As far back as I can remember, in my family, Christmas Gift! was the traditional Christmas Day greeting. My sister, Cissy, was the family master at this and usually “got” us all (i.e., she would say it before I could say it). It was how we answered the phone in those pre-caller ID days, just in case it was my grandmother or first cousins on the line. It is also one of the family traditions that has carried on to this day as I received an email just after midnight last night from my brother with “Christmas Gift!” as the subject. Since he had sent it to me and our first cousin Mary, I replied all so that I could say I “got” someone. Then I went to Facebook and left it as a message on the pages of Mary, her daughters and her niece and nephew (since her brother is not on Facebook, I guess I’ll miss him).

Christmas Day 1959 just after the measles broke and I decided I finally wanted to play with my Christmas presents

This was just one of the many and varied traditions we had for Christmas Day. Another tradition that I have managed to sustain all these years is a Christmas Day breakfast of steak and eggs. This year is no exception as I have already eaten the breakfast a bit ago. I think the only year I have missed having steak and eggs on Christmas Day was 1976 when I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB.

While my mother and sister were both always doing the heavy Christmas decorations, I have tended to not continue that tradition. I have plenty of ornaments for those occasional years where I do put up a tree. One year, one of my cousins made and gave me an “angel” for the top of the tree. She told me the angels tended not to last as they were made out of sugar and the mice would eat them. I used the angel that year then wrapped it in plastic from the dry cleaners. I passed this angel on to the daughter of this cousin earlier this year as a remembrance of her mother who died suddenly 20 years ago. Then as I went through my sister’s things after her death, I made sure I saved the tree top angel she had made in kindergarten and had set on top of our family trees as we grew up then on her trees over the years.

Christmas Day 1962 with my new bike

Some traditions last decades, others only for two or three years but all make Christmas unique for our individual families. Sometimes, it is life intruding that breaks the traditions. Many of us can recall Christmases where a family member is lost right in the middle of the season. In my family, it was the year a first cousin died in a car accident a week before Christmas. He would have been 21 on Christmas Eve that year. Remembering the pain of that Christmas, we can get some sense of the anguish being felt by the families of folks in Newtown, CT and Webster, NY today.

Pictures were always a big tradition in my family. This picture from 1980 is the last year we were all together on Christmas. I have been scanning in a lot of Christmas pictures from over the years and have uploaded them to Facebook. They do make a good record for the family.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor