Readers share even more memories of unusual holidays.
The turkey was stuffed and in the refrigerator, the salads were mixed, the vegetables were prepared for the relish tray, and the table was set. Everything was ready for tomorrow’s gathering of the family for a traditional Christmas celebration.
The weatherman forecast a large accumulation of snow with possible strong winds, and one look through the window gave me every indication that he was right. The snow was piling up on the driveway, there were drifts against the garage door, the steps into the house were covered, and the door was blocked.
Late in the afternoon it was announced on the radio that all Christmas Eve church services had been canceled. However, I thought perhaps the storm would subside during the night, and Christmas Day would arrive with sunshine and settled winds. But that didn’t happen.
On Christmas morning, the sky was full of falling snowflakes, and it became clear to me that there was no need to roast the turkey. Our Christmas celebration would have to be postponed. There was nothing I could do but cancel our gathering.
Alone, I plopped into a chair by the window and looked outside. What a lovely landscape it was. The pristine snow lay untouched, topping the railings, fence posts and roofs. The streets were covered as well. Suddenly, I wondered, is this God’s way of telling all of us to slow down and take time to remember the real reason for the Christmas celebration? And that’s just what I did!
It was 70 degrees in Colorado on Christmas Day 1980. That’s warm when you’re from Minnesota and are used to cold, traditional white Christmases. However, we were in Englewood, a suburb of Denver, at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital on this particular Christmas.
The previous autumn, my 16-year-old daughter, Carla, was in a car accident, in which she shattered several vertebrae and severed her spinal cord, leaving her a quadriplegic. She spent six weeks in a South Dakota hospital before being flown by air ambulance to Colorado for rehabilitation.
So, here it was, Christmas Day, and Carla was sitting in the work area of the therapy center beside a lit Christmas tree, and she was all smiles. She was counting her blessings, knowing that God was with her and would take her through her trials. Carla also received support from friends and relatives, and the staff at the rehabilitation center gave her no time for self-pity, but instead gave her encouragement to carry on.
For Christmas that year, Carla’s friends from home sent a beautifully wrapped package with dozens of homemade goodies for her, and Santa brought her a brand-new motorized wheelchair, in which she learned to control with her chin.
Carla knew she still had a future. She worked hard at fitting into society in spite of her handicap. She knew she would have to make adjustments, but she also knew she wanted to graduate from high school and college, get a job, and do the best she could to enjoy life. Carla accepted the situation with courage and determination. That was 30 years ago, and she’s still courageous and determined.
When our children were small, it was a tradition to go camping over their spring break each year. Most years, spring break included Easter Sunday. Most years we went to our favorite spot at Lake of the Ozarks.
Getting ready for the trip was always a hectic time for my husband and me, and one of the most challenging tasks was keeping the Easter baskets and candy hidden while packing at home and unpacking at the campsite. The next hurdle came the night before Easter, when I would have to get out of bed, in the dark of night, and find the goodies and baskets, then assemble them without waking the children.
Despite the difficulties, it was worth it on Easter morning when we saw the surprise and amazement on their faces. The first Easter spent camping was especially precious, when the children asked, “Mommy, how did the Easter bunny ever find us?” I simply told them that the Easter bunny also enjoyed camping, and that answer apparently made sense to them. After that first year, the children always knew that the Easter bunny would find us wherever our travels took us.
St. Joseph, Missouri
During the mid-1950s, drought and unusually warm temperatures helped create a nontraditional Christmas remembrance.
Our family traditionally celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve with a special meal and the opening of gifts. Some years we had the family at our house, and other years we traveled to my father’s parents’ home nearby.
On this particular Christmas Day, because it was so warm, we children played with our new croquet set in the green grass on the west side of our house.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Nestled in the hills of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, Greenwood Hills Camp is located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Greenwood Hills has been a camp for boys and girls ages 8 through 15 since 1931. I have many fond memories of the summers I spent there.
One summer was especially memorable, though. It was the year we celebrated Christmas in July. Ceramic candles were placed in the windows of the lodge, giving a warm glow to each room we entered. A huge pine wreath adorned the front door, and the fragrance of the pine needles filled the air.
In the living room, there was a Christmas tree – the tallest one I’d ever seen. Each camper was given a hand-painted ornament depicting a different story in the Bible. After we placed all the ornaments on the tree, one of the counselors climbed a tall ladder and placed a shimmering gold star on top of the tree. Then we all took turns throwing tinsel on the tree.
Under the tree lay a white felt tree skirt, and on top of the tree skirt was a beautiful handmade nativity scene. When the lights were turned off and the tree was lit, the entire room was transformed. We sang Christmas carols and snacked on cookies and punch.
That Christmas in July at Greenwood Hills Camp was unusual in that it took place in the middle of the summer, but it was also one holiday celebration I’ve never forgotten.