The letter to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 is one of my favorite Christmas “stories.” Several years ago, my then partner Jerry saw the letter/response from the editor reprinted for a Macy’s Christmas ad, and had it framed for me in a satin red mat/black frame. It’s one of my many traditions for Christmas — taking down a piece of artwork that’s up for the rest of the year, replacing it with this frame. The full text is available below (and the movie can be seen on Netflix!)
“Yes Virginia…” Memorabilia I’ve Collected
I’ve been through a lot of change and loss since 2010, so it has taken a couple of years until I have really got back into the Christmas spirit. Last year, I lost my mom to alcoholism/heart attack in January, and my grandmother (her mom) died later in October, one month shy of her 101st birthday. But, I’m happy to report that this year is probably the best year so far: decorating the house, putting up lights inside and our along with a tree, etc.
There are three special items in my collection (in addition to the Yes, Virginia stuff) that remind me of my family.
- One is a collection of homemade Christmas cards that my mom’s parents had printed each year from ~40’s to the ~60’s, which I had specially mounted several years ago, proudly displaying them as they should be. They remind me of my mom and grandmother. I love the different clothing styles, and fonts/expressions that mirror the changing times…
Vintage Christmas Cards
The Schneider Family (1940’s to 1960’s)
- One is an original decanter and glass set for Creme de Menth that my grandmother Blanche gave me. Very “kitsch” – something that nobody else in the family wanted, so she was ecstatic when her “gay grandson” was thrilled to give it a good home.
Original Decanter/Glasses (Creme de Menthe)
- Several collections of crèche’s (mangers) from my mom, which the three siblings carefully divided up between ourselves and her grandchildren last year. They remind me of mom…
Crèche (Manger Scene) from the Estate of C.S. Wyman
Another proud “tradition” I’m a part of are the carillons at my “community center” / church, Broadway United Methodist Church. We had a capital project last year to put them back in service, having rung in the past decades…but the old tape technology had fallen into disuse and failed to work. A resident of Mapleton-Fall Creek, living two blocks from the church, it seemed fitting to give to our ambiance in memory of my grandmother with some of the money she left me in her will.
Whenever I hear the chimes, I think fondly of her and her matriarchal role in our family. To know the carillons are bringing others joy warms my heart. I love this neighborhood community and the traditions and memories it brings forward.
Some comments from neighbors (via nextdoor.com)
“We live right across the street from Broadway UMC and we LOVE hearing the bells! Thank you for all of your work to bring this small joy back to the neighborhood!”
” I enjoy hearing the beautiful bells. It’s nice to have them return to Broadway. Whenever I hear the bells ring from the Broadway tower, I will always think of you and your Grandmother. Thank for ringing our bells!”
“I love the bells. I remember the first time I heard them play a song which was two christmas’s ago. I completely stopped what I was doing and listened. Not only did the bells tell me to slow down and just listen for once, they got me in the holiday spirit which is a feeling you can’t buy. We also brag to our guests, that visit our house, that we don’t need a wall clock because the bell tower keeps us up on the time!”
“I live on Broadway and I absolutely love hearing them chime. Thank you!”
“My family and I love hearing the bells. Thank you to you and your committee for making this a lovely part of our community!”
“I no longer live in MFC, however, my family lived in the community for 50 years. I am employed at Broadway UMC and I absolutely love hearing the chimes…so glad that they have been restored!”
One final tradition we grew up with: homemade pumpkin bread. We couldn’t open our presents on Christmas morning until we had our slices of bread, which my mom had made from the pumpkins at Halloween. So, I carry that tradition forward and always try to have pumpkin bread in and around the season, especially on Christmas morning.
Another tradition I reconnected with is our annual Christmas Store for the neighborhood…but I’ll save another blog post for that. I’ll also write about “Christopher The Christmas Tree,” the creator of which (George Bowers) just passed away this month. Finally, I’ll write about “Three King’s Day,” a tradition I learned about while living in Puerto Rico.
In closing, for many of us, the holidays can still bring up losses and changes we’re grieving. Just when we think we’ve moved past things, something comes up to remind us of the hole in our hearts…
I came across this poem that I thought I’d share:
“A Blessing for the Empty Place”
You sit in the empty place that is left, After the death, the arrangements, the service, The cards and calls and emails,
The departure of family,
The thank you’s and acknowledgements.
Left with the emptiness,
The space that can never be filled In quite the same way.
You see a shadow, hear a sound,
Taste a food she used to love,
Start to tell him something about your day, Smell a blanket or pillowcase,
And your eyes and heart are filled with tears.
The first week, the first month, the first birthday, The first holiday, the first anniversary, These bring you to the place of remembering, The place of exquisite, lonely sorrow.
Bless you and your memories.
Bless the tender heart that beats within you. Bless the empty space that can never be filled.
The shadows, the smells, the tastes, the thoughts, Transform their pain into blessings,
Signs that though you live in that desperately empty place, She walks beside you,
He laughs in the shelter of your heart.
That empty place That can never be filled In quite the same way Is filled
What are some of your favorite traditions or Christmas memories?
Please use comments to share with us…