I still can wake up at 2:30 a.m. in mid-July with "Joy to the…
It’s time to share your Christmas memories
As I scrolled through Catholic news sites recently, I read that the Vatican had announced that Pope Francis’ Christmas liturgies will not be open to the public because of safety measures the Italian government has implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. St. Peter’s Basilica, sadly, will not be packed with worshippers for Midnight Mass.
Frankly, I hadn’t thought much about what Christmas might look like — here or elsewhere — as we’re still trying to ration our kids’ spoils from Halloween night. (It’s not going well. It looks like it snowed candy wrappers in our living room.) With Thanksgiving near and Advent and Christmas barrelling toward us, my wife and I have started to discuss our holiday schedules, trying to balance the desire to see our families with the understanding that large indoor gatherings might not be the smartest play given the state of the pandemic. We’ve agreed that we won’t be going to the big, extended-family parties, as much as we want to make smalltalk with the cousin whose name I can’t remember; the smaller ones with just our immediate families are still up in the air.
While we’re expecting to push pause on some customs, there are others we’re hoping to continue. At the top of that list are our Christmas Eve traditions. After the vigil Mass in the late afternoon, we order an enormous amount of Chinese food that we’ll graze upon for days to come. Then we’ll tell the kids that they get to open one present, picked by us. The older ones will groan that they know it’s matching Christmas pajamas, which they’ll all put on in preparation for the evening’s next tradition.
Maybe it’s common in other cities — I’m genuinely not sure — but for the past several years, our hometown visitor’s bureau posts on its social media pages the best, most gaudy, most Griswold-inspired light displays in neighborhoods across the city. After the Chinese food has settled, we’ll make Thermoses full of hot chocolate (that somebody always spills) and pile into the minivan for what you’d think would be a Christmas Eve tradition that everyone would love (because who doesn’t like looking at Christmas lights?). But this isn’t always the case, as the amount of time we spend driving with kids packed elbow to elbow in the back of a sweltering van apparently outweighs the joy of looking at pretty lights. Rare is the year that we complete the list, as the volume of crying and complaining signals when it’s time to go home.
Before bedtime, we make a big to-do of finding out how close jolly old St. Nick is to our house on NORAD’s Santa tracker. Once we’ve established a sense of urgency, we come to my favorite Christmas Eve tradition. Years ago, so that the kids didn’t sneak downstairs while we were wrapping their presents, we forced them to sleep in the same bedroom, and we sealed the door with wrapping paper (and lots of tape). We set an alarm and told them they couldn’t come out until it rang. And, surprisingly, it worked. Since then, it’s a tradition that has lived on, even though our oldest three are 17, 15 and 11. They pull the mattresses off of the beds, gather all the extra sheets and pillows in the house and make a room-sized fort. In the morning, they burst through the wrapping paper, signaling the start of a lazy, lovely Christmas Day.
These are the memories I’ll cherish as, God willing, my wife and I, and our kids, grow older. But I want you to share the memories of Christmas that you’ve held onto all these years — the stories of Midnight Masses, of Christmas miracles, of family traditions or special surprises under the tree. For years, Our Sunday Visitor has published the Christmas memories — and Christmas poems — of readers across the country. It’s a tradition that we’ve cherished, and one we hope continues for years to come. But we need your submissions.
Please send us your neatly typed Christmas memory to firstname.lastname@example.org (put “Christmas Memories in the subject line), mail it to Christmas Memories, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN, 46750, or fax it to 1-260-359-9117. Deadline for submissions is Nov. 25.
Scott Warden is managing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.