The Power of Christmas Memories

Christmas is perhaps the most emotionally loaded holiday of the year. Christmas--so pregnant with significance, so romanticized in popular culture--carries with it great expectations.  

For some, our Christmas memories are cherished in our minds; our own personal experience of the moments of instagrammed, facebook-worthy revelry promised to us in advertising and the stories we have heard from others.

For others, Christmas is a testament to the imperfect state of our affairs: the mother whose son is in Afghanistan instead of at home with his family; the teenager whose numerous gift-opening sessions only serves as a reminder of how fragmented her life is after her parent’s divorce; the man who is spending his first Christmas without his wife. 

Each Christmas is an opportunity to make new memories that lives up to our expectations and hopes. Our idea of what Christmas should be.

For me, Christmas is inseparable from my grandfather. A man who seemed made for this season. He was beloved by his grandchildren, admired by his children, respected by the large, Italian family he led. Regardless of whatever other familial instability was going on in my life, he was consistently present, consistently making Christmas his and mine all at the same time. So it was bittersweet that I happened to be cast as Scrooge in my high school’s production of A Christmas Carol (his absolutely favorite Christmas story) just a few short months after he passed. And like some supernatural passing of the baton, Melissa, my wife, was cast as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and she led both Scrooge and myself through those tumultuous times. Melissa has been my Christmas memory ever since.

I had the opportunity to ask three friends to share their favorite Christmas memories. Here are their stories, that shine a bit of light on how we experience this season:

My favorite Christmas memory is the year we put on a Christmas Eve service at home. My wonderfully indulgent parents let me and my brother create an entire church service — complete with handwritten “programs”, worship songs that we clunked out on our piano and a mini sermon (that we basically plagiarized from Linus’ monologue in A Charlie Brown Christmas — which we’d seen way too many times). Now that my husband and I have kids of our own, I appreciate how important it is to let our little ones have those special moments too!
— Nicole Baker Fulgham, Founder of The Expectations Project
I grew up the oldest child of 6, and since we came from a divorced home and had multiple step-parents, Christmas was always a confusing season. Because of the numerous custody battles we never developed a set of holiday traditions, and that was a void I carried with me into marriage. My spouse had an entirely opposite experience. She is an only child, and comes from a family that has a very specific set of Christmas traditions. The Christmas tree experience, the predictable rotation of movies, the series of holiday cookies, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day - every one of these has a ritual that goes with it, and each has become part of my annual experience. We have two kids of our own now, and I am thankful to have this set of predictable liturgies for them to look forward to. I’m glad that Christmas is such a special and fun season for them, and through their experience it is becoming that for me too.
— Daniel Hill, Pastor of River City Church, Chicago, IL
Christmas day is a very reflective day for me as it’s my birthday while we more importantly celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As my pastor says, it’s a time to focus on his PRESENCE and less on the PRESENTS.

Thanks to his presence, I have been blessed with an incredible family who I share continual traditions with for this special day to celebrate his and their presence. Every Christian morning, I would go to breakfast with my Dad to the Royal Coach diner in The Bronx. My Pops would get his Sanka coffee and usually Corned Beef Hash, and I would just get a little bit of everything! This year is the first year without my Dad so that will be missed, but I may still get that Sanka in his honor while seeing the contagious smiles on the families all around us showing the positive blessings of The Bronx.

My mom would always make a phenomenal dinner with Jamaican food including of course my favorite, Oxtail. No matter if it’s siblings, cousins and friends all over the dining and living room or just my mom and I where we pray with each other, we always have our meal together and celebrate how God has been so good to us. If we’re up for it, we also go to a Christmas movie or to a Knicks game with my oldest brother.

No matter how busy life may be, I focus on his PRESENCE, and I thank God for his birth...while also hoping I get a gift for Christmas AND my Birthday of course!
— Michael Blake, Civic Leader and Former White House Staffer

Let's remember to cherish these tender moments over the next few days. We carry Christmas memories with us for a lifetime. I wish all of you great new memories with family and loved ones this Christmas.

What is your favorite Christmas memory? Share it in the comments below.

Merry Christmas!