When Wednesday has come and gone this week, Christmas 2013 will become a memory.
For many, these are memories that will never be forgotten. Like vintage ornaments, they will be retrieved every year.
We asked readers to share some of their favorites with each other. Not surprisingly, some will make you laugh, others will have you reaching for the tissues.
All are what you might expect them to be: memorable.
Christmas 1962, my family had just moved into a new home in Williamsville. Mom had the house completely decorated. On Christmas Eve, my grandparents (known as Nana and Solly), aunt and uncle and their new baby had gathered for a quiet family dinner. Suddenly the doorbell rang. It was Santa! He said he was visiting all the “good children” in the neighborhood. Everyone (including the adults who also were surprised) was excited. The kids had their picture taken; Santa gave us some candy and instructed us to go to bed early. My Nana thought it was such a great Christmas Eve treat that it became tradition. Starting the next year, the entire family gathered at her home on McClellan Circle and Santa came bearing gifts for everyone. For the next 20 years, the Christmas Eve trip to the Nana’s and Solly’s house and a visit from Santa made each Christmas special.
On Dec. 23, 1951. I was on my way to Korea aboard the USS General William Mitchell with the 25th Infantry Division, 14th Regiment. Every Christmas since then brings back many a memory. On the ship they had Christmas services for both Catholics and non-Catholics. We servicemen had the honor to be there with Santa and children present. Some officers and their wives were on board. The wives were going to be stationed in Japan while their husbands were going to Korea. I still have the dinner menu that was served on that Christmas Day.
I always thought it would be my last Christmas. I thank the Lord I came home. Every 23rd of December, I think back and look at some of the pictures and the menu and think of the heroes that did not come home.
Frank V. Cappola
What could be better than a Christmas baby? How about two … a year apart?
Our daughter Kathleen was born Dec. 25, 1959, and her brother Edward was born Dec. 25, 1960. (Our other two kids came later and not on Christmas.)
When they were young, we would celebrate Christmas in the morning and early afternoon. Then it would become birthday(s) time. Each had their own cake. We never combined Christmas gifts with birthday gifts.
It’s surprising how many people would say, “Oh those poor kids, born on Christmas.” I always considered them lucky to share the day. As parents, we felt doubly blessed. Both were December surprises as we expected them to be born in January.
Besides, how many little girls get a real live baby doll for their first birthday?
Eileen and Ed Martin
The most memorable Christmas for me was the Christmas of 2001. That was the year we got about 7 feet of snow over the Christmas holiday. What started out as a quiet Christmas Eve ended with me in labor with my first child. As my husband shoveled the driveway at 4 a.m. like a man possessed, I struggled to think through the pain. This was going to be a Christmas baby. As Christmas dawned and the snow fell, we welcomed Victoria Elizabeth into the world. As I tasted turkey from the cafeteria and watched “A Christmas Story” on the TV in my hospital room, my tiny bundle, my gift, slept in her bassinet nearby. No one could get to the hospital that day to visit us; the snow was too deep.
In October 1952, and my husband and I were on our way home after spending our honeymoon week in Williamsburg, Va., when a dog ran in front of our car. In order to miss it, we hit a tree instead. I spent two months in a hospital, recovering from a concussion and a broken jaw. The concussion that almost killed me was fine by then, but the jaw wouldn’t heal. I was allowed to come home if I promised to see a specialist when I got there. My jaw still hadn’t healed, and it was Christmas. I’ll never forget sitting at the family’s dining room table, watching everyone eat all the goodies offered at this holiday meal, while I “supped” on a glass of warm melted Jell-O and an eggnog (no alcohol).
At 5 years old, I knew a few things were absolute: Mom cooked, Dad shoveled, and there was no getting out of bed on Christmas Eve. My bed was so cozy and warm, but the anticipation of Santa’s arrival was just too exciting.
If only I could sneak past my sister’s eagle eye and peak into the living room. But what if the jolly, old man saw me and left without leaving anything? What if I screamed and woke up my baby brother? A rule was a rule. And then, I heard it. There was jingling and grunts and lights that glowed under my door. He came! The magic of it all lulled me back to sleep and that morning, I knew! It was real, and for the first time, I could grasp the idea of believing in something I didn’t actually see.
