Friday, December 26, 2008

A Genealogy Christmas

The title of this post reminds me of “A Tuna Christmas,” one of our favorite Christmas traditions in the Koehl household, and on Christmas Eve my husband, daughters and I watched it once again. No matter how many times we have seen it, every viewing puts us into hopeless fits of laughter. I think of it as putting my children in touch with their Texas roots. My husband has met enough of my Texas friends and relatives to know which character corresponds to which of these friends or relatives. And those pathetic-looking Christmas trees look awfully familiar to me…

Oh, yes, the subject of this post – a genealogy Christmas. This has several meanings for me. For one thing, it is always nice to receive a genealogy-related Christmas present, and this year I was fortunate: my husband (with my help) bought me a genealogy book. Last year I helpfully gave him a wish-list of books from Southern Historical Press, but he was unable to get the online order form to work and it was too late to mail an order in. Then there are some of my favorite gifts from the past – my favorite coffee mug from my mother (chipped, but we were able to repair it), a three-bar cross pendant from my husband, hand-made picture frames from my daughters. There was an additional gift for me this Christmas that will have genealogy benefits - my youngest daughter got a new laptop computer to replace the family hand-me-down she has been using (handed down from dad to older daughter to younger daughter), so now I get the old laptop! It will no longer stay closed and is a bit creaky, but I don't care. Up to this point I have done all research on my Mac Mini in my upstairs office (formerly a bedroom, now my inner sanctum), but I do not like to hide away during prime "family time" hours. Now I can do what the rest of my family does in our family room - watch TV/read/do computer stuff while still talking to other family members. (Full disclosure - this is a family that reads at the table, which is considered a cardinal sin in some families. Our rule is that you can do it, but you have to be open to conversing and sharing with others seated at the table. Similarly, surfing/e-mailing/blogging can be done in the family room, but you are expected to talk and share with others.) So this year, I hope to be a more active blogger!

I also relate a genealogy Christmas to the pictures and letters people send to me in their Christmas cards. These are some of our best Christmas presents, and after I put away all the Christmas decorations and cards, I carefully put the photos in my albums and put the letters together with all the family records and keepsakes that I want to pass down to my children. One delightful and unexpected present this year came from our wonderful petsitter, who gave us picture frame magnets with pictures of our three cats that she must have taken one of the times that she took care of our cats for us.

Christmas is also a time I remember past Christmases and past family traditions, such as helping my mother make “boozy fruit cake” on the Friday after Thanksgiving, then following the ritual for keeping it moist and tasty, which was to carefully add a little bit of whiskey to it every two or three days until Christmas. My children are too old to go see Santa any more, but when they were little we took them to see the “real Santa” at our local garden center. He must be the real Santa – he always takes his time with each child, explaining and demonstrating the real meaning of Christmas for the children and their parents. His beautifully and imaginatively decorated Christmas workshop contains a large box for the children to bring presents that Santa will distribute to children in some of the poorest neighborhoods on Christmas Eve.

As someone who wants to preserve as much family history as possible for my children, I should devote much more attention to taking, organizing, and preserving pictures, and yet I cannot count how many “events” I have forgotten to bring my camera to; nor do we remember very often to take pictures on “ordinary” days. On Christmas, however, we always take pictures, so that’s another genealogical benefit of Christmas.

One of the best genealogy-related benefits of Christmas for our family is that it is one of the few times of the year that we really have some “down time”; that is both deliberate and built in to the way we celebrate Christmas. After preparing and eating Holy Supper (the final no-meat meal of the St. Phillip’s Fast) right after sundown, we attend midnight Liturgy at church on Christmas Eve and usually do not get home until 2:30 a.m. or later, so that we always sleep in rather late. After everyone has woken up, we graze on Christmas snacks and leftovers from Holy Supper (the mushroom-sauerkraut-barley soup will last at least a week), get our Christmas stockings, give the cats their presents from their stockings (usually catnip-related), call relatives, and slowly open our presents. The rest of the day is usually spent watching new videos, reading new books, and listening to new music. This gives me the time to do a little research or genealogy blogging. At first I felt a little strange about blogging on Christmas, but when I checked my readers for recent posts on some of the blogs I follow, I saw that a lot of people blog on Christmas!

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