The ElderHealth Community Shares Treasured Holiday Memories

holiday memories with a basket of fruit

A version of this piece appears in the Holiday 2022 edition of the Heart at Home quarterly newsletter.

Ben Thomas, Member
The joy and satisfaction of Christmas Day is remembered from long ago with my parents and six children. While the youngest children were excited by Santa’s gifts, several were starting to doubt the reality of Santa Claus, and the two oldest had made the transition. There was a large basket of fruit, symbolizing my parents’ achievement of providing food. As the second-oldest child, I watched the joy in my parent’s eyes: warm home, food, security, happy and safe children. A job well done.

Amy Ginn, Nurse Practitioner
One of our family holiday traditions is baking cut-out, holiday-shaped sugar cookies. I remember going to my grandparent’s house and baking them with my grandmother, and now I’ve passed the tradition to my children.

Brittany Wagner, Practice Manager
Christmas time for us has always been magical. Our traditions of gathering on Christmas Eve included enjoying appetizers and being allowed one gift each to open. The house was filled with music. We also enjoyed visiting local neighborhoods to admire Christmas lights and waking up in the morning to see that Santa had eaten nearly all of his cookies, drank all of his milk, and left unwrapped gifts under the tree.

Marc Goodman, Registered Nurse 
My fondest holiday memories are musical and largely involve group singing. These moments range from singing in my elementary school choir to caroling with hospice co-workers at our in-patient facilities to chanting “Ma’oz Tzur” (“Rock of Ages”) at Hanukkah gatherings at friends’ homes. Regardless of religious belief, repertoire, or musical ability, I experience singing together with others as uplifting and inherently spiritual.

Melissa Koon, Nurse Practitioner
Every year on Christmas Eve, we would eat dinner and exchange gifts at my mamaw’s house (mamaw is Mississippian for grandmother). We would go right to the small Christmas tree, overrun with presents, only to be told, “You cannot open gifts until everyone has finished eating dinner.” As a child, this was pure torture. The grandkids would be done in five minutes, then we would be forced to sit and wait…and worse, we had to stay out of trouble because if we didn’t, the presents would just sit there even longer! 

Little did I know that as an adult, my favorite holiday memories would not include even one gift under the tree. Instead, the moments I hold dear occurred during that torturous time between dinner and right before we opened presents, when my cousins and I would gather around the radio and listen as the announcer tracked Santa. Then we would dare each other to call the radio station and request they play our all-time favorite: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” We would debate which cousin would try to stay up to see Santa (and whether it was actually possible to stay up all night?), and discuss the likelihood of whether our mamaw actually had a pet tiger in her ‘forbidden closet.’ And when we got tired of all that, we would play every card game known to that time period and before: Uno, Tiddlywinks, Skip-Bo, Rook… These are cherished times that when remembered warm my heart and make me smile. 

Laura Aylmer, Social Worker 
An image forever alive in my heart is seeing my grandfather waiting outside in the cold December air in Queens, New York, so he could help unload our car (packed to the brim with brightly wrapped presents) as my family arrived at my grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve. Entering from the small side stoop, my grandma would welcome us with her bright smile before returning to the hot pan of oil on the stove where shrimp was frying. Recalling the scene of our family gathered around the dining room table to give thanks, enjoy our meal, and talk with excitement and expectation about the surprises to come always brings a feeling of peace and joy.

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