Getting into the holiday spirit with traditions and shared memories

by | Dec 3, 2018 | Memoir, Sisters Born Sisters Found | 8 comments

My husband and I are both fending off colds, but that isn’t preventing us from getting into the holiday spirit. Ornaments shimmer on the tree, lights are in the window, a wreath adorns the frontdoor, garlands add to the festive air, so do the shopping lists, hot chocolate on the stove, presents to wrap and special events coming up.

I expect most folks who celebrate at this time of year have traditions, some of which go back to childhood, some of which are new. Sharing our traditions and memories with one another can help get us into the holiday spirit. So can giving to others who are experiencing hardship at this time.

When thinking about traditions during this giving season, Vicki Batman came to mind. She contributed a heartwarming memoir to Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood, an anthology I published a few years ago. Her piece shared childhood memories from this time of year. I’m going to paste it in here and hope it brings some holiday spirit to your home:

Sister Act
By Vicki Batman

Every Christmas Eve, my family drove to Grandmother’s house for the yearly celebration. No ifs, ands, or buts. The entire clan made the journey. I never minded. For me, this event truly launched the gift-giving season. And being like every other small child enraptured with receiving presents, I eagerly anticipated the occasion.

Laughter and love filled Grandmother’s red brick home as did good cooking, like smoked turkey and fixings. Desserts, too numerous to count, included her special tomato cake and mincemeat pie. Every baby was handed around the room until cranky and screaming for mom. Aunts and uncles found moments to see how school fared with nieces and nephews. My cousins, sisters, and I gathered in our own spot for “killer” Uno. All had a grand time.

After dinner cleanup, presents were passed around. The bows were removed and the paper ripped as we tore into the gifts. Grandmother received the most; some of which were interesting—a silly knickknack for her book shelves, knee-hi nylons, a serviceable sweater, yarn for knitting, kitchen tools, denture products, a school craft project.

Afterward, the relatives would visit a bit longer. Then, my family would load up in “Big Blue,” our Ford station wagon, and drive home to wait oh-so-anxiously for Christmas morning to arrive. And it did in a big way.

My love for the season grew while I grew. As my sisters and I sang along with the holiday hits playing on the turntable, which featured the well-loved classics of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and, my all-time favorite, Nat King Cole, we wrapped presents for Mom, decorated the family tree with the handmade sequined ornaments, and baked sugar cookies. We helped Dad untangle miles of blue and green Christmas lights to hang on the house and set the six-foot cardboard Santa just so, next to the front door, which was adorned with a plastic wreath of fir, poinsettia, and a red, satiny bow.

Our family treasures decorated the living room. A glittery silver-andred reindeer and Santa display went on top of the buffet. Four stuffed mice in candy cane-striped clothing sat on the piano. A music box from our long-time neighbor was placed on the coffee table. And for the finale, a Styrofoam angel topped the tip of the white-flocked tree. Nothing looked better.

Back then, our family had no cable network. In fact, it was unheard of. So we relied on mass-broadcast stations for our viewing pleasure. We popped bowls of popcorn and spread a generous supply of napkins in front of us each evening to watch television specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown,and Miracle on 34th Street.

One program in particular captured our hearts, a musical about snow and love and doing something extra special for someone at Christmastime. The elaborate sets, costumes, and music by Irving Berlin thrilled us. We’d felt Christmas had truly arrived after viewing this extravaganza—White Christmas.

Around the time I’d turned fourteen, my parents splurged on a color television for the family room. The small, black-and-white set in their bedroom was transferred to my room with the admonition we could watch it only on special occasions. Since my sisters and I were major rule followers, the TV sat on Mom’s closed sewing machine cabinet at the foot of my bed, rarely viewed.

That year, after our annual holiday visit to Grandmother’s, we urged Dad to hurry through touring neighborhood light displays. We just had to get home quickly so we could watch our favorite movie. The minute the garage door opened, my three sisters and I hit the bathroom and raced through brushing our teeth. We slung on our new Christmas nightgowns and piled on my bed in front of the tiny television. Right after the news ended, the movie came on—yipee!—and we were instantly entranced. We bounced, danced, and sang our way through the show. However, one song in particular stayed with us—Sisters—especially because we were four sisters. That song became our song.

The actresses looked gorgeous. They wore sparkly dresses with full skirts fluffed out by net petticoats. Tight bodices curved their figures into doll-like forms. Impossible high heels shod their feet. They waltzed around with enormous dyed-to-match feathered fans and danced steps we felt for certain a body couldn’t do.

