Christmas memories bring joy

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

Nearly everyone spends time during the holidays thinking back to the memories of Christmas in their childhood. Family traditions can bring back great memories.

For me, one of the memories was making Christmas cookies with my mom and sister. Mom would find the cookie cutters, roll out the dough and Ann and I would cut the cookies into the different shapes, then see how much of the colored sugar we could put on each one. The toughest part was waiting for the cookies to cool down so we could eat them. Mom would make sugar cookies and butterballs for us to enjoy, and if we were lucky, we might get a second batch of cookies as Christmas got closer.

We had family traditions also at Christmas Eve. Right after lunch, Dad, Ann and I would get in the car and make the rounds, stopping at cousins’ houses in town and in the country, dropping off gifts and cards and collecting the same. I saw one of my cousins last week at the post office and with the snow falling, I was reminded that his mom always gave the same gift to all her nieces and nephews… Usually a pair of mittens or gloves.

Later on Christmas Eve, we would have supper… Dad always had Campbell’s Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve, I don’t remember what Ann and I had. The family would gather in the living room - one of the few times in the year when we were all in that room - and exchange Christmas gifts. Mom was the one in charge of doling out the gifts, making sure that no one got too far ahead of anyone else. And the biggest gifts were always saved for last.

Then, worn out from all the excitement, we’d go to sleep and somehow, didn’t wake up when Santa stopped by for his annual visit. Ann and I would wake up and find that Santa had left a bunch of presents under the tree, and our morning would be spent playing with our new toys… the one I always seem to remember most was a table-hockey game with the North Stars and Blackhawk figures. That game kept me and my friends busy for years afterward.

Then, we’d go off to Mass and from there we’d have our Christmas Day dinner with my mom’s family. It rotated each year, between our house, Grandma and Grandpa Kes’ house and Aunt Gladys and Uncle Ralph Bisek’s house. For many years, it was just 11 of us, grandma and grandpa, the four adults and five kids. One by one, each of us started bringing our significant others, who became spouses, and eventually, another generation started to make the gathering bigger. Eventually, it got to be too big and the two branches split off. From that point, the Christmas Day gathering included just mom and dad, my sister and I and our spouses, and five kids - the same size of family gathering we had when we were growing up.

The Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s was always the gathering for my dad’s family. It would rotate between four houses, which meant sometimes we would go to dad’s sisters farms near Heidelberg or St. Thomas. Usually, the kids would go outside for part of the afternoon (that’s where those mittens from Aunt Bernice would come in handy). There were 14 kids between the four families and eight adults, so it was usually a full house, that only got fuller as cousins got married and had kids of their own. Those celebrations eventually came to an end as families continued to grow, with the aunts and uncles instead having an annual gathering.

Over the last two years, I’ve lost my mom, three of my aunts and an uncle. At each of the funerals, I visited with cousins and their children, and have met some of their grandchildren. I’ve even become a grandfather as well. At each of those gatherings, thoughts went back to those Christmas celebrations and how much fun they were for us children.

Here’s hoping that your Christmas celebrations bring as much joy to you during the coming season, and that the memories of these events last a lifetime.

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