Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

Call me crazy, but I swear I remember my nursery from when I was a baby. It was yellow–or so I’ve been told. On the wall across from the crib, there was a framed picture of a Precious Moments character who was looking up at a hill with three crosses. Or maybe I made that up. Somehow though, whether created from stories and pictures passed down or drawn from near dormant infant subconsciousness, I’ve built up this memory of standing in my crib and scanning that sunny little nursery with the Precious Moments frame.

The older I get, the more faded my past grows–the depth of time between now and then slowly dissolving details that were once clear. Like classmates’ names, birthday parties, a vivid layout of our tri-level home on Horseshoe Drive.

But there are some memories that stand solid–so precious, they have withstood the test of time, seared with the same magic and awe that accompanied them many years ago.

I remember every Christmas.

I’m so glad I remember Christmas. And knowing just how much work my mom and dad put into those memories, I bet they’re glad I remember Christmas too.

Photobucket Christmas circa 1984. Dude, my mom and dad were stylin’. I want my dad’s sweater…and my mom’s shoes.

I laugh about flying my holiday freak flag and yes, I enjoy every flap and furl of its flamboyant presence, but there’s a reason for all of this, you know.


I am writing their books. And while they might not remember the pink walls of their nursery or the framed art that hangs across from the crib, I will make sure they’ll remember the magic and wonder of traditions that draw us closer–a time of year that finishes the common stitches of our everyday memories with fine handiwork and colorful thread that won’t be forgotten.

Christmas, 2010

What do I remember about my Christmas past? Well if ordinary memories hold the real past of my childhood, then December opened the wardrobe door to a magical other world. The very essence of childhood–a sense of wonder, imagination, the innocent belief in possibility, creativity–so many of the things that gradually wane with age–it was at its peak this time of year.


I realize now how little money we had–a pastor’s salary plus some piano lesson income–but my childhood mind says we were rich. At Christmas, there were lights, candles, twinkly things, sparkly things, magical things, music–always music. There was a purpose for everything–the extra effort to add cherry poinsettia leaves to cinnamon rolls, the last-minute plans to call kids to the car to go survey light displays, the new pajamas, the gifts my mom stayed up many a nights to sew, craft, create.

Photobucket Christmas, 2009

Having kids now, I realize just how much work it must have been. Hauling gifts and kids to the car, driving through blizzards to meet up with family, making gifts, hiding gifts, and the deliberate effort of creating what they wanted us to feel–that it was special. That our little minds and memories were worth the work.

Christmas, 2009

Christmas, 2010

We started a new tradition this week–late night wagon walks before bed, through the neighborhood to see the lights. I tucked a blanket around Lainey last night, cleaned up one spilled mug of cocoa and poured another, turned up the volume on my phone as loud as it would go so the Carpenters could come with us, and we walked through the darkness, searching for a good glowing display.



It was special–not just for her, but for me. It’s ink on the pages of her book, and I felt satisfied–a bit like after I write something I feel is good and meaningful.

There’s a reason I remember childhood Christmases so vividly and a value to them as well. Not only do those storybook memories hold the broken ones together–like the year my parents separated or the times things didn’t make so much sense–but they carved deep grooves in my character. They etched the great worth of tradition, imagination and the wonder of childhood.


Photobucket Christmas, 2010

I have big shoes to fill; my parents set the bar high. But Sister loves a challenge.



Tonight, a new annual tradition begins. A few of Lainey’s friends will be arriving in their pajamas for a night at the North Pole.


Last night, past midnight, as I craned my neck on an eight-foot ladder to staple another strand of lights to the ceiling, I ignored my exhaustion and focused on the prize–my girl’s happiness and her sweet memories in years to come.


You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.


What is your most magical, meaningful childhood holiday memory? Hallmark and I would love to know. Please share!

*Friday photo dump coming later this weekend.

