Christmas is such a special time of year for my family. The decorations, family time, and of course, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ are just a few reasons why it’s always been my favorite holiday. Some of you may not know, but Cason and I suddenly lost our dad on December 23, 2006. I think about my dad year round but this time of year he seems to always be on my mind. Christmas and his passing will forever be linked for me. For anyone who has lost a loved one (particularly at the holidays) it’s hard not to focus on the sad times. I have learned to accept there’s always going to be some pain but this is also the time when I can celebrate my dad too! It’s the little things that mean the most, like toasting my dad at dinner, playing his favorite Christmas music, or sharing memories of our time spent together. My mom and dad made Christmas so special growing up and today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Rainwater family traditions!
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is my mom’s Christmas Eve lasagna. My family ONLY eats lasagna on Christmas Eve. (And it’s the best lasagna I’ve ever had!) Every year we go to the Christmas Eve service at our church and then head home for lasagna. We would always eat in the sunroom (where our Christmas tree was located) and mom would turn out the lights so we ate dinner lit by candles and the Christmas tree lights. It may seem silly but it felt downright magical. After dinner we could open one present under the tree. It was conveniently always a new pair of Christmas pajamas. Once everyone changed we’d pile in the car and drive around to look at Christmas lights. When we got home, dad would make everyone sit down and watch A Christmas Carol. (The original black and white version.) About 30 minutes in, I typically yawned and claimed tiredness. This is one tradition that Cason, my mom, and I slightly tweaked. Now when we get home from looking at lights we watch The Holiday. I don’t think dad would mind too much.
Next was mom and dad “setting the scene” on Christmas day! As soon as Cason and I would wake up on Christmas morning we would immediately run and wake my parents up. Mom and dad would quickly go downstairs while Cason and I had to sit at the top of the stairs until we got the official call that it was time. It felt like hours and was PURE TORTURE. I remember getting butterflies in my stomach while we sat and waited. My mom would brew the coffee and turn on the tree lights while my dad would turn on the Christmas music and start a fire. Every year Cason and I would make a grand entrance to Manheim Steamroller’s Deck the Halls. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps.
Then came the pickle. Does anyone else hide a pickle (an ornament not an actual pickle) in their tree? My parents always hid a pickle in our Christmas tree once Cason and I went to bed on Christmas Eve. The first one to find it on Christmas day got an extra present! SCORE! This sounds pretty simple except Cason nor I would EVER remember. We’d immediately get sidetracked by what Santa had brought us. Until randomly it would hit one of us and we’d frantically fly to the tree and start digging through branches. I never wanted to be too obvious about it because then Cason would realize what I was doing. That NEVER worked. I’d always get so mad when I thought it was hidden too high. I declared it an unfair advantage because Cason was taller. Youngest child problems…but she always won! Can you tell I’m still a little bitter about it?! Mom, find that pickle- I declare a rematch!
Since loosing my dad; my mom, Cason, and I have started some new traditions too. Two weeks before Christmas the three of us head to the Ritz at Lake Oconee! We go before the craziness of the holidays set in and enjoy a nice, relaxing weekend together. I like that the time is spent making new memories and of course reminiscing about the old ones too. Not to mention- the decorations are reason enough to go back year after year!
Since losing my dad, I’ve learned that grieving is something I will never fully overcome. I have great days and some pretty bad days too. It’d be easy to hole up and to completely skip over Christmas but I know my dad would absolutely hate that. Furthermore, he raised me to fully understand the real meaning of Christmas and to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Of course, the grieving process is different for everyone but for me personally, allowing myself to shut down and go to that dark place does nothing to honor the memory of my dad or our Savior. Friends who have lost someone during the holidays, I’m happy to report that grieving and celebrating can happen simultaneously! My strength didn’t come from my Grandmother who convinced us to go to the Christmas Eve service 24 hours later. My strength didn’t come from Cason who encouraged us to still put up a Christmas tree the following year. My strength comes from the Lord and the best part is…there is plenty to go around!
Luke 2: 9-11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas from my family to yours!