Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The ghost of Christmas past...

I'm participating in Virtual Advent this year for the first time and I've had a lot of fun reading everyone's stories/traditions and then reminiscing about the things my family did. 
I guess I've been thinking more about what I did do with my family than what I currently do because to me Christmas was really alive with the whole 'santa' thing when I was younger - something I don't think I'm really into for kids now. 

It's been a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me and I just can't select one tradition to talk about this time, but guess I'll need to try.
My earliest memory of Christmas involves the tradition of our Christmas or Santa sacks and books; there are always books :)  Each year my brother, sister and I would help mum decorate the Christmas tree to the tunes of various Christmas carols and each of us trying to ridiculously out sing the other...or grumpily tossing away knotted lights and tinsel, depending on the mood at the time and the state of the decorations from last years pack up.  We'd then stick our heads into the linen cupboard, calling out to mum 'Where is my sack? Did you put it away, where did you put it?'.  Mum would patiently (or not, depending on the mood) come and help or call out the viable places the sacks may be hidden.  At this point you might be wondering why why didn't go into a drawer or perhaps away with the decorations each year? Who knows, it would seem more logical and it would indeed have been easier.  Many a cross word was spoken trying to locate them amongst a years worth of table cloths, summer and winter sheets, doona covers, vacuum cleaner and everything else that was stuffed away in there.

Eventually they'd be located, each proudly holding up our sack (or pulling it off a sibling stating it was ours, depending on the mood) and triumphantly marching it over to the tree and laying it underneath.  Always for me, imagining what might be laid inside by Santa, and if indeed I'd been good enough this year for his visit.  There was always a scuffle to place your 'sack' in the best position, and that being right at the front of the tree.  And you'd better watch out if you tried to lay on it or move it to watch the television...I'm starting to think we were quite territorial!  Oh, and mum finally realised that our names on things was a very safe option, so our sack eventually had these printed nicely on the front :)

There was always a lot of waiting, a lot of will the sack have something in it Christmas morning and what would that be?  Eventually Christmas Eve and as we grew up Catholic, there was always midnight Mass...and what an extravaganza that was! So much singing, the nativity and it would bring you that much closer to Christmas day.  Maybe that will be a focus for next year :) The first year I really remember I got up during the night to make a trip to the toilet, just down the hall.  I didn't turn on any lights, and stealthily as I could, made my way over to the tree.  I knew exactly where my sack was....quietly as I could I knelt down and stuck my hand was so full! There were things spilling out on the ground!  I put my hand in as far as it would go and felt the outline of a book, I smiled (at least I remember smiling), wondering with excitement what book it could be.  I knew if I turned the light on my mum would wake up, a light sleeper, and I'd be in trouble and the sack would be taken away...a threat to keep us in bed.  I dared feel inside the other sacks and can't really remember what I felt inside, but was awed by what I could feel and my mind going crazy trying to work out what was inside.  Knowing, but not completely knowing all the detail.

I went to the toilet, crept back to bed and was still VERY excited the next day when I finally got to see what I'd only felt and imagined the night before.  
I did this nearly every year for many years...always going out, sometimes getting caught.
What I remember and love was the mystery, the placing of the 'sack' under the tree and always receiving a book in that sack.  Even though for years I stuck my hand inside with excitement, I never knew what was really inside until the next day.  
It took a long time for us to stop placing our sacks out under the tree....we were well into our 20's, no one wanting to give it up, because Christmas just wasn't the same without it.  It didn't matter if there was anything inside, it just mattered that the sack was placed out.  Again, we continued to receive a book as part of our gift and again, this continued....actually I was well into my 30's before this stopped and only because mum found it difficult to choose books for us.  
I'm lucky and on the years we choose to do the bought 'gift' thing rather than something else I seem to always receive a book from someone.  I think if I didn't receive one I'd have to go out and do it myself, because it just isn't right to go through the next few days without a book to relax with. 
This year, my family has decided to donate to charities of our choice instead of purchase two of the Christmas traditions I've lived with won't happen.  That's ok though, Christmas isn't about the material or the receiving for me, its about family and giving and remembering.

Hope you've enjoyed this lengthy trip down memory lane with me and take a look at the other participants on Day 7 of the Virtual Advent tour.

A selection of books received in my Christmas sack


  1. Thanks for sharing your memories with us! Sounds like it was quite the exciting time for you and your siblings. :)

    Books have always been a part of my Christmas as well (and I'm sure same with most other book bloggers, haha). :)

  2. What a fun tradition--I like the idea of sacks much better than stockings. So practical. I've got a post today too. kaye—the road goes ever ever on

  3. I think it is a great idea that your family is contributing to charities this year; we did that a few years back and it was so rewarding; I truly enjoyed it (I orchestrated it, I think my family went along with it but I'm not sure their hearts were in it as much as mine, LOL) But I always think it is so much more better to give than to receive!

    I enjoyed reading about your sacks and the gifts of books. Wonderful memories to share with us and your family! wishing you a wonderful rest of the Christmas season!


  4. I so relate to the siblings fighting comments!

    Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas memories with us as part of the Advent tour! I enjoyed your post.

  5. Thanks everyone, I really enjoyed participating!
    That Corgi! - we are looking forward to it, we always make the decision together and last year we forwent gifts completely (except for the children) as it was the first time we'd gotten together in a while and it was all about that.
    Marg - thanks for having me :) Hope I can participate again next year!

  6. Giving to charities is a wonderful idea. We should decide to do that one of these years... Thanks for participating!