Their song spoke about the tight relationship sisters had. How devoted they were to one another. How they cared for each other, sharing things like clothing. No one could split them up, not even a guy, which seemed funny to me. Even though my sissies were awesome, we wanted to be, and to have, a sister like the movie portrayed.

The following year, we brought my eighty-something grandmother home on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas day with my family. We thought it great fun when she’d pulled her little five-foot body onto my bed to watch the movie, too. But sleep got the better of her and we snickered at her snoring. We sang “our song” quietly, and occasionally, smothered our giggles so not to wake her.

As I sat on my double bed with my grandmother and sisters, I took in the scene. For at that moment, an incredible thought smacked my head—my holidays were perfect. Life was perfect. I had everything.

As only time could do, it tick-tocked by. Sisters went away to college or moved elsewhere to work. Grandmother passed to the great reward and the cousins scattered, celebrating the holidays with their expanding families. Nevertheless, a tradition had been firmly rooted in my parents’ home. To celebrate, we came from our respective lives and gathered at their house to watch our movie on Christmas Eve.

One day, I married my handsome husband, and eventually gave birth to two boys. Technology had evolved and White Christmaswas converted to VHS, and then DVD. No longer did I have to wait for Christmas Eve to watch my favorite holiday film. I could watch it any time I desired.

But I didn’t. It wouldn’t have been the same.

Neither did my sisters. We saved it for Christmas Eve.

To this day, I plop my family on the couch with treats and drinks, and we turn on White Christmas.I sing all the tunes. When the signature song ends, contentment swells inside me. I fight back tears. My holidays are perfect. Life is perfect. I have everything.

Funny, my men refuse to sing with me. Maybe some things are best shared with sisters.

  • •  •

Like some of her characters, award-winning author Vicki Batman has worked a variety of jobs including lifeguard, amusement park ride attendant; hardware store, department store, book store, antique store clerk; administrative assistant in an international real estate firm; and a general “do anything gal” at a wealth management firm—the list is endless. She has published two delightful romance mystery novels that you can read all about on her Amazon author page:

And here’s the link to the Sisters Born, Sisters Found page on this website. It would make a great gift for a sister or friend so dear she is like a sister to you:

Note: Pictures are from Pixabay.

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  1. Liliana

    What a beautiful story, we stay home and invite people over. Make dozens of tamales and a hot drink called Ponche, that has fruits like cane sugar, prunes, cinnamon, guava among other stuff inside. That has always been our tradition :-)

    Thank you for sharing,

  2. Laura

    Thank you, Liliana. Poncho sounds delicious!

  3. Sherry

    I love this story and also find myself craving hot chocolate made on the stove top since reading your first paragraph! As a child, we had a family gathering on my dad’s side of the family every Boxing Day. Once my grandparents both passed away, this tradition stopped. I still have such fond memories of the visiting, card and board games played, as well as the chicken from KFC that my grandma ordered each year for it!

  4. Laura

    Thanks for checking in here, Sherry. Your memories sound wonderful. Happy memories last a lifetime. Your mention of how things changed after your grandparents passed away made me think of how most of us experience things like that. One generation passes on, and things have to change, new traditions are formed. Life is good, but there’s a twinge of nostalgia, missing loved ones from long ago.

  5. Leiloni

    What a heartwarming post! What great memories! Thanks for sharing about your family traditions, and how you have passed them on. I am sure that even if the men in your life don’t sing with you, they have fond memories of you singing along with this movie.
    I was also sick when we put up the decorations for Christmas this year. I hope that you are feeling better.

  6. Laura

    Thank you, Leilani. I’m feeling better than over the weekend and I hope you are, too. I want to make it clear that I shared brief reflections on the holidays in introducing Vicki Batman’s memoir, Sister Act. I didn’t write about singing along to a movie with my sisters. Vicki did. Sister Act is included in the anthology, Sisters Born, Sisters Found, which I published a few years ago. Vicki is one of those gifted people who is good at writing humor, and her work is uplifting.

  7. Ana Manwaring

    Your post had my mouth watering for flaming persimmon pudding—one of my grandmother’s traditions. Persimmons have been good this year. I’ll make one!

  8. Laura

    Flaming persimmon pudding. I’ve never heard of it and love imagining it. It sounds wild and delightful. I hope you do make it, Ana — and post pictures, too! xox

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