If anyone were to ask what my favorite holiday was, I’d have to say Christmas. Ever since I was a little girl, I was enchanted by the idea of not just Santa Claus, but the entire magical aura that surrounds the very idea of Christmas. Christmas is a time when friends and family get together to celebrate not just what they have but their hopes for the future. Christmas is a time of charity when people give gifts to other people, without expecting anything in return. Christmas is a time for singing and dancing and watching Christmas movies while drinking hot chocolate. It is a time for sitting in front of the fireplace, watching the snow gently fall outside.
Despite not having lived in a house with a fireplace or waking up to a white Christmas like in the movies, I’d had many great Christmases growing up. These are 3 Christmas traditions from my childhood:
Baking Cookies for Santa
Every year the night before Christmas, my mom and I baked cookies. Well, we didn’t ‘bake.’ It was more like defrost, slice, and then stick it in the oven kind of deal. My mom could cook the most amazing Korean food, but she never baked cookies from scratch. Regardless of how the cookies were made, when they were done, I had the honor of arranging them just so for Santa. We then poured Santa a huge glass of milk, because Santa needs his calcium. How else can he deliver all of those presents by himself or hustle down the chimney who-knows-how-many-times every night?
Once the arrangement was completed, we left the cookies and milk on the table and it would be time for bed. When I woke up the next morning, I would be greeted by an empty place save for a crumb or two, and a glass of milk. It made me swell with pride seeing it as “evidence” that Santa had been in my house while I slept peacefully in my bed.
Seeing the Lights at the Zoo
One year, during the Christmas holidays, my parents and I took a trip to our local zoo to see the lights. I had went to the zoo a few times before, but this time was extra special. It was extra special because of the lights that had been hung from perimeter to perimeter. People could walk through the zoo and see the attraction.
I remember walking with my parents feeling in awe at all of the lights shining so brightly against the dark of the night. The zoo was always a spectacular place to visit, but it was all the more special because of the new features that hung so predominantly across the airspace. I don’t think I saw many animals that night. Most were probably sleeping or hiding.
Seeing light shows, no matter where they are, is always so amazing. It is an example of human creation. It is an example of the beacon of light that Christmas shines on even the darkest of years.
Decorating the Tree
Every year, my mom and I would decorate the Christmas tree. Our tree was an old thing born in the same year I was, or at least so I was told. I don’t remember how tall it was, but it was taller than me, not that that’s saying much. I definitely couldn’t reach the top of the tree; it was always a goal of mine to grow tall enough to reach the top.
This particular tree had limbs that stretched out so far horizontally. Its limbs were stiff, very stiff, and we had to pull the limbs out gently, but forcefully. Sometimes I was afraid that it was going to fall apart before out eyes. My mom did the job of fluffing it out and I was amazed at how she was able to transform something old to something new.
After fluffing the tree out, the next part was the lights. My mom carefully hung the white lights, intertwining them over and under the branches. She carefully positioned each light so that each bulb would be visible.
After the lights were hung came my favorite part: the hanging of the ornaments. We had a mix of ornaments: store bought trinkets and ornaments that I had made at school. I just loved hanging the ornaments, carefully slipping the hook through the loop on the top of each ornament. And then we would hang the ornaments, one by one. Some were hung at the top; some at the bottom. But no matter where they were placed, they each looked like they belonged. They had each found their home (for the next month at least).
After the ornaments were hung came my second favorite part. We would sit back and admire our handiwork. We would watch as the Christmas lights shown outside into a world that seemed so uncertain and dark. Despite the darkness of the world outside the window, the Christmas lights shown firm on a foundation of hope and love inside. And that, I found, is the most important thing of all.
These traditions were such a special part of my childhood and one that I still remember fondly. Baking cookies, decorating the tree, and seeing a light show were one of my favorites.