In 1980, our 6-year-old son, Matt, was just learning to play hockey and was enrolled in a beginner clinic. He was placed on his first little team and a practice was scheduled for the afternoon of Christmas Eve. His mother and I were not able to take him. My father came to the rescue. He picked Matt up and took him to the rink. As it turned out, my boss let me leave work early and I got to the rink just as my dad and son were arriving. As the little hockey players skated, my dad and I sat in the stands sharing the experience together. I always think of that day because it was the last Christmas my dad was with us. He passed away unexpectedly several months later. Our time together that Christmas Eve is a memory that I will cherish forever.
As a child growing up in Alaska, far away from relatives, our other “family” was in the log church that we attended each week. The Christmas Eve candlelight service was my favorite. When we were young, after midnight when church was over we rushed down to the basement where ladies of the church handed out stockings. What a wonderful treat. I’ll never forget the oranges, apples and hard candy stuffed into the red mesh. We felt rich and so happy that we made it to Christmas.
As the years rolled along, I attended the Christmas Eve service with sleepy children of my own. A few minutes before midnight, lights were turned off in the sanctuary and my kids would awaken and hold up their candles just like I did when I was young. We watched as the ushers passed the flame to each row and the light spread. Soon the whole church was filled with soft candlelight and the final hymn “Silent Night” was sung. As an adult it never failed to bring tears to my eyes.
Christmas 2010 is my most memorable Christmas. My daughter Audrey, who was in the Marine Corps at the time, was coming home, the first time she would celebrate with us in four years. My son Joseph, was an airman stationed in New Mexico at the time. He was trying to get leave at the same time, but when Audrey’s final leave dates were approved, Joseph said it was too late for him to get time off. He said he might be able to get three days of leave – two days of flying, one day to visit, which would cost a lot of money. But he told me that, if Audrey did not return from Afghanistan, he did not want to say that money kept him from seeing her before she left. On Christmas Day, he surprised us at my Dad’s house and we were able to celebrate our first Christmas together in four years. He is now deployed to Southwest Asia, so keep him in your prayers.
Nancy McGrath Ogorek
I refused to go to bed Christmas Eve, 1992; I was 7 and had started questioning the existence of Santa.
It was midnight and we’d just returned from candlelight Mass. Mom and dad were in the living room, ready for bed, while I looked out the windows, searching the sky.
“It’s Rudolph!” I suddenly shrieked from the kitchen. My father came to check on me. I pointed out the window. Through four acres of forest, I could see a red light coming from the neighbor’s house.
I saw a reindeer; my father saw an opportunity.
“He won’t come if you’re awake,” he said.
Apparently I was out within minutes.
The three of us attended candlelight service every year until 2006. On that Christmas Eve, as we concluded Mass with a hummed version of Silent Night, my dad took my hand.
“Ready for Santa?” he whispered and winked.
His funeral was three weeks later.
I get older each year, but on Christmas I’m a child again, still searching the sky.
Sarah T. Schwab
It was Christmas Eve as we packed the car with some gifts, a dessert and our two little children. Off we went to celebrate the holiday at my cousin Bob’s home on Grand Island.
There was a knock on the door. It was Santa Claus. Because our family was very cordial, we asked Santa if he was thirsty or hungry. Of course he was; he had a busy night ahead. After we fed Mr. Claus and quenched his thirst, he excused himself and he was back on the road.
As the evening was winding down I took the opportunity to thank Bob for arranging the visit from Santa Claus as our two children were so delighted. Bob’s reply to me wasn’t what I expected. He was positive that I had arranged the visit. Who was that guy in the bright red suit? We may never know who he was and that’s OK. But that Christmas was so special. Why? Because my two older kids were the only seniors in their high school who still believed in Santa.
