What makes the Christmas season beautiful? For a child, the anticipation of Christmas morning and gifts from Santa might seem all encompassing. But the decorations, the holiday feast, the music, the lights, all serve to add to the magic of Christmas. Who makes the magic happen? Behind it all there is often a mother orchestrating the dance of Christmas.
As I’ve been pondering family Christmas traditions, I’ve settled on the tradition of making the season beautiful. Looking at photos of Christmas past I’ve discovered that many of the things I do for my family I learned from my mother, who learned from hers. In our family, we women have a tradition of setting a beautiful stage for the holidays, using whatever materials we have.
My mother recently gave me some boxes of slides that had been stored away for some time. On those slides I discovered new family pictures including some of Christmas celebrations from the 1950’s. What did I discover? My grandmother made Christmas beautiful, my mother made Christmas beautiful, and I now carry on the tradition.
My grandmother, Florence Creer Kelsey, grew up in a beautiful two-story home in Spanish Fork, Utah, but gave up the comforts of indoor plumbing to marry Ed Kelsey in 1917 and homestead in a one room house in Declo, Idaho.
My grandfather gradually added on to the house and my grandmother made it a home, with the additions of wallpaper, art, and furniture.
Florence loved Christmas and she created magic with her display atop the buffet of a single white candle surrounded by angel hair and shiny red ornaments.
My mother also decorated with angel hair and as a child I loved to place the ornaments underneath, arranging them perfectly. I still use angel hair in one of my displays – a connection to my mother and my grandmother.
The Christmas Tree
My grandmother always decorated her Christmas tree with large colored lights and icicles, those shiny silver wonders of a past age. As a child I would help with the meticulous task of carefully placing each icicle. When tinsel came out, my mother welcomed that as a less messy option, and I use wired ribbon, but the tradition of creating the magic with a beautiful tree continues.
My ornament collection includes intricate crocheted snowflakes made by my mother and grandmother. As I carefully place them on the tree each year, I’m reminded of the tradition of making Christmas beautiful.
Through the years our tree has varied in size, shape, and variety – generally depending on our home at the time and availability. Although the tree may be different, the ornaments make it our tree.
The Christmas Dinner
Part of my grandmother’s Christmas traditions included setting a beautiful table with her best china dishes, sterling silver dinnerware, and crystal serving dishes.
My mother inherited the china and sterling silver and as a child it was my privilege to set the table with these lovely things. As I did, my mother told me how Grandma Kelsey’s children would give her a piece of the sterling silver or a china plate for Mother’s Day, her birthday or Christmas until she had a complete set of both.
In her later years, my grandmother loved to come to our home for Christmas day. She dressed up and enjoyed using her beautiful dishes and silver again for the dinner.
I continue the tradition of setting a beautiful Christmas dinner table, hoping to make the magic happen for my children and grandchildren.
This Christmas, ponder on how you make the season beautiful for your family. Talking about the traditions and where they originated make them meaningful and add to the beauty of family.