Every year on Christmas Eve my family and I play games. Everything from Monopoly to Pictionary. I have quite the competitive family (especially my brother and sister-in-law) so it’s always entertaining and full of laughs. One year my mother’s dog knocked over the Monopoly board in her attempt to steal a cookie off the table. That was the end of the game…the person that won that round is still up for debate til this day. Hopefully this year we can have a clear winner!
Throughout my childhood and now, into my adulthood, the music of Christmas has been the central focal point of my family’s celebrations. When I was growing up, there was never a Christmas that went by without all of us siblings, and sometimes cousins too, gathering around the piano to spend a couple of hours belting out the soul-stirring songs of the season with gusto as my mother enthusiastically played and led the charge. It was never part of some annually set out holiday schedule, but we all knew the Christmas-Carols-Round-The-Piano session was a written-in-stone requirement during our festivities.
I always marveled at how my mother had a complete library of these classics in her head and the stunningly beautiful result that would manifest itself for our ears with just the mention of a song title. “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Oh Holy Night”, “White Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, even “Jingle Bell Rock”. She knew them all intimately by heart as the rest of us strained to read the lyrics from the sheet music. While living for a number of years in the same town as many of my mother’s family members, Christmas jam sessions would often spontaneously erupt with my mother on piano or electric keyboard and my uncles on various guitars and rhythm instruments with everyone singing. These magical hours decades ago have become cherished memories and have helped to shape and fire my own musical pursuits to this day.
Even during my teen years when it was horrifying to lose any perceived ‘cool factor’ by participating in these Christmas jams, something, or someone, always made me join in and I’m so glad I always gave in. Now, a Christmas without the right music to go with it would not be Christmas at all. Hearing that beautiful music in my head and remembering the joy that those times of togetherness brought keeps my spirit bright not only during the holidays, but any time my mind wanders back home.
For the past four years I have joined in with my girlfriend’s family Christmas, and every year my father in-law arranges a massive scavenger hunt with games, challenges, and treasures (presents) along the way. The goal of the hunt/race is to find your “Big” present, all the while competing against my girlfriend, her sisters and their boyfriends/fiancé. Each clue has a letter on the back that when put together with all of the other clues must be unscrambled to determine the final hiding place. It’s a huge riot and can get very competitive, but is so much fun. I have yet to win, but I have a feeling this year is going to be my year.
Our Secret Santa game goes like this: everyone brings in a gender neutral gift, we pick numbers from a hat and the person with the higher number chooses a gift, and so on… One year, my uncle rigged the game so he got to choose first, little did everyone know, he chose his own gift. It was a baby onesie that said “Esguerra baby” on it. It took us a few seconds to realize it meant they were having their first baby.
Every year my dad would receive what I, from a child’s perspective, perceived as disgusting delicacies in his Christmas stocking: smoked oysters and mussels, blue cheese, pate, escargot, oat cakes. Ick. As I grew up, my tastebuds refined, and one year when I was in my late teens I decided we should make his stocking our Christmas breakfast. From that point on this became a (most of the) family tradition, along with spiced liqueur in the coffee (all of the family). It’s the reason why, I as a 30-something daughter, refuse to retire the stocking tradition.
My favorite memory revolved around the once a year Rudolph viewing. I had seen it maybe once before, or it may have even been the first time. Anyway, I got a bloody nose. And so I had to lie back (it was pretty bad), and couldn’t watch the TV. So my father took a mirror off the wall, and held it over me, tilted toward the TV so I could watch the show in the mirror. For so many reasons, one of my favorite memories ever.
My fondest Christmas memory was leaving an autograph book out for Santa. In the morning, I had proof, in ink, that Santa existed. In no way did that signature look like something my mother or father or brother could have come up with — it was truly Santa and he took the time, not only to eat the cookies and drink the milk, but to write me a note and leave his signature for me. I still have that little book somewhere; a treasured moment and possession for sure.
Lisa J. Jackson