The Ghosts of Christmas Pasts
December 15, 2021
Charles Dickens wrote that the three ghosts of Christmas visited Ebenezer Scrooge. Christmas Past, Present, and Future. I believe that once you get to my age and have had children, you, in fact, have three Christmas pasts added on to your present and future. Let me explain.
Your first ghost to visit would be your childhood ghost. What a merry soul that would be, in most cases. A time when magic was possible, no, definite. The belief in Santa is absolute. This magic colors everything you experience around Christmas. I recall the large family gatherings. Even as a child, I anticipated my second cousin’s jello salad and my great aunt’s Scottish shortbread. Recollections have to be the sacred Christmas pudding at the tip-top of the food. It was mixed and steamed on November 12th., so it could mature in the fridge, wrapped in its cocoon of wax paper and foil. It would emerge after Christmas dinner accompanied by a brown sugar sauce and what is called hard sauce. The pinnacle of Christmas dinner. No matter how full you might be, no one could leave the table without a slice of that delicious pudding. On the table, we always had bright Christmas crackers to snap. Enclosed inside our crackers were hats to wear and jokes to tell.
All recollections are not food-related, of course. Mine are laced through with ice skating. I was skating pretty much every day and building snow forts, crunching through the snow to the warm house with the Christmas tree sparkling in its splendor. I know someone whose family had trouble affording a tree. This enterprising little boy would wait after school was dismissed, before holidays began, and ask the teacher if they might have the class tree to take home. Twice he was awarded this amazing gift; he would drag that tree home to be greeted with high praise and excitement with a great sense of pride. Some gifts live in your memory forever. Mine is a tin dollhouse. Compared with today’s splendid houses, it seems relatively poor, but in my mind, I remember how perfect it was to me. I loved the book I received every Christmas and remembered waking up to begin my new book the following day. Anticipation surged as I delved into another journey of the mind.
Next is the Ghost of the Second Past. This is when you are grown and have children of your own. What splendid memories now tinged with wistfulness. What can rival watching your children opening their stockings and tearing open their gifts? The excitement of the Christmas concert at school and then at church? Watching your children participating in the Nativity story or singing in the junior choir? The caroling resounds in your memory. The family gathered on Christmas Eve to greet guests at a come-and-go. I would work for days baking and preparing food in general. It was all worth it as our friends, stomping snow off their boots, entered the door, shouting Merry Christmas!
The children were running through the house playing some wild game they had concocted while under the thrall of high excitement. This was no “ sugar high.” This was a” day before Christmas high”! I remember Christmas afternoon with a temporary lull in activity as each child playing with their toys. Christmas night, for mothers, there is a feeling of satisfaction that you have pulled off a successful Christmas once more. All the hours shopping, wrapping, decorating, ferrying children to Christmas activities, not to mention baking, seem all well worth it. You have added another lovely memory for your children’s Christmas pasts. My daughter and I will never forget the grand Christmas tea that our friend Marilyn and her daughter Andrea held on the first Sunday of December. Their house would be decorated and the dining room table laden with all kinds of fancy cakes, cookies, and squares. The silver tea service reposed at the end of the linen-covered table, along with the sparkling punch bowl. Only daughters and mothers were invited. Everyone was in their Christmas finery, and all had a wonderful time. Marilyn has confided this was their Christmas. They enjoyed it as much as the big day. It lives in all our memories!
Next is your Ghost of the Third Past. These are the days when your grandchildren are still young, and you are once more thrilled with their sense of magic. If you are lucky, you again get to watch the opening of stockings, watch the concerts and see the magic of Christmas once more through their eyes. My one grandson is an old soul. I love my conversations with him. The other day, he watched their tree, which revolves, turning in the dark dining room. ‘Mom,” he said,” isn’t the tree lovely, gracefully turning in the dark of the dining room?”. Well said for a nine-year-old. I am so glad that each generation brings a new set of eyes to the wonder of Christmas. Their gifts may be different, but their feelings and the thrill of magic are not. However, now your position is not in the center of things, as it was when you were a mother or father. Now you are on the periphery. You contribute with gifts and maybe some food, but you are not the major participant you once were. You get to enjoy Christmas differently. In some ways, it’s just as satisfactory, as you have more time to yourself to ponder the Christmas experiences of the present and the past. You get to add some memories of your own to their present. You offer the Christmas decoration treasured since your childhood, the presentation of the pudding you made, the stories about your children’s Christmases. You play board games and watch movies together.
The Ghost of Christmas present is now evolving. Sadly, I can’t be with my family for a second year due to covid, so I share through texts, videos, and conversations. It’s not the same, of course, but it’s better than it would have been back when there was little communication over distances. I mailed some Christmas crackers that contain windup reindeer you can race, emailed recipes, and etransfered money; I will have done what I can to make my children’s and grandchildren’s Christmas hold a little of me. I rest easy in knowing that my children carry on my traditions even though I’m not there. Ken and I will have a wonderful Christmas together, as we did last year. We are already enjoying our Christmas music, movies, and books. We have decorated the tree and house and made the sacred Christmas pudding. Next week, we tackle his childhood memory of Krumkake. Our turkey is in the freezer ( thanks to Jim and Marla Ray’s contribution at the Chili Feed draw), and our meal is planned. The church is decorated. Of course, I will miss my family, but I will enjoy my Christmas present as much as possible. My Christmas future looks so bright I gotta wear shades. My daughter has promised we will have a glorious Christmas together next year, so the Ghost of Christmas Future has a big smile on his face already!
So, a Very Merry Christmas to all, whether you are on your first or third Christmas past!