This year as I made chocolate covered pretzels with my four year old son, memories of my own childhood Christmases came flooding back to me. I was transported back to my own small hands dipping pretzels and sprinkling on the red and green sprinkles. It brought back fond memories of setting up the Christmas tree with the toy train buzzing around it, wrapping presents for the family, and watching Christmas movies in our new jammies.
Yes, gifts were always a part of Christmas, but when I looked back those were not my biggest or most favorite memories. As I pondered this it got me thinking and it led me to wonder what others thought as they looked back on their childhood Christmases.
So, I asked this question:
What was your favorite Christmas memory from childhood?
Want to know the answers I found? It might surprise you!
I asked 60 people from varying walks of life this simple question. The results were amazing, heartwarming, and even a little tear inducing.
Here are just some of the responses…
Putting on a Christmas play with my siblings/cousins. We practiced in front of my aunts and uncles before performing in front of my aunts and uncles. Year-to-year, our roles never changed. They saw us do this at least 40 times in the 90s. – Brenda
my whole family making christmas cookies .. batches and batches … all types … and then spending weeks eating them … – Elizabeth
Decorating the tree while watching Charlie Brown Christmas and drinking hot chocolate (a tradition my kids also look forward to and love!) – Holly
Waking up early a few days before Christmas and sitting next to the tree with my sister, whispering about how excited we were. – Heather
Caroling to shut-ins around our rural area with church group. Taking turns with siblings opening little gifts each night of advent. Mom’s secret numbered gift list, no one knew which gifts were theirs (5 siblings), we took turns opening after reading the record of Jesus’ birth. – Betty
My mom transforming our home with her decorations, getting to set up the carolers on the church steps, getting a baby CHRISTmas tree when I was 5 and going to my Grandparents with ALL the family there. Loved it. – Scott
Did you notice a theme? There are many more responses with lovely answers just like these. What did people think of first as they reflected back upon their childhood Christmases? I’ll give you one clue – it definitely wasn’t the gifts they received.
While reading through the responses I received, four trends stuck out to me.
1. Time with Family
Whether it was the cozy feeling of just your family on Christmas morning or the fun craziness of getting to see your extended family – being with family was the number one commonality in the responses I received.
It’s not just the fun things we do that make Christmas memories – it’s the people we do them with. It’s baking cookies with mom, eating lunch at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, and having special play time with cousins and siblings. It’s the people we care about that make the holidays so special.
I woke up at an insane hour at my grandparents house. My parents and grandmother were still asleep. My grandfather sat in the floor with me at their house and played with a racecar track and set that Santa brought me. It’s THE only time I ever remember playing with my grandfather. – Janeen
Going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Day for Christmas lunch. It was the only time I ever saw my extended family and we did a gift exchange. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere – Arabah
Christmas is my brothers birthday I remember waking up super early and my brother would already be out in the living room. I would sit next to him on the chair and watch the twinkling christmas lights and we would sing happy birthday together. He is 8 years older than me. – Darla
2. Generosity Coming to Life
Multiple responses were centered around an act of giving. This wasn’t surprising. That joyful feeling you get when you give to others is a memory that sticks with you. On the other end of this was the responders who mentioned someone giving to them to be one of their lasting memories. It was the generosity of another, given to them when they were in need, that gave them a life long memory.
One year a friend of my mom’s husband had lost his job and they were scraping to put food on the table with no $$ for gifts. My mom talked to my brothers and me and we put together a basket of gifts and food for them. We dropped it off and ran away. They knew it was us but it is still a great memory. – Tammy
A couple women showed up at our door to give us a tree because they heard we didn’t have one. We were sworn to secrecy to not let anyone know we couldn’t afford a tree. How they found out, I don’t know. It meant the world to me that someone knew and cared. -Kymberlie
3. Simple Christmas Traditions
Decorating the tree. Baking cookies. Looking at the lights. There were no mentions of Pinterest perfect Christmases, just simple traditions done with the ones they loved.
Christmas morning with my dad making breakfast, my mom hung out with us drinking her coffee while we played with our stocking goodies. And decorating Christmas cookies! -Malynda
Baking. My favorite memory was baking with my mom and my kids always tell me that their favorite holiday tradition is all the cookies we bake. – Heidi
Decorating the Christmas tree. It was always so much fun pulling the ornaments out of the box and hearing the stories behind them. -Rachel
4. Meaningful Gifts
Although the vast majority of people did not mention getting gifts as their favorite Christmas memory, there were some that did. However, as I read their responses, I noticed something interesting. The reason the gift was so memorable, wasn’t because of the gift itself, but the meaning behind it. It wasn’t the price of the gift or how many gifts there were under the tree – it was the special thought behind the gift, the person it came from, or the memories surrounding it.
My favorite Christmas memory was actually a gift I got twice. When I was about 11 I really really wanted a birthstone ring for Christmas. My parents thought maybe I wasn’t old enough for actual jewelry but took a chance anyway. I wore it all the time. And then one day I lost it. I was so sure I only ever wore it or kept it in the box but I couldn’t find the box either. It was just gone. I was heartbroken about it. Several years later there was a small flood in the basement when the water heater broke. My parents sorting through cardboard boxes to see what was ruined found the ring box. And yes the ring was inside. They saved it until that Christmas and I got it all over again. I don’t remember what other presents I got that year but that ring was like a real life example of Luke 15:9. And how God will restore to us what was lost. -Kat
Apparently I was one of those that would snoop, shake and even unwrap/rewrap presents (I could get the tape off without tearing the paper). One year I wanted a stuffed animal. It would have been obvious so my parents put silverware and bricks in the box along with some other things. I think the box was even double wrapped. Every time I shook it or moved it they would get this look on their face that I had broken something. Needless to say I was quite surprised to open my very large box to find the stuffed dog that I really wanted. -Kim
The year our parents got us a puppy. Every year on Christmas eve, we’d go drive around and look at lights. This particular year, we drove a lot longer and to a rural area with very few lights. My dad claimed to be lost and went to knock on someone’s door “for directions” , and came back with a puppy. (It was all planned out.) -Beth
Christmas Memories that Matter
So, this Christmas I want to challenge you (and myself!) to put a little less emphasis on the gifts and the Pinterest perfect moments. And instead, squeeze your kids little tighter, let them be spoiled by their grandparents a little longer, and don’t worry about getting frosting and sprinkles all over the kitchen.
My kids are only 4 and 7 months and I can already feel the years slipping through my fingers. I know that it will be like a blink of an eye before they are all grown up and these moments are only memories. I want to spend as much time as I can doing the things that count.
Now I’d love to hear! What’s your favorite Christmas memory from childhood?