This is the last Hallmark sponsored Life is an Occasion post. I have so enjoyed this opportunity and partnering with Hallmark for such an important cause–embracing every opportunity to make life grand. Read all ten Hallmark posts here.


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  1. Your photography skills are amazing. It helped to get me even more into the Holiday season. I think something I love about the holidays is when you see the joy children get in decorating, shopping and even opening presents. When I was young, my parents instilled in me the quality of gratitude. After I’d open each present, I’d thank the gift giver and give them a hug. While some may view this as robotic, I think it helped me to learn how to be thankful and use my words to express myself. I can’t wait to instill this quality in my children- years from now- when I am a mom!

  2. “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.” I love this Kelle and this is one of the things I treasure most about being a mom – that I am now the guardian and champion of my children’s memory making years. Love it. It’s such an awesome responsibility that I don’t take for granted! As a child my parents didn’t have much money either, but we always got to pick a name from the “Tree of Joy” and buy a gift for another child “in need”. I bet many people would have thought my family would qualify to hang our names on that tree, but regardless, my parents always modeled generosity toward others. I’m so, so thankful to them for that.

  3. your daughters will have such a vivid memory of their childhood thanks to all your love, smiles and hard work…. I love the letter from santa….

  4. My parents also made Christmas about more than the presents and that is something that I want to pass on to my children. The true meaning behind the season, the religious and the wonder. And I love the carrying on of traditions and the excitement of creating new ones. It is all so magical! And of course, your pictures, paired with your words, create quite the idyllic scene! Can’t wait to see what the North Pole party is all about!!!

  5. I love reading your blog, you write so beautifully! I love Christmas and try to make long lasting memories for our 4 kids, Christmas should be a time to let go of the past and just spread some love and peace.
    I wish you and your beautiful family a wonderful Christmas.

  6. My favorite memories when I was a kid was the train set that my mom and dad would construct around the tree. It had a little town with little people. My mom used to take a round mirror and spray it lightly with ‘snow’ from a can and put the little ice skating people on it. I used to be mesmerized by it!
    Once I had kids I loved making Santa ‘real’ for them. Soot footprints on the fireplace and carrots put out for his reindeer. I love traditions!

  7. i like your wagon tradition. wish it was warm enough to do that. night time gets pretty chilly.

    i guess i don’t remember you saying you were a pk. that’s too cool.

    let’s see special memory. i remember coming down Christmas morning and my mom and dad having lovingly decorated the mantle and stockings. they didn’t have much money, but they always spoiled us big at christmas. several of the toys were not wrapped, so it was instantly this big surprise when we saw our christmas. oh and a bad mememory…my older brothers knocked me into the tree one year knocking it over. they were so mean at times!

  8. I too am grateful I had parents that understood the importance of making these types of memories around the holidays. My favorite memory was the year Dad decided we would set up the video camera to try and catch Santa putting out our presents. We couldn’t wait to watch it the next morning. The video revealed the sound of Santa arriving on our deck and bells jingled. We heard the door open and someone came in but we could not see. Then a white gloved hand appeard on the screen and put the camera lense over. When it came back off there were all our presents around the tree!!

  9. Your girls are so blessed to have you as their mother!

    I have been in a slump but your post today has inspired me to get out the decorations and start making memories for my two year old.

    Thank you!!!

  10. So awesome….you’ve motived me to pull the ladder out and put some lights up!

    I had no idea your dad was a pastor…I’m a pastor as well.

    I enjoy all of your decorations, and can’t wait to get ours up! :)

    Thanks for all you guys do!

    (Noah’s Dad)

  11. “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder”

    I love this Kelle.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. I am trying so very hard to capture the spirit (to even find it to begin with). It’s been a tough year. I don’t want them to know it. I want the magic of Christmas to make that all fade to the background. The picture of Nella at the tree (is she about to swipe a toy soldier? Ha!) made me warm and wistful for the ability to create such an oasis of Christmastime. I hope the feeling hits me soon.

