My Christmas Traditions, Where They Began and How They Continue

Monday, December 19, 2016

So here we are, next week at this time, Christmas will be over.  Every year I am shocked and saddened by the speed at which the Christmas holidays approach and end, almost in the blink of an eye.  I often wonder how that's possible since I and many others begin preparing the day after Thanksgiving, weeks before Christmas. Yet somehow I always find myself where I find myself today, shaking my head wondering how Christmas got to be less than a week away. And in the crazy chaos of preparations, I've barely taken time to listen to carols or sit back and just savor the season.  I'm hoping to discipline myself this week to step away from the rush and find time to soak up all the joys that I know next weekend will bring.  In the meantime, this realization along with preparing my last post (My Christmas House Tour) has reminded me that my love of Christmas began long, long ago.
Christmas has always been a highlight in my year that has continued into the golden years of my life. Looking at this photo of my second Christmas, is it any wonder that I would look forward to this special day?
Although I grew up in the '50's, I grew up an only child and an only grandchild.  While some of the toys in that pile of loot looks scary (yikes!!), there was no shortage of presents under my tree.
Stockings in the '50's were pretty basic, weren't they?
Getting acquainted with the big guy!

 My dad's parents, Mimier and Pipier, (above and below) were shamelessly devoted to their one and only granddaughter. Sadly my Pipier died when I was only 9.  You wonder where I got my passion for decorating for Christmas?   Take a look at these trees!  My mother was the queen of tinsel.  Hanging with such precision, that task must have taken hours. And look at the money pinned to the tree!  That was obviously pre-money envelopes.  No mystery there!
When I was five, I had to have a tonsillectomy just before Christmas. My second cousin, Cheryl, who was a little older than me just so happened to also be having her tonsils removed at the same time, in the same hospital.  Since parents didn't get to stay overnight like today, it was nice having someone I knew just down the hall.  That Christmas I received this life-sized Penny PlayPal doll for Christmas! That's my dog, Duke.  Duke endured a lot of love in those days. Me and my best friend, Ann Marie would dress Duke in doll clothes and walk him up and down the street in our baby carriages.  Poor Duke!
Christmas tradition in our house was a little different than some.  Santa didn't visit on Christmas Eve. No, my folks were smart and they found a way to get a good night's sleep, unlike most parents.  Mom would attend Midnight Mass, and Dad and I would attend the 6:00 a.m. Mass on Christmas morning. Santa came to MY house while we were at church!  Clever huh?  You can bet I was probably a bit fidgety waiting for church to be over so I could get home to see what Santa had left. Over the years, the tinsel was updated but the pile of gifts stayed the same.  That whole pile isn't just mine, but I sure got my share.  Tinsel distribution took on a new mom....she was right in style with the best of them.
Every Christmas Santa brought a new doll. I realize today, as my mom is still acquiring them, that perhaps it was her love of dolls that inspired Santa each year. It's ok mom. I love them too.
Later when we moved to Saratoga Lake, I was way beyond my Santa years, but that didn't stop Mom from her love of Christmas. Tinsel was replaced by garland and beads, and short skirts were obviously in style. Geesh.....eye roll.
When John and I got married in 1978, it was finally my chance to decorate my own place, and time for us to begin our own traditions. With my strong background in Holiday 101, taking on this task was a breeze but picking out the perfect tree may have taken some time.  It took us a few attempts, however, to figure out that trees look much smaller in a field than in an apartment.  By our third Christmas, we seemed to have figured it out.
Christmas 1978 - Our first Christmas
Christmas 1979 - Our second Chistmas

The Christmas above I was expecting our first child, Katie.  Back then it was still a secret what you were expecting, so a teddy bear was a perfect, gender neutral present for the baby.


Once Laura arrived in 1984, the Welter Christmas traditions were set in motion.  Christmas Eve meant church service, followed by a ride through some developments to view Christmas lights.  That was followed by a stop at Stewart's where we picked up some gingerbread ice cream sandwiches which were enjoyed once we were home and in our Christmas jammies.  After the reading of a few Christmas books, including Twas the Night Before Christmas, it was time to hang our stockings for Santa.  There was no fireplace in the apartment, so the doorknobs worked just fine.
Katie 3 yrs. old (no comments on that 3-mile phone cord)

Katie 5 1/2 yrs old

Laura 22 months
When we finally bought a home, 17 years after our first Christmas, decorating took on a whole new dimension.  

My Mom and Dad
Let me tell you a little about our dads and Christmas.  Neither of them would admit they loved the holidays.  In fact, I think it's safe to say they both proclaimed to be Scrooge.  My dad fussed if the tree went up too early, although my mom did her best to ignore him.  All that Scrooge stuff somehow melted away when it came down to Christmas Day.  Both dad's eagerly opened their presents.  In fact, both of them bucked tradition when it came to opening gifts - one person at a time, usually youngest to oldest repeatedly until all the gifts were open.  Both dads were like kids and just kept opening, out of turn while the rest of us waited for our next turn to come. Despite their outward lack of enthusiasm over the holiday fuss, both of them got joy out of buying and giving gifts and both participated in collecting the annual Hess trucks.

Katie with John's Mom and Dad

And before we knew it, there were two new people joining in the Christmas festivities - two wonderful men who would become our son-in-laws.
Eric & Laura 2005
It seems by now the "more is better" philosophy had me in its grip.

Katie & Mike 2011
You know what they say, "the more, the merrier". Unfortunately by Christmas of 2008 our dad's were no longer with us so that brought about a void that was hard to ignore.  But God has a way of lightening our heavy hearts and by 2010, we had a whole new reason to enjoy the holidays.  That was our granddaughter, Elena.

Elena 2010
She didn't really get the whole Christmas excitement then, but by her second Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa were pretty enthusiastic and maybe a bit over zealous about it.
Christmas 2011 - Presents for everyone, not just Elena!  Looks pretty similar to the mountain of gifts of yesteryear.
Don't worry, we've gotten more sensible over the last few years, because a few years later, along came this little elf.....
Braelyn 2014
And our love of Christmas grew and grew.....even the Big Guy remained a magical part of our holiday with times like these:

Braelyn 2016

You can imagine how much fun Christmas is these days with these two around the house.  It's especially fun because not only have they moved back from Indiana - they bought a house just a 1/2 mile down the street, right in our development!!!  So Grandma and Grandpa get to start all sorts of new traditions that involve them in preparing for the holidays, not just celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
A visit from our Local Volunteer Fire Department

I think you're getting the idea that Christmas has always been a very special time in our family, just as I'm sure it is in yours.  It's not about the presents (although the kids may like to think so).  It's about sharing traditions and spending time with loved ones.  It's about the kindness and caring that comes more easily as we allow our hearts to open to the spirit of the Christmas season.  It's a warmth we feel at home, in church and all around the town as we share the Christmas joy with others.
This Christmas we are blessed to receive another very special Christmas gift. 
Due in early June, with God's blessing, next Christmas we'll have another little addition to the family! You can imagine our excitement as Katie and Mike enter into parenthood. God is so good and because of His birth, we are able to experience the love and joy of the Christmas season.  John and I are so thankful to have such a large circle of family and friends who are beside us in this journey.  We wish you all the Merriest Christmas and a season surrounded by love and peace and all the joy your heart can hold!
A long time ago, John was looking for Santa.  I'm pretty sure that he's found him.....everywhere he turns - in all the hearts that love him and all of us at Christmas and all through the year!

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