it? When I read it in numerous sources, I began reminiscing about my own childhood Christmas stocking.

As a child in the 50’s and early 60’s, I always hung the same red felt stocking with the words “Merry Christmas” printed in white in hopes of finding goodies inside on Christmas morning. “Santa” always filled it with the same kind of items, yet I was thrilled to empty my sock to find them.

A juicy orange, a shiny Red Delicious apple, some walnuts in their shells, candy canes, assorted Christmas candy, maybe a small trinket toy, and one other item in particular – chocolate ‘coins’ wrapped in gold foil.

When my own three were young, they too received an orange, Christmas candy, and assorted little toys or trinkets in their stockings. And one more thing – chocolate ‘coins’ wrapped in gold foil.

Every year, I managed to find little net bags filled with the coins to include in my little ones’ stockings just like my childhood stocking held once upon a time. 

I continued this tradition until my three became adults. However, I never knew the significance of those little chocolate treats until I read about the legend of St. Nick filling stockings with gold coins.

The memories of Christmases long past still swirl through my mind and I enjoy the traditions that the holiday brings, just like those little gold foil wrapped chocolate coins in the stockings.

But as I ponder the true meaning of Christmas, the joy that filled the world at the news of a heavenly King born on that day, I have to pause for a moment to be thankful.

Thankful for a Savior. Thankful for the freedom to celebrate Christmas because of that tiny babe born in a manger. Thankful for family. Thankful for traditions that have meaning.

And yes, even thankful for filled Christmas stockings. But even more so, thankful for the legs that fill our socks.

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” ~ G.K. Chesterton

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tradition

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Our family Christmas Eve tradition

Tradition.

That word reminds me of a scene from Fiddler on the Roof when the character Tevye says, “And how do we keep our balance? I can tell you in one word. Tradition.”

He continues by saying, “Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…You may ask, how did this tradition get started. I’ll tell you. I don’t know but it’s a tradition.”

Traditions. We all have them and they pop to the surface and call attention to themselves at Christmas time. If your family is anything like mine, there are just certain Christmas traditions you don’t change or mess with.

Some of those traditions were passed down through our family from one generation to another. Some are traditions Papa and I started ourselves and our grown children say it’s just not Christmas without them. You know, keeping the season balanced, I guess.

I’d like to share just a few of our Christmas traditions with you. Like Tevye though, I don’t know how some of them started.

Bird ornament. When I was a little girl, I remember that my mom always had some kind of bird ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  I don’t know why, but I recently discovered that such an ornament represents happiness and joy.  I do know that if you look near the top of our tree, you will see a tiny little white bird trimmed in red with wings outstretched. 

Hanging mistletoe.  Again as a small child, I remember mistletoe, which is not native to our area, hanging in a doorway of our family home.  I always giggled when someone kissed beneath it and as a teenage girl, I longed for someone to kiss under that greenery.  You just might receive a little peck on the cheek at our house when you stand beneath the mistletoe in the hallway by our front door. 

Candlelight service. One of my most favorite traditions is attending our church service at 11 p.m. Christmas Eve welcoming in the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child at midnight by candlelight while singing Silent Night.

Opening one gift.  Our children actually started this tradition of choosing and opening one gift only on Christmas Eve. When we lived in other areas of the country away from our families, packages would arrive by mail and rest under the tree.  Our kids had a hard time waiting until Christmas Day to open them, so we acquiesced to their pleading and allowed them to open just one the night before.

Christmas dinner menu.  Certain foods must be served or my kids are disappointed. In addition to the baked, glazed ham and twice-baked potatoes, there must be one of two salads – either their favorite frog eye salad or a special molded, multi-layered rainbow colored jello salad that takes forever to make. Growing up, Christmas dinner just wasn’t complete without my mom’s 24-hour salad – a tart fruit salad with homemade mayonnaise. And I believe I was the only member of the family who didn’t like it. So that’s why our traditional salad is different.

Cookies. There must be cookies – lots of Christmas cookies.  They can include old favorites like my mom’s tea cakes, peanut butter blossoms (Papa’s favorites), and M&M cookies, or new recipes but the tray must be full.  And there MUST be sugar cookies in the shapes of stars, trees, Santa, snowmen, and bells, and they must be iced and decorated.  This is a tradition that my kids loved growing up because they got to help cut out the shapes and decorate with scads of sugars and candies.

Candles in the windows. Even Papa inquires whether we’re placing candles in our windows for the Christmas season and we do, every year. Each window in the front of our home is lit up by one solitary electric candle.  This tradition came from my family. When I was young, my mother placed red wreaths, made out of some cellophane type of material, in each of our windows. In the center of those wreaths was an electric candle. I’ve heard that a candle in the window in colonial times meant you were welcome in that place. For us, it also represents welcoming the Christ Child into our lives.

Advent calendar.  Not just any old advent calendar marking the days until Christmas, but one that when you open each day’s door, you find a chocolate candy goodie waiting for you. There’s one in the kitchen right now that little one (our nearly two-year-old granddaughter) is enjoying.  A tradition she’s learning about already.

Chocolate oranges. Somewhere along the line, we started the tradition of having dark chocolate oranges – a chocolate candy flavored and shaped like an orange that you break apart into ‘slices’ for the holiday. As a child, there was always an orange in my stocking and I think it stemmed from that.  Just the other day, our middle daughter arrived home and said, “guess what I bought?” Yep, a chocolate orange to savor on Christmas. Another tradition we will probably be passing down to our granddaughter.

Christmas Eve sundaes. This one is an absolute must and our grown kids always ask to make sure I have all the ingredients for the special sundaes we eat only on Christmas Eve. Unlike some of our traditions, I know exactly where this one came from and how it started.

Back when Papa and Mama were young married folk with only one child, we lived in Oklahoma. Papa’s parents came to visit us for the holiday and we took them to Tulsa for a sight-seeing trip. 

We visited a quaint little ice cream shop – I can’t remember the name of it but do remember the sundaes we ate there. And those sundaes were recreated into our family Christmas Eve sundaes which we serve every single year after dinner.

Our sundaes consist of scoops of green chocolate mint chip ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in between the scoops. Whipped cream tops them off garnished by a red maraschino cherry, red and green sugar sprinkles, and either a mini candy cane or peppermint stick.  All served in a fancy glass as shown in my photo above.

Traditions. Good things with good memories.What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

“At the heart of every family tradition is a meaningful experience.” ~ unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com