Traditions: A Childhood Christmas in Missouri

by Fawn Rechkemmer on December 1, 2013

Traditions-Xmas on the Farm (2)The theme on MoWB this month is traditions. When I started thinking about traditions, I realized that even though they are “traditional” in that they are usually repeated year after year, there are many variations on holiday standards, and unique traditions evolve over time as friends and families make their holiday celebrations their own. For my first post as December Blogger of the Month, I’m going to share my childhood Christmas traditions. I’m guessing some of these will seem familiar to you, and others will be completely different than what you experienced in your childhood. I also want to note that I grew up celebrating Christmas, but I know there are many other faiths and other experiences out there, and I don’t want you to feel left out. Please share your holiday traditions in the comments, or even better, submit an essay about your experiences to be published this month!

Many people have fond memories of waking up early on Christmas morning, running downstairs, and seeing toys from Santa artfully arranged under the tree. Too bad for you — Santa came early to my house! We opened presents from mom and dad a few days early so we could spend Christmas day celebrating with my grandparents and my extended family at their dairy farm in southwest Missouri. My grandparents were dairy farmers, and since the cows don’t take a day off, neither did they.

We would leave in the early afternoon on December 24th, stopping at KC Masterpiece for barbeque sandwiches and a huge plate of onion straws. We arrived at the farm for a late Christmas Eve dinner of chili, chips and Rotel dip, and plenty of homemade Christmas cookies (my grandma’s Christmas tree cookies were my favorite!). After dinner, Grandma corralled everyone into the living room, where my Aunt Jeanette took her place at the piano (she definitely got the musical talent in the family!) and we all sang Christmas songs. My favorite part was my uncles inventing silly alternate lyrics to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

After singing, it was time to wind down from all the silliness and get the kids (me and my cousins) ready for bed. After making sure that we left a plate of cookies for Santa on the fireplace, we read The Polar Express and the Christmas story from the Bible. Then we all got into our sleeping bags on the floor throughout the house (the adults claimed all the real beds!) and stayed up talking and sneaking out to the living room to check the presents under the Christmas tree until the wee hours of the morning.

Despite our late night, all of us kids woke up early, geared up and ready to dig into the towering mountain of presents that had grown beneath the tree. (When you’ve got 20+ people celebrating Christmas in one house, in a family that loves to buy presents, it gets a little out of control.) But we had to be patient and wait until Grandpa was done milking before we could open presents.

I learned later in life that some families sit in a circle and open presents one by one so everyone can see what everyone else got. Yeah… in my family, it was a total free-for-all. It is an annual tradition to nearly lose at least one small child in wrapping paper. After the gift-opening frenzy, we played with our new toys while my parents and aunts and uncles attempted to figure out who gave us what presents. My grandma, mom and aunts all headed to the kitchen to work on preparing Christmas dinner for us. There were so many people in Grandma and Grandpa’s small farmhouse that we had to set up tables in the living room in addition to the ”kid’s table” in the kitchen. We passed dishes of food between the tables, and soon people were out of their seats, hunting down the popular items (the gravy boat and the bowl of mashed potatoes). And you can’t have Christmas dinner without pie for dessert — I’d like a small slice pecan and pumpkin, with homemade whipped cream, please.

Sarah Kerner is our MOWB Blogger of the Month. Read more from Sarah every Monday in December here at MOWB and on her blog, Beauty School Dropout.


Shana Norris December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

All those people in a small house … it sounds like such fun. I love the idea of everyone crowding in together.

Our Christmas Eve meal has always been low-key, too. Soups and appetizers. And lots of dessert! We always did the bulk of our gift-opening that evening, and continue to do so now that my sister and I have children of our own.

Sarah @ beauty school dropout December 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Yes, it was fun! Definitely not a place for an introvert, though I’ve speculated that with so many people, it’s a lot less noticeable if you need to slip away for a while to recharge. A low key Xmas Eve sounds nice too! When I was younger, I always wished I was from one of those families that opened gifts on Xmas Eve, but we never could convince my parents to go for it.

Rhonda December 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

What a vivid picture you painted! With 20+ people, if your family unwrapped presents one by one, it would have taken a couple of days, so diving in was quicker and probably much more fun. Sounds like you made some wonderful memories!

My childhood holidays were filled lots of family, too. Big holiday gatherings were pretty wonderful for us kids – catching up with all the cousins we only got to see a few times a year and playing until we were ready to pass out from exhaustion.

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