A Sweet Kiss to Christmas Past
By Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown
I love Christmastime! I love the music and the tree and the lights and the food and just the whole Christmas season. I love how everybody seems to try a little harder to be kind to one another, even the Alabama and Auburn fans—and the Republicans and Democrats!
Most of all I love the traditions. When we started our family my husband and I incorporated some of each of our childhood traditions into our own new family holiday rituals, and they are now some of our children’s favorite traditions, too. Some of these include the fact that we definitely make a colored paper chain for our tree and have colored lights strung around it. Santa always fills the stockings, and he leaves fruit and nuts around the tree along with the presents. We also have the same breakfast casserole every Christmas morning and Christmas crackers we open at lunch. Wearing the paper crown is a must.
One of my favorite childhood traditions involved a particular Christmas ornament. It’s a red glass ball with “Merry Christmas” etched into it. It’s one of our original glass ornaments from the 1960’s. Every year my younger brother and I would try and be the first to get it and hide it from the other so we could hang the last ornament on the tree. Well, somehow I ended up with the ornament and every year I carry on that childhood game and hang it somewhere on the tree and he has to try and find it when he comes over. If he can’t come visit that year, my kids try and find it.
However, there are some traditions that are better left to die and remain ghosts of Christmas past. This is true of one of my very favorite childhood Christmas traditions.
Every year one of our favorite decorations was a Styrofoam Christmas “candy tree,” ceremoniously placed on the living room coffee table in front of the Christmas tree that always stood in the large paned window. We decorated the Styrofoam tree with red, silver and green Hershey’s Kisses. It was my brother’s and my job to pull the little white tag out of the wrapper, and then we would take a wooden toothpick and break them into little pieces and stick one end into the chocolate kiss and the other into the Styrofoam tree, creating neat little rows until every inch of space was covered. It was a beautiful, shiny, red, silver and green candy tree, and we couldn’t wait to devour it. The tradition was that we could not eat any of the candy until Christmas Eve after the first present had been opened. The rule that us kids put into place was that we wanted to be the one to get the Hershey’s Kiss off the very top of the tree. That was the goal. Each of us tried to secure a spot as close to the candy tree as possible for the unwrapping of the gifts so we could be the one to get the top piece of candy. After endless waiting when, after the first gift was finally opened—always my grandmother’s gift, which she painstakingly unwrapped, careful not to rip any of the wrapping paper so she could save it to use the next year—all of us kids would literally dive onto the coffee table trying to grab the piece of candy off the top of the tree. I can’t believe nothing ever got broken—not the table, not the glass whatnots, not any bones.
However, that was not the scary part of this tradition. The scary part was that my mom let a bunch of kids break the toothpicks that put this candy tree together. Sometimes they broke evenly and sometimes they did not. Sometimes we got the little piece of wood out and sometimes we did not. About half of the pieces of candy had little splinters lurking inside of them. Sometimes they even had more than one piece of wood hidden inside. You had a little more than fifty-fifty chance of getting one of those pieces and choking to death right then and there on Christmas Eve. All night long my mom yelled out to watch out for the pieces of wood and not choke. Long after we had put away the decorations and we still had some kisses left, my mom was still warning to watch out and be careful for the little pieces of wood in the candy. In fact, it took me years before I could eat a Hershey’s Kiss without the anxiety of finding a splinter in it and stabbing my tongue or choking to death.
Combine that with riding around to look at Christmas lights while sliding around in the back of the station wagon, (without any seatbelts!), receiving the hot new toy called “Clackers” where you banged together two balls made of breakable glass, and which gave you contusions up and down your arms, lights that got super-hot and caused thir- degree burns, real glass ornaments that shattered into a million pieces when your ring tapped them, a “toy” iron that actually got hot (and that my parents cut the cord from), and you begin to realize that the fact that, year after year, we survived Christmas at all was indeed a miracle.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy merriest of Christmases! •