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For years, every Christmas Eve, my aunt Sondra’s home was a wonderland.
Guests for the family Christmas dinner party would walk through the front door and be greeted in the foyer by miniature ceramic Christmas villages, full tiny trees and tiny carolers, stretching across snowy tabletops.
Garland and ribbon danced up the banister.
A ledge over the front door held a rotating Christmas tree and a collection of Lazzie Bears, sold for years at the department store Lazarus.
Another tree in the living room, next to a crackling fireplace, was the backdrop for piles of carefully wrapped gifts.
In the dining room, the table was topped with as many as 20 place settings of vintage Currier and Ives dishes.
Christmas music was playing throughout the house, just audible over the young siblings and cousins running around.
Good smells drifted from the kitchen, that of turkey and sage-doused dressing mingling with scents of fudge and bread pudding.
Those were Christmases to make Martha Stewart proud.
Earlier this month, after an afternoon of toy shopping with my aunt and my mother, we were chatting away the evening, sitting in Mom’s living room, wrapping presents and recalling Christmases past.
Just three houses up the street, a new family was in the home that held those great Christmas gatherings. My aunt downsized earlier this year.
As we talked, I was reminded of how special those gatherings were to my aunt and my uncle, too. It was a lot of work, but she loved putting on the show. She was proud disposable plates never graced her holiday table and the tree never was thrown up in haste. Everything was perfect, she said, smiling in way that showed she was still proud.
Of course, the decorations, the food and the gifts are not what makes a Christmas. The family piece of Christmas is about only family. But when my aunt and uncle welcomed their extended family into their home, it was love that drove them to make everything comfortable and to honor traditions.
I loved the look and feel of that home on those nights. I loved it so much, it’s been a goal for a long time to recreate it.
So when my mother-in-law called me one day from an estate sale about a ceramic Dickens village, I said buy it. And every year, I pick up a few more ornaments and such. Family rumor has it my aunt will be purging those storage totes marked “Christmas,” so I might pick up a few precious things there.
In recent years, we’ve held Christmas celebrations at various homes. This year, my cousin, my aunt’s daughter, will host and I’ll assist. It’s the most holiday responsibility the matriarchs have given my generation. And it’s going to be great.
Someday, I’ll host. All my relatives basically live in the same town, more than 100 miles away. They might make the long drive down interstates 71 and 65 to have Christmas at my house, but I might just have to wait another generation to host.
Either way, I can’t wait to lead the makings of a storybook Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.
Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.