  13. I remember waking up at something like 2 or 3am, knowing that Santa must have come so I got up my little sister and we snuck out to check out the stockings. On top of my stocking was a lavender Care Bears cup. As I reached for it, it slipped from my fingers and fell on the hard tile floor. About 2 seconds later, my Dad stormed out of his bedroom sternly telling us to “Get back to bed!” I don’t think I went back to sleep that night but I definitely didn’t get out of bed again until I saw the sun coming up.

  14. Thanks for sharing this! It was beautiful! This was my favorite part:

    “What do I remember about my Christmas past? Well if ordinary memories hold the real past of my childhood, then December opened the wardrobe door to a magical other world. The very essence of childhood–a sense of wonder, imagination, the innocent belief in possibility, creativity–so many of the things that gradually wane with age–it was at its peak this time of year.”

    Although this was good too:

    “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.”

    My favorite childhood Christmas memory…oh there are so many…my parents were good at creating magic. The first one that pops into my head is the year my dad put mud on his boots and left Santa footprints all through the house so we would know to check the basement for an extra special surprise that was too big to fit under the tree.

  15. I absolutely love those last sentences. This year, as we celebrate our first Christmas with our baby girl, I am very mindful that we will mold and create her Christmas memories for years to come. A wonderful task! And one of her memories will hopefully be a carry over memory of mine. Each year, my family would pile in the car and drive around our small town, looking at Christmas lights. A wonderful, cozy time in the car with a Christmas tape on the tape deck.

  16. This is absolutely beautiful! Like, on the verge of eye brimming with tears beautiful.

  17. My favorite Christmas memory is when on Christmas morning, long after all of the presents had been opened, the doorbell rang. My parents told me to answer it and there was a brand new red scooter from Santa. I thought it was so cool that Santa came back on his way home to the North Pole to drop it off for me.

    Merry Merry!

  18. Ah, yes. There they are, the tears that have been threatening to spill all week. You, dear Kelle, always have a way of coaxing them out of me. Thank you.

    Reading with Joey

  19. I feel the EXACT same way you do about creating childhood memories for my 3 kids. It’s always been my goal as a mom to make things SUPER special. Amazing. The family trips, holidays, little things daily. I want them to look back and hopefully remember all the good feelings they had during their childhood from the sweet memories they have….and carry that into their adulthood. And just maybe share something similar with their future families. It’s all about tradition. It certainly was for me growing up. My favorite childhood Christmas memories were baking sugar cookies, fudge and divinity with my mom and sister every year. Coloring in my Christmas coloring book by a crackling fire. And of course the excitement I felt every Christmas morning as my mom & dad, too went to great lengths to make sure our Christmas’ were fabulous. My dad would always have big huge flood lights blinding us as he filmed us coming down the stairs and inspecting just what Santa had left us. My parents helped write a special childhood book for me & I pray everyday I’m doing the same for my precious three. Thanks for sharing, Kelle. It’s a beautiful time of year. May your family enjoy it’s splendor to the fullest.

  20. My magical Christmas memory is when Santa came to visit! For REAL he was standing on the front porch knocking on the door. We didn’t have a firplace so I never understood how he got in with all his gifts. But one year our neighbor dressed in his Santa suit came over right before bed. Of course I had no clue it wasn’t the real Santa. He didn’t have the gifts yet cause I wasn’t in bed but he promised to return with them in his sleigh and with all the reindeer as soon as I was sleeping. When asked how he would get in he said he had KEY! My parents made Christmas magical for me that year. Of course all the Christmas’ in my memory are magical. I am loving the Hallmark sponsered post!!!!!

  21. This post is great!! My mother and father were really good about creating Christmas memories and I cannot wait to create my own for my children! Wagon rides will stick with the girls forever! Love your writing!

  22. You have a way with words, and sometimes just your pictures alone speak volumes. Your blog and your family have been such an inspiration in my life. You help me to remember the beauty in things.

    Happy Holidays to you and you family!

