by Sherrin Griffin – VP, Operations, Sidney SeniorCare –
I have very fond memories of Christmas as a child, and of the seniors in my life who helped to make my holiday season so special. Spending time with my grandparents was a huge part of the holidays and they would always make the time fun, festive and full of Christmas magic.
Every Christmas day, like clockwork, my parents would pack my sister and I into the car with a large stack of wrapped gifts and we would head to my grandparents, who lived an hour and a half away, for present opening and a traditional Christmas dinner that my “Nana” would put on. The house would envelop us with its festive warmth, smelling like fresh pine boughs, my Nana’s to-die-for, secret-recipe shortbread cookies (that we still can’t quite replicate) and roasting turkey. I’d help my Nana set the table with her special holiday plates, carefully adding a gold Christmas cracker by each place setting. At dinner, we’d hold the stubby cardboard tab of a cracker in each hand, squealing with delight as the cracker popped to reveal funny little surprises inside, and the customary bright paper hats which we would all laughingly don during our meal. We knew every year to expect the usual box of After Eight chocolates, and after all the presents were opened there would always be an envelope from my grandfather hidden in the Christmas tree for my sister and I with crisp new banknotes inside.
Those times, almost five decades ago, were full of special traditions established by the seniors in my life: carolling from door to door, enjoying the breathtaking beauty of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, sending handwritten Christmas cards through the mail, and penning letters to Santa Claus from my grandparents’ kitchen table.
After my grandfather passed away in my late teens, my Nana would come and stay with us overnight on Christmas eve, and every year, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, she and I would both sneak downstairs, hoping to beat each other to the family room where our Christmas tree was. In the end, it didn’t really matter who won the race; I just loved her sense of fun at Christmas.
I treasure those memories and holiday customs, established through the generations, when life seemed simpler and somehow more consistent. These days, with more global travel, more transience in the workplace and rapid technological “advancement,” the holidays can be quite a bit different than how they were even a few decades ago. Family members may be separated due to distance, old traditions may not seem as relevant, and finding a stocking stuffer under $20 is a rarity. Whereas older generations may still view Christmas as more of a religious occasion, and be more apt to incorporate religious elements into their celebration, statistics show that younger generations are more inclined to view Christmas as a cultural holiday.
Despite changing times though and the steady advance of the digital age, one thing is clear: the holiday season is a time to not only look back, but to look forward and establish new holiday traditions that make sense in the here and now. Although the celebration of Christmas has changed over the decades, one thing has not: people still gather all over the world to share peace and goodwill, whether it’s in person or through Facetime.