A Legacy of Christmas Cheer

My parents love Christmas more than anyone I’ve ever met. And for them, it’s never been about fancy presents and credit card debt. For them, it’s about family, faith and a gratefulness that comes from being loved.

My mother grew up in a family with very little to support three children, but as many kids in loving households report, “I never knew we were poor,” my mother always says.

Christmas was an event in her home. Presents were nearly entirely homemade, but always wrapped beautifully. And the tree was as much a gift as anything else. After the three girls went to bed on Christmas Eve, their father would stay up late preparing a special holiday scene. Around the base of the tree, he would create a delicate little village, made of cotton balls and cardboard tubes. He even made a little grain silo out of an old salt shaker. When the girls awoke on Christmas morning, it was magical to see what had sprung to life under their sparkling tree.

Just one block down the street, a small train chugged happily under my father’s Christmas tree as a boy; the train sat upon a small platform that made the living room a veritable showplace of holiday cheer. And while presents were lovingly exchanged in his house as well, my Nana’s Christmas dinner was the main attraction. You scoff at kitschy turkey and marshmallow-sweet-potato casserole now, but had you visited the small rowhome in Philly 50 years ago, you’d be singing a different tune, my friend.

Because of the thoughtfulness of my grandparents, my own parents spread Christmas cheer like no one else. There are now four grandchildren upon whom they lavish grandparently-disdain for any and all rules regarding bedtimes, treats or other pesky little limits that my brother or I try to enforce.

But my parents’ Christmas celebrations are not tied to the children; when there were no little children, the celebration was the same. Adult friends laughed as my parents wrapped every little thing for our holidays when it was just a bunch of grownups sitting around the tree.

And that tree. . . well, you’ve never seen anything like it. My parents have cut a fresh tree every year for 30 years, and still, there’s an utter disregard for the actual size of their living room in choosing that tree. It’s often difficult to see anyone from one side of the Christmas tree to the other, so my parents have become legend for having the “Baker bush.”

Having received so much joy from this time of year over the course of their lives, my parents give away Christmas cheer in abundance, without ever thinking of themselves. The amazing thing about them is that I firmly believe they’d celebrate just as festively were it just the two of them.

They seem grateful for the good times, and remember Christmastime in that spirit.

To see those little faces open up as they come around the corner to check if, in fact, there are any presents under the tree. . . “All I want is a purple present,” my little 3-year-old nephew once declared.

To hear the unbridled, uncensored screeches, squeals and laughter of the little ones as they rip the wrapping paper. . . “Double-A batteries!” my brother screamed as a 5-year-old, “just what I always needed!”

To feel the warmth of those munchkin’s hugs as they thank you for the gifts. . . my other nephew yelped one year, “I love my hepilopter and weedwacker, Aunt Laura!”

With memories like these, it’s no wonder my family loves the holidays. But it’s more than that. My parents honor Christmas.

I can only hope that over the years, as my daughter grows, that she will learn to cherish this holiday season as well. What better Christmas gift is there?




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