First of all, living in pine country, we always had a real tree. The box of glass ornaments and lights lived in the storage area that formed the base of our couch (maybe a forerunner of the futon). Since our climate didn't demand central heating, like most of the houses we knew, ours didn't have a fireplace, so no stockings for us. To an onlooker, our simple tree and the lack of festooning, may have made our home seem a little stark or sad. But for me, it wasn't! It was the place where I felt safe and loved, and that was enough.
Growing up, we lived in a really small town. The town was so small that when Daddy's job took him on the road with our only vehicle, Mama was able to walk wherever she needed to go. One of Mama's holiday traditions was making chocolate covered cherries. Not the kind you buy in a box. These were pounds and pounds of powdered sugar combined with pounds of butter and pecans. You used your thumb to make a dent to put the half of a maraschino cherry inside before rounding it into a ball. Then we stuck toothpicks in each one so Mama could dip them into chocolate. This seemed to go on for weeks. Mama made her famous cherries, then when Daddy came home, us kids took turns going with Mama in the car to deliver them to all of our friends, neighbors and church family. It was great! I can still feel the weight of the pie tin filled with those heavenly cherries on my lap, with cold fingers and toes because our car didn't have any heat, as I rode with Mama.
I've tried and tried but truly can't remember much of what we had for Christmas dinner. Probably included pork of some kind, probably some greens of some kind, cakes of numerous kinds, and always, always (at least in my memory) Daddy's ambrosia. Besides being on the road so much of the time, Daddy grew up thinking that his place was not in the kitchen, usually.
No clue where Daddy learned to make ambrosia, but I can still see him sitting at the end of the dining room table, dress shirt sleeves rolled up above his elbows. peeling and mushing oranges. He'd tell Mama if it was a good batch of oranges or if the ambrosia was going to need a spoon of sugar. That smell lingers in my nostrils, just as it did while I hung over the table as close as Daddy would let me. Into the mushed oranges, went handfuls of pecans, raisins and coconut. Ahhh, ambrosia, food of the gods.
As if all the heavenly concoctions were not enough sugar in our holiday diets, on Christmas morning, beside our gifts from Santa was a plate. On the plate was an orange, mixed nuts in the shells, and ribbon candy. No candy canes, no peppermint, just ribbon candy. And it didn't matter if we knew it would be there, the plate of treats was new and glorious every year!
I hope you have lots of vibrant holiday memories that bring you joy. I pray for the ones you have shared those memories with and the ones you are making new memories with. When the decorations are put away, and all the leftovers are eaten, when the amazing, you've-got-to-have-it whatcamacallit is in the closet or already broken and in the trash, it's those memories that keep us coming back for more year after year, aren't they?