Monday, December 22, 2008


For Christmas is tradition time-- Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,

The sameness of them all.--Helen Lowrie Marshall

Recently, I attended a United Methodist Women’s Christmas brunch at our church. I felt a little silly going since I haven’t been exactly enthralled with our church lately, but that’s my problem, and I’ll try to figure it out some day. Like every good Southern woman, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

So, I braved the single digit temperatures, 30 miles per hour wind gusts, blowing snow and low visibility to go to this brunch. I told Al was going to be brave this winter and not let fear of driving on snowy roads stop me from keeping appointments and commitments. Stupid pride. Al said, “We bought the Element so you could get around in the snow.” Yes, the Element can get around in the snow, but I never actually said I would get around in the snow.

But I digress (again), so I got there and it was very nice. I had said I would greet people as they came in and I would talk about a Christmas tradition, following the theme of the brunch. Despite having blocked out a lot of my growing up years, I do have fond Christmas memories, and the tradition I decided to talk about was our Christmas Chains.

When Mom and Dad split up, Mom spent a lot of energy making Christmas special, so we wouldn’t think too much about how different it was going to be. Mom incorporated many traditions into each Christmas: painting ornaments, driving around to see the Christmas lights, singing Christmas carols, reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and relenting (to my whining) to keep putting our gifts out after we had gone to sleep because it was just more magical that way. But her brilliance came with the Christmas Chain.

Like most kids, we drove her crazy with “how many days ‘til Christmas” questions. We didn’t have advent calendars, but we had construction paper, scissors and tape. So, she had us each make a chain, each link representing a day until Christmas. Then, each night Jay and I would tear off a link, and we would be a day closer to Christmas. The chains had their place of prominence, taped to a wall, and it was so exciting to see them getting shorter. This may have been the beginning of my love of anticipation and my inevitable crash with post-event depression.

I get all giddy just thinking of tearing each of those links off. I think we started that tradition before Dad left, but we carried it on for a long time. Even when I knew exactly how many days it was until Christmas, I enjoyed counting those links. Of course, Jay and I were so competitive and we fought over every thing, so we had to tear those links off at the exact same time because it was unfair if someone tore one off before the other. Therefore, it was quite a ceremony to tear off those links.

Now my days until Christmas are counted by how many shipping days are left until it will cost a fortune to get it there overnight. Or how late can I get those Christmas cards out and still get them delivered before Christmas. It’s a whole new kind of anticipation.

As a visual reference for my story to the ladies at the brunch, I made a chain. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I made a chain with 6 links, exactly how many days it was until Christmas. Every time I look at it, I get that same sense of excitement, that same feeling of anticipation I got as a kid.

I’ve been tearing a link off each night.


susan said...

I love that story.

It reminds me of our chains growing up. My brother and I took turns tearing off each day's link. I never even heard of an Advent Calendar until about 10 years ago.

Kathy said...

Wonderful story -- your mom's idea is so very clever.

Michelle said...

Your mom rocks!

ordinaryjanet said...

What a great story! I love that chain, I wonder why I hadn't heard of something like that? We always had an Advent calendar, I'd sit in school thinking about what might be behind the day's little door.

Dianne said...

I love this story!

Betty Rocks!

and so do you

Merry Christmas Kell and hugs to Cossette