My mother lives for Christmas. Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, she starts her holiday tradition of decorating the house. But unlike many moms, my mother has mostly done this alone. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t always shared her enthusiasm for the holidays (I’m more of a Thanksgiving fan than Christmas), and while I’m sure a big part of her did it for me, I just wasn’t always so into it. But that never stopped her. She carried on, filling our house with poinsettias and garlands, candy canes and gingerbread houses, and infusing the house with the smell of apple cinnamon and pine cones.
Part of her tradition is displaying one of my children’s books around the house, “Twas the Night before Christmas.” She reads it to me every year, as if I were still a kid. A proud mama, she even hangs up the Christmas tree I made for her in grade school; out of green construction paper and full of glitter. The poor tree is ripped in several places, but she’s kept it all these years, as if it were a masterpiece. She loves Santa Claus, so I started a tradition of buying her a new Santa for Christmas to add to her collection — or a Grinch. She loves the Grinch, too.
It wasn’t until I had my own daughter that I realized why she loves Christmas so much. It’s a way for her to relive her childhood and feel some magic. I now feel a certain kind of magic around the holidays, too, that wasn’t there before. My mom made Christmas a happy time for me growing up, and I want Olivia to have that, too.
Luckily, I have a husband who loves Christmas as well. He grew up with his own traditions passed on from his mother, also a single mom. But, up until we had Olivia, we never even put up a Christmas tree. When he mentioned it in the past, I would remind him that it was too much work and that it took up too much space; something we didn’t have much of back then, in our studio apartment. I definitely sounded like a Scrooge!
Last year was Olivia’s first Christmas (and our first year in our new, bigger apartment), so when he suggested decorating the house, I agreed. He came home with the biggest tree I’d ever seen in a home. But it looked beautiful once we had it up with ornaments and lights. The pets loved it too, cuddling next to each other on the tree skirt.
My husband, daughter, and I sat on the couch staring at the beautiful tree. I knew that that would be the first of many more special holiday moments. I felt that warm, fuzzy feeling that I’m sure my mom has been experiencing all these years after lighting our tree for the first time. I sat there and thought to myself: I can’t believe I wasn’t going to do this!
One day, I asked my mom, as we were decorating our tree, “Why do you love Christmas so much?” She told me that it was her mother’s favorite holiday. My grandmother passed away when my mother was a young girl. I guess the holidays are a way for her to hold onto the memory of her mother. Just like her, Christmas will always remind me of my mom, and now, hopefully, it’ll remind Olivia of me, too.
Angelica Sereda is a working mother and freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter Olivia and her husband.
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