I imagine that most of us have memories of the Christmas and New Year season as we were growing up. Even if it was not in this area, memories of the past can help us connect, relate or just feel happy about events and people we remember as special.
Growing up in Troy and Miami County was always interesting. As Bing Crosby and others would sing, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas … ,“ snow was uncertain, at best. Many of us here in the Miami Valley did not know if we would get a white Christmas, green Christmas, or one that was grey and wet, or even sunny and 60 degrees. Of course, most of the grownups did not want snow, all the while, as kids, we prayed for snow so we could enjoy sledding.
I recall having many fun days at my grandparents’ home, which sat atop a hill. The only drawback was the hill ended right at the street, so we had to take turns watching for vehicles and giving the “all clear sign” to our friends so they could make a rapid, yet safe passage down the embankment, and usually across the street.
Another seasonal favorite for our family was to take a night or two and drive around looking at all the beautiful lights adorning homes and trees in the area. Some were colorful artistic designs and others would remind of the meaning behind the season.
Of course, we regularly took note of the Christmas tree in the Public Square, and our adventures always included a trip to Ludlow Falls when the fire department was still setting up their incredible light display over and around the (sometimes) frozen falls. The variety of lights, from simple displays to complex; multi-colored to white and everything in between was just modest fun. Sometimes I wonder, with all the iPads, Nooks, smart phones, video games, and an array of other electronic devices, if many young people today would find my growing up years boring. But, it was with the people I loved.
One part of Christmas that was special was gathering for a Christmas Eve service at our church. Singing, reading from God’s word, sometimes sharing a testimony of God’s goodness, even in hard circumstances. These events were all a part of what made Christmas wonderful.
New Year’s Eve was fun. Playing games, eating snacks with reckless abandon, and staying up late to ring in the New Year. The only other time of year that I was allowed to stay up so late was on Labor Day weekend, when my sister and I would watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
Our family was not large, so I do not remember huge family gatherings at Christmas or New Years. But, we did get to visit some of our aunts, uncles, cousins and so forth at one time or another. But usually, it was just my maternal grandparents, my mom, sister and I … our small little family.
After my grandmother had passed away and my grandfather remarried, we still had a family gathering for a special Christmas dinner, including one of my grandfather’s favorite desserts, mincemeat pie. But, at New Year, again, we celebrated with our church family, praying in a New Year.
As I grew up, many things have changed: Ludlow Falls is no longer a destination, no more gatherings with my mom and sister, but there is also reason to rejoice. I have my lovely wife and two children (although they will both go to college next fall), who have blessed my life, and we have our little traditions.
The one constant that has remained in my life through all these years is the reason I enjoy this time of year so much. Yes, I love the memories of what we did as a family when I was young; yes, I enjoy just being with my family now and making “moments of memories” that will last the rest of my life. Yes, I love the lights, the trees, and music … but, the one constant has been my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Recalling that it was His coming to earth, with angels heralding the possibility of peace with God and redemption through His love.
It is like the old Charlie Brown Christmas special that some find boring now. Linus, in the midst of confusion reminds all of us what Christmas is really about. We can dress it up, try to ignore it, focus on little parts of it, but, in reality, it is the story of God’s love for His creation and His offer of love extended to us (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
May you all have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. A special hello and Merry Christmas to my friend and fellow history compatriot Don Robbins.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org