Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holidays Then and Now: Memory Monday

[Yes, I can read a calendar and see that today is Tuesday. I wrote this yesterday but did not get a chance to post it until today.]

I love Amy’s list of 52 blogging prompts and when possible (when I haven’t done them already or am not planning to do them later) I like to combine them with some of my regular features or ongoing series. I had originally planned to write about family pets for Memory Monday this week, but Blogging Prompt #7 – “Share your holiday traditions” – was too good to pass up.

The problems started when I attempted to recall what my family did on these holidays when I was a child: Christmas has plenty of memories associated with it, but the remaining holidays mostly evoke rather underwhelming memories or draw complete blanks. This is in contrast to what my husband, children, and I currently do, so of course I could write about more recent experiences, but some of those actually require more thought and organization and may be better timed closer to the actual holiday. So, I thought I’d do a brief survey of childhood holiday memories (or lack thereof) with some contrasting and comparing to what my family has done in recent years.

New Year’s – I remember very little; I think my parents usually went out to parties on New Year’s Eve.

Valentine’s Day – A big deal at school, not so much at home (there may have been chocolates some years). And I do remember that in 4th grade there was a furtive exchange of “special” valentines with a certain boy.

Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays – These were both school holidays in California. I was shocked when I discovered after moving to Texas that Lincoln’s birthday was not celebrated there.

Easter – This does bring up a few more childhood memories. For one thing, I have fond memories of my mother putting her considerable sewing skills to work on creating my Easter outfits every year: elaborate dresses, often of organdy over a satin lining, with fancy collars, sleeves, and rosettes, a hat she would decorate with ribbons and flowers, matching socks, gloves, and patent leather shoes. And there were the much-anticipated Easter baskets, though I learned that I had to protect my turf against raids by my father, who had quite a sweet tooth. Although my mother must have taken me to church (little chance of getting my father or brother to go), it was mostly a secular holiday.

For my family now, Easter is a major celebration. As a matter of fact, for us, today is “Clean Monday,” the first day of Lent, or the Great Fast (one of the customs of the Eastern churches that differ from those of the Western churches). Technically, Lent actually started yesterday at sundown, when we attended Forgiveness Vespers. I hope to post more on Lenten and Easter traditions in the coming weeks.

Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day – These are a blank to me as far as my childhood is concerned. When our children were younger, we often attended local parades on these days.

Fourth of July – This one, I am rather shocked to say, also draws a blank. It may be that my family never did anything special to observe this holiday, and school was out so there were no special craft items or activities to mark this holiday. My husband and I took our daughters to local fireworks displays for a number of years; the two best shows were actually put on by friends’ families. There’s nothing like being up close to those fireworks, especially when they are – reverent tones, please – “fireworks from Pennsylvania.” Virginia and Pennsylvania must have different codes, and apparently the ones from Pennsylvania are more exciting – at least that’s what my family believes.

Halloween – Not a real holiday, but it was a big deal for me and for my children when they were younger (even now my younger daughter enjoys doling candy out to the neighborhood kids). I do remember one Halloween spent traipsing behind my older (by 8 years) brother and his friend when they went trick or treating. They had longer legs, more energy, and much bigger bags (and the friend successfully conned me out of a lot of my candy), and the houses were set rather far apart on our street. It must have been then that I learned the benefits of going for quality over quantity in trick or treating (something my daughters instinctively knew – they only ever bothered with one half of our street, and couldn’t wait to get back and play with their friends and attack their stashes).

Thanksgiving – A few memories of wonderful meals, with the quantity and variety of dishes farm more extravagant than our regular fare, especially when we went to visit my mother’s relatives in the Los Angeles area, with every family contributing one or more dishes. These were the occasions for family stories to be told and retold. Most of the cousins paid little attention (a cause of considerable regret among us now): the teenage cousins were “too cool” for that and we among the junior cousins were more interested in playing with one another.

Christmas is the only holiday that was as big a deal when I was a child as it is now (though in different ways), so there will be other posts devoted to that holiday.

One additional holiday I remember from my teen years in Seymour, Texas was “Fish Day,” which you can read about here. As you can see from the description, it was the first day of fishing season when businesses and schools were closed down as everyone headed out to the lake. We members of the Seymour High School band didn’t exactly get the whole day off from, though, since we marched in the Fish Day parade.

So I don’t know whether or not my daughters will have more vivid holiday memories than I do, but experiencing these holidays with my children has made them more vivid for me.


  1. It would be interesting when your kids are "old"er to ask them to write their memories of holidays with you. That might be enlightening! I loved reading your holiday list, Greta!

  2. That's a good idea - I bet they remember things differently than I do.

    And by the way, as I noted on your Dad's blog, I was really excited to find out that he had worked as an interpreter, albeit under terrible circumstances, since I work as a translator.

  3. I love this post Greta! When I saw that blogging prompt, I immediately thought of Christmas, but when I did what you did, go through the calendar year, I started to remember more specifics. It is also gratifying to see someone else who is a tiny bit behind.....I just posted a genea-blogger prompt for 2 weeks ago on my blog! Where is the time flying to? Oh well, better late than never :-)

  4. Thank you so much, Andrea. I think I'm always going to be just a little out of sync with some of the prompts and theme days, but that's one of the nice things about this group - nobody cares about that, we just like to read what other people have written. I had almost forgotten that boy in 4th grade...