A few years ago, I was in the midst of my last year of law school when my aunt asked me if I’d like to spend Christmas in Barcelona with her and her Philadelphia-based family. What followed was one of the best holidays I can remember. I bribed some seat-mates on my flight over with homemade Christmas cookies and gained valuable insider tips on restaurants and must-see sites. My family and I had a ball exploring Antoni Gaudi’s unique architecture throughout the city, strolling along Barcelona’s sunny Mediterranean promenade, and sampling the city’s exquisite food. Best of all were Barcelona’s intricate holiday light displays throughout the city – even though we were far from home, it still felt like Christmas.
“Silent Night” has brought me to tears each Christmas Eve since 2001, the first Christmas I celebrated as a mother. We were gleefully participating in the fanfare of the season with our newly adopted son and looking forward to his participation as an angel in the children’s pageant.
Rehearsals were bedlam with me being admonished by the pastor to control my child. A plan was devised for me to be an angel too so I could hold his hand.
On Christmas Eve our son was in awe of the crowd and music. The children performed flawlessly, even the “problem” angel. As the service ended, the lights were dimmed, candles lit and the singing of “Silent Night” began.
My perfect little angel climbed into my arms and fell asleep in front of the congregation. Joyful tears streamed from my eyes that night. This was the first gift of Christmas: love.
I will always remember Christmas, 1962. My father was an electrician at the old Chevrolet plant on Delevan Avenue, and an accomplished carpenter. Unfortunately, he was in failing health and off from work. I was helping him put up the Christmas tree in our living room. He was trying to nail the Christmas tree stand to the floor and the floor was taking a beating. Little did we know that he would be gone forever in a few weeks. My mother never remarried and many years later went into a nursing home. As I watched them pricing her treasures, I went into the living room and under the rug I saw all those nail holes and hammer marks from his last Christmas that probably will be there forever.
David F. Quagliana
More than 50 years ago, my dad brought me into our small-town Montgomery Ward store. We proceeded downstairs to the catalog sales area. He let me stand on a chair while he opened up a thick black and white whispery-paged volume, where he turned to the one filled with pictures of sleds. He pointed to one, The Comet, and nodded to me.
On Christmas morning, under the tree lay a highly varnished, wooden, red and blue Comet sled, with red runners. Later that afternoon I saw that it completely dwarfed my friends’ Flexible Flyers as we convened on our only “hill,” a snowy overpass, on a cold Christmas Day.
My Irish Father played cards at a South Buffalo tavern on Christmas Eve. He won and the prize was a pig’s head.
When my brother and I came down the stairs on Christmas morning, to our horror, the pig’s head was under the tree.
Thankfully I do not have a picture of this.
Mary McGrath Klier
This happened during dinner preparation one Christmas Day. The loud noise was unfamiliar. I scrambled, at the sound of it, and scurried into the living room. Lo and behold, what to my wondering eyes did I see? A 6-inch rocket, a Christmas gift to my son, piercing the snow white ceiling. Pulling it down, almost burning my hand, I tossed it under pouring water. Returning to the living room, I yelled to my son to stomp out the sparks that the rocket had caused. He stood poker straight, repeating, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Finally, he put the sparks out. Fortunately, the rocket did not hit the couch. He patched the hole the rocket left in its wake.
Our family shares this story because we know how blessed we were because of what might have been.
For the Barton-Kaiser-Avery-Whitney families, Christmas 2011 comprised a series of unfortunate events. We considered it an accomplishment of biblical proportions when we managed to get through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day without any more calamities. Our festive outfits included: a red and white polka-dot sock topping my ace-bandaged, badly sprained ankle; a jet black boot brace supporting my nephew’s torn ligaments; a red and green seasonal wrap adorning my niece’s cast on her broken hand; and an understated sea-blue sling for my mother-in-law’s broken shoulder. That year we were a happy, albeit broken, family with a generous supply of smiles and crutches.
For Christmas 1976, our family lived bare bones in Tallahassee, Fla., on academic sabbatical for the year. Furnishings were from garage sales with Christmas decorations stored back home in Buffalo.
We bought a tree at a grocery store lot. Decorations were homemade: paper chains, sand dollars hung with red ribbons and “cut-out cookie” ornaments painted by our children. Why so memorable? We all learned (our children were 11, 10 and 8) what was most important without our extended family. We treasured conversations sent on tapes that were played over and over again on a tape recorder and a very special delivery of New York-style cheesecake that came just in time for our holiday meal. We still have the recordings from that special Christmas and the sand dollars and “cut-out” ornaments still grace our Christmas tree all these years later.
