It’s December 21, eighty degrees in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m finally getting into the Christmas spirit, even though the weather forecast is scary, almost nothing is wrapped, and I came very close to dropping the lovely chocolate pound cake I made this morning. It’s a bit lopsided but okay and will go into the freezer to wait for family to come the day after Christmas.
I’ve made old-fashioned cornbread dressing and stashed it in the freezer, too. For holidays I make my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes with few variations. The traditions are important to my sons, and I’m glad. It’s a way of remembering and honoring those we love who aren’t around any longer.
I’ve cut cedar, holly, and magnolia (even a stalk of a yucca plant) and plopped it into baskets to dress things up a bit, inside and out. My mother and dad did that–nothing artificial for them. In fact, many years ago, my dad used to cut magnolia and holly out of their yard, mist it with water, and pack it in big plastic bags and ship it–yes–ship it to me because I didn’t have any, and everybody should have live greenery for Christmas, right?
Remembering that makes me both happy and sad. Holidays are like that. Holidays can be the toughest or the best of times, and sometimes a little of both. Even in the best times, for me there’s always nostalgia, a little melancholy. So many Christmases gone. So many people gone, too.
But I have memories. And traditions.
A few days ago, I had a bad case of the bah humbugs. I faced last-minute shopping and cleaning and cooking and decorating I didn’t think I had the heart to do. But the traditions kept nagging at me like whispering voices. What about Christmas dinner? And a centerpiece for the table? Live greens, of course. And music. There must be music! I hummed Christmas songs while I ran errands and got the last-minute shopping done. I listened to Christmas music while I cooked.
I ran across that chocolate pound cake recipe last week when I was going through an old file. My grandmother had torn it out of a Progressive Farmer magazine dated August 1958. The folded page has deteriorated and her handwritten notes are barely legible. I remembered her making that cake and how good it was, but I can’t recall ever making it myself. So I decided to try it. A revived, revised tradition. I could almost hear my grandmother talking me through making the cake this morning. I imagined her shaking her head at my sloppy ways; I’m not the cook she was.
There’s still a lot to do, but it’s beginning to look and feel like Christmas, after all. And I’m grateful. Treasure it, the voices sing. Remember. Make new memories for the ones I love.
From our house to yours–Merry Christmas!
Tell me about one of your holiday traditions–one that’s been passed down through generations, or one that you and your family have created for yourselves.