08 Feb

A Most Unusual Christmas Gift – Your Written Legacy

This Christmas try writing a legacy letter to your loved ones, letting them know what you value in life, what lessons you have learned and what wisdom you would like to pass down and be remembered for. If you’re not sure where to start, reminisce about Christmas’s past, your family traditions and lessons learned. Here’s some ideas to help you get started.

Christmas memories for me include a flocked Christmas tree in the living room that was adorned with red bows. We had a small nativity inside and a life size manger and nativity scene outside that my father had made. We had family over for Christmas including my great grandma, both sets of grandparents as well as Mrs. Henning, a widowed neighbor. My mother remembers having oyster stew on Christmas Eve at Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Rose’s house. Do you have any traditional meals that your family has every year?

Do you make it a family affair to cut down your own Christmas tree? Do you prefer balsam, spruce, fir or perhaps a simple Charlie Brown tree? Whatever the needle size, I love the smell of fresh pine. Do you listen to Christmas music and have hot chocolate while decorating the tree? What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? Does each one of your ornaments have meaning? Many of the ornaments that hang on my family’s Christmas tree were made by our children over the years. We also have ornaments that were made by my grandmother and some wooden ones I painted when I was a child. What about the tree topper? Is it a star, an angel or something else? Is it a tradition that dad always puts on the last ornament?

Do you make bake goods with recipes that have been handed down for generations?  Maybe it’s a fruit cake, cookies, hard candy or fudge with a secret ingredient. Every year our family makes Sunbakkels, Spritz, Russian Teacakes and Rosettes. My mother has some of the old tins and irons that have been passed down from her grandmother. When my daughters were very young they would have to stand on a chair to be table height, and they would roll balls for the cookies or Sunbakkels. Papa had the quality control duty thinning out the dough making sure that it was all even.

Do you take a tour of the city to see all of the Christmas lights or drive up to Irvine Park to look at the displays? Have you ever gone Christmas caroling around the neighborhood? When I was in Girl Scouts in grade school we went caroling at Mount Washington Nursing Home. Silent Night and Away in a Manager are two of my favorite songs that I still sing today.

Does your family read the birth story from Matthew or Luke each Christmas season? Does your family watch Miracle on 34th Street or the Polar Express? Does your family donate gifts to the less fortunate or volunteer at a homeless shelter? Does your family attend the Children’s Mass or Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve?

What Christmas gifts did you receive? Does your family open one present on Christmas Eve and it is a brand new pair of pajamas? When I was a young girl, I remember receiving an Easy Bake Oven, Toss Across, and Jumping Shoes. Over the years I have found that being present is a greater gift than any present I could give or receive.

Every year we write a Christmas letter recapping the year. It’s a family tradition and everyone helps write it. Friends and relatives look forward to hearing about our family adventures and traditions that have continued throughout the years.

One of my favorite Christmas quotes is from Dr. Seuss’s – How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

This quote reminds me that Christmas is more than the presents that we continue to give and receive. It’s about the giving, the giving of peace and love. It’s about being the light, about being present. This Christmas give the gift that will last and be treasured for generations to come. Give the gift of a written legacy.

Published in The Eau Claire Journal ~ December 2015

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