Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Christmas
Growing up, the Christmas schedule was pretty consistent.
Our family would make the trek north for Christmas Eve lunch, at around 1:00 p.m., Hamilton time. As ranchers, we all had to feed and check water prior to meeting. On top of that, we are all perpetually late to everything. Lunch was followed by approximately 11 hours of conversation among the adults, from our perspective as children. Then, finally, we would open gifts. The day was rounded out with Grandma making us sliced ham on dinner rolls for the ride home.
It sounds simple, and it was. But, there was so much more to it that I appreciate as an adult. My family loves to tell stories, talk about family history, and keep up with one another. The conversations covered everything from politics to cattle markets, and more often than not a family history book was pulled out before day’s end to solidify a question someone posed. Grandma may have dug out her diary to confirm the weather was actually colder 26 years back.
The meal was homemade, we sat around a table as an extended family, said grace, and ate together. We occasionally headed outside to sled, or make snowmen, or harass the chickens and gather eggs. The backdrop was the nearly always idyllic looking Black Hills in the winter. On the way home we searched the night sky for Rudoph’s nose. We always swung through a couple side streets in Newcastle to look at lights, one being my Aunt Francie’s dad’s house, as he went all out with Christmas décor.
Christmas day was at home. Always. Just our family, plus grandparents a lot of years. We would open gifts in our PJ’s, eat breakfast, then do chores and feed cattle at a later hour than usual, before hurrying home for a nice lunch.
It sounds simple, and it was. But, it provided a standard and a consistency to Christmas that has carried on to my own family. It was a relaxed morning, though no presents could be unwrapped until Mom and Dad had their coffee cups filled. My mom was raised that the Christmas meal was a nice meal. So, we all had to dress up, and help set the table with her good dishes. The food was a combination of traditional favorites, and mom’s favorites. Pear salad was on the menu every year, and it was good. When Grandpa fell asleep in the chair, Grandma would change the channel to ice skating or the Macy’s Day Parade.
Some years, my mom would load my brother and I up, and head south to Glenwood Springs, Colorado to celebrate some combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family.
If that sounds simple, you likely don’t have kids, and/or are unfamiliar with the drive from eastern Wyoming to Glenwood, Colo. in November or December.
I want my mom to know I remember so much about those trips, and I am grateful she took the time to make them happen. The tree decorations and the tinsel. All the playing and fun had in the basement. Looking at the ski trophies and medals in she and her brother’s rooms. Decorating sugar cookies with grandma, and learning how to wrap any size of present so the paper lined up perfectly. Playing on the retired chair lift swing in the backyard. Sledding. Driving through town and being told about this or that business. Grandpa reading to us in his chair.
Most of these traditions have changed in my family in recent years, as my grandparent’s generation passed away, and my generation begins to marry and start families. But, they remain immensely treasured by all.
No matter what we all have going this week, let us not forget both the incredible gift of Christ’s birth, and to be thankful for the people he placed in our lives to gather and celebrate with.
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