With the winter season fast approaching, the dark nights lengthen and many days are marked by a gray overcast, rain, or fog. But together we’ve found ways to make these months sparkle with colorful lights and holiday decorations. We often spend more time with family and friends, sharing good food, fine conversation, and making fond memories. So this month, I asked our lanterns to share one or more of their favorite holiday memories.
For Linda Ulleseit, the term Favorite Holiday Memories always brings to mind a Christmas when her sons were young.
“Every year we hosted Christmas Eve at our house for my husband’s side of the family, then on Christmas Day drove four hours to Paradise, California, to celebrate with my side of the family. I remember lots of time with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. One year that particularly stood out, however, was 1998. My sons were 9 and 11 years old. One morning a week or so before Christmas, we surprised them with a trip to Disneyland. We woke them up in the morning and caught a plane to L.A. An hour later, we were walking down Main Street with a couple of astonished kids. The entire surprise trip, flying instead of driving, and seeing the wonder of Disneyland decorated for Christmas, made for a magical weekend. It was the one time I knew for certain we were the greatest parents on Earth.”
Every ornament Ana Brazil puts on her Christmas tree holds a special memory, from the small Danish flags connected by a century-old string and the Santa Clauses made of red yard and cotton balls that I inherited from my mother, to the petite gift cards on silver ribbons sent from Germany decades ago, to the dozens of red plastic hearts I bought at Pier 1 in Jackson, Mississippi, to the Tim & Ana 4-Ever gold heart that my niece gave to us and the Georg Jensen silver heart my husband gave me.
“Once an ornament gets on my tree, it goes up every year.”
Rebecca D’Harlingue remembers her rather serious husband reading Christmas stories to their kids when they were little.
“There was one book in particular, a board book called Feel Santa Claus’ Beard that he always read the same way. When he got to the page where you felt the reindeer’s fur, he would always put his fingers to his nose and say, “Pee-yoo! Smells like reindeer.” When grandkids came along, I was so happy that he resurrected that old joke.
“I also have many fond memories of me reading Christmas books to our kids and grandkids. My granddaughter is nine years old now, and loves to read her chapter books, so I was afraid that she might not want to listen any more as I read to her five-year-old brother. I was delighted when she told me last week that this is one of her favorite things about Christmas. Maybe next year she’ll have outgrown it, so I’m relishing that special closeness now.”
In 1982, Mari Christie was caught in the Denver, Colorado Christmas Blizzard. “We woke up to several feet of snow drifts in front of the door, and at least two feet blanketing the city. There was no way to drive a car, no public transportation, and our Christmas plans were particularly urgent, as my mother was visiting a family friend’s house on a day pass from one of her regular hospital stays. She would die a little more than a year later, so the memory of walking a few miles in hip-deep snow with my aunt, who had been babysitting me, to make it to Christmas dinner with my mom, is among my most impactful memories.”
For C.V. Lee it’s hard to decide between two of her favorite Christmas memories.
“In 2008, my husband and I both worked in the real estate industry and the housing market was melting down. Needless to say, money was very tight that Christmas. We took the boys with us to purchase a tree, but day after day, no gifts presented under the tree. All three of my children moped around the house, their little eyes made them look so downcast. On Christmas eve day, my husband and I spent the day at my office wrapping presents. When we returned home, loaded down with gifts, the whole scene changed. I think there was much more joy that year.
“In 2010, my oldest son had gone off to college and the middle one would be following in his footsteps in a few months. My youngest was soon to be the only child still at home. I had always resisted getting them a dog because of the commitment. However, my youngest had pleaded many times for a dog, and we found a the perfect puppy at a rescue many miles away.
“My husband and I woke up rather giddy, thinking about adding a new little one (although a different species) to our brood. It was easy to make the excuse for our extended absence by telling the children that I had an appointment with a potential client. Because we got the dog a few days before Christmas, it wasn’t possible to hide it, so I asked my youngest if we could give him one of his gifts early. His brothers covered his eyes. I will never forget walking in as my middle son kept saying, “No way.” When I stood in front of my youngest and he saw the puppy for the first time he was stunned and speechless. This picture commemorates that moment. To this day, we all agree our little Cahill was the best Christmas present ever!”
One of Kathryn Pritchett’s most vivid Christmas memories was the year she was five and received a nurse’s uniform as a gift. “ I don’t know if I requested the uniform, or if it was just something my mother fancied. She loved Christmas and was a generous and thoughtful gift-giver, which was no small feat, given that she would eventually act as Mrs. Santa for nine children.
“That Christmas my younger brother Bruce would have just turned two. He had been afflicted with mysterious seizures and the excitement of that Christmas morning triggered another one.
“So what I remember about that morning is the trauma of my parents holding down a convulsing toddler and prying his mouth open to insert a spoon between his teeth so he wouldn’t bite his tongue while “Nurse Kathy” stood helplessly by.
“Thankfully, there is a happy ending where Bruce was miraculously healed—by someone else—but that’s an Easter story for another day.”
C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.