Carol D. Bieron
On Christmas Eve, all my family takes turns sitting on a little red chair. Someone reads a Christmas book on the little red chair. Next, my whole family brings their own presents down from upstairs and puts them under the Christmas tree. Then it is time to open the presents on the little red chair. We each take turns. The youngest in the family goes first. My dog is the youngest and always goes first. Then it’s my turn. Next, its my brother Jonah, my brother Patrick, my sister Leigha and finally it’s my Mom and Dad’s turn. My Grandmother and Great Aunt take a turn too. Then we say our goodbyes. Then they get into their car and drive off to await Santa.
Madisyn Draper, fourth-grader, Orchard Park Central School
Having grown up in a Jewish household where the season was celebrated regardless of when Hanukkah occurred, my memories of Christmas have more to do with Christmas Eve and less to do with what I didn’t experience, as every year, on Dec. 24, my parents would get dressed up and celebrate. You see, my parents got married on Christmas Eve, following in the footsteps of my grandparents, who also chose that date for their wedding. To me, the magic of the season has always had to do with the magic of being a little girl, watching my parents get ready to commemorate their anniversary. Somehow the vision of the perfect Christmas, complete with gifts and a sparkling tree, can’t compare to the steadfastness of a marriage that has lasted 58 years.
One Christmas Eve, almost 40 years ago, a heavy snowstorm led us to forgo midnight Mass. My sister Suzanne and I donned our cross country skis and along with Sonny, our border collie, we took off down Route 417 in Wellsville. At midnight, the moon shone bright, the snow was brilliant, the roads unplowed and all was silent. Sonny paused, and out of the storm appeared seven deer, one leading with three pairs following. Neither Suzanne nor I nor Sonny moved. The deer slowly crossed in front of us then disappeared into the storm and out of our vision – an unforgettable Christmas memory.
When I was 5, I awoke to a sound which I surmised was Santa’s reindeer. I slipped out of bed to investigate, and heard a noise in the basement. I walked to the top of the stairs and quietly peeked down. To my delight, I saw Santa and my father assembling a pink toy sink. I quickly ran upstairs and got back into bed. The next morning, my sisters were jealous to learn of my good fortune in catching a glimpse of Santa. I fervently believed this to be true; years later, I learned that Santa was my father’s friend Roger McNeill.
When I was in my teens, my mom came home after a Christmas shopping expedition. She was particularly excited over some folding, cardboard fabric boards that could be used to lay out fabric precisely before cutting the pieces. “Linda,” she gushed with enthusiasm, “Look at what I found for Aunt Ruth and Aunt Hazel – they will love them!” I shrugged and walked away with the flippant comment “They don’t do that much for me.”
Christmas morning, as I opened a gift, I was dismayed to see that I had received one of the cardboard fabric boards. For a moment, I felt badly that I must have hurt my mom’s feelings. Then I started to laugh. Then mom laughed. Instantly all of my family was bent over laughing until we cried.
Forty five years later, my family still laughs over that gift. While my parents gave me a multitude of wonderful gifts over my lifetime, this inexpensive, decidedly unglamorous fabric board is hands down my most memorable gift. It is a poignant reminder of the priceless gift of laughter.
My beloved husband of 45 years passed away in September 2000. At Thanksgiving, my children and grandchildren from out of state came and filled my home again with fun and laughter. That weekend we celebrated a pre-Christmas gift exchange with those whom I wouldn’t see at that time.
On Christmas morning, my daughter from Connecticut called and announced, “Santa came!”
“So what did you get?” I replied. But she meant that Santa had come to my house.
Instructed to go look under a skirted table in a spare bedroom, I discovered my Christmas stocking, filled with all sorts of fun surprises.
She said, “I knew this first Christmas without Dad would be a sad one for you.”
Still holding the phone and finding it hard to talk, I cried as I opened each gift and thanked God for such a thoughtful and loving daughter. She was just like her Dad.