  23. I have vivid memories of traveling to my grandparents home and being welcomed by frank Sinatra and other timeless classics singing Christmas carrols to us over their record player, of talking about the true meaning of Christmas on the long car ride to their home, of butterflies dancing so wildly in my stomach it made it nearly impossible to fall asleep in the little twin bed of their guestroom on Christmas eve, and of the innocent joy of waking up to overflowing stockings so chock full of childhood goddies they had to rest carefully on their brick fireplace mantle instead of hang from their hooks as they were the night before. I hope give some vivid and amazing memories to my kiddos over the next several magical childhood years!

  24. Honestly my parents weren’t the greatest at creating holiday traditions. Every year when we had to put the tree up I cringed because my father would yell because my mom wasn’t holding the tree up straight enough. I’m so mindful of that and as my husband and I put our tree up last weekend, with no yelling and only joy, I knew that I had successfully stopped that cycle. Holidays are about fun, not perfection. I love sharing that with my son. We made salt dough ornaments a few days ago and hung them on his own little tree last night. It was pure magic :) Can’t wait to do it again next year with him!

  25. I remember all of my childhood Christmas’. Each one magical in its own right. But…the one that I remember most? The year my dear father was out of work and my parents didn’t have money for fancy gifts. My father however, did have a pile of lumber that he somehow transformed in a child sized kithchen cupboard, doll crib, table and benches and doll high chair. These gifts outlast all of the boughten stuff and have been loved by my childen and my sisters childen and are still standing strong to be loved by grandchildren. Crying as I type.

  26. This post is right were I am at. I have so many great memories of Christmas as a kid, but like you did not grow up with a lot of $, somehow I never knew that. I need to remember that and what Christmas is really about instead of stressing about the big gifts my kids what that are not in our budget. They may be upset but hope that when they are in their 30s what they remember is driving around looking at lights, doing activities from the advent calendar, and baking cookies with their siblings.

  27. My most wonderful memories are of Christmas-time. Just as your’s did, my mom spent so much time making presents, making cookies, making memories. Mom had that candy-cane recipe and we’d make it every year!

    Your post has me missing her so much I can hardly contain it – especially now that I have a little two year old boy. I’m doing my best to make memories for him that are just as wonderful – including staying up way too late to finish his advent calendar. :)

    Thanks for the beautiful post!

  28. I just wanted to tell you that I LOVE this- “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.” You have such a wonderful gift with words, Kelle. Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

  29. We spent every Christmas at our friends cottage. My parents brought all of our presents up there, and Santa found us every year with a few extra.

    My favorite holiday memory is just that – year after year, eight people being snow bound in a tiny cottage, with lots of visitors, food and fun times. Oh, and the time that Santa managed to land his sleigh on the roof of the cottage so that we could see his tracks in the morning. There were definite memories being made for us as kids!!

  30. These photos are great, you guys are so cute. I hope you all have an excellent Christmas, I know you guys will but I hope so all the same! Great post.

  31. There are so many wonderful memories that I have, but the one that I love that we have done every year is to take our time opening presents and watching everyone open theirs instead of everyone opening them all at once.

  32. My best Christmas memory was made at my gradnparents house in Lancaster, PA. Christmas morning, my brother and I would have to sit at the top of a grand red staircase until they called us down to see what Santa had brought. It is burned into my 4 year old memory. You really are an amazing writer and mama. I love your blog, and look forward to the smiles, tears, and inspiration it brings me. I awarded you with the Liebstar award! Thank you, Kelle Hampton.

  33. My fondest memory as a child was when my sister woke me and my brother up at 3am to set all the clocks to 7am. then we ran into my parents room yelling waik up it’s Christmas presant They grumbles and got up dragged themselves out to the living room full of presants. We dove right in and ripped all the wrapping off and played with all our presants. My mom was grumpy and said why does it feel like I just went to bed?? My sister laughed and let her know it was only 4am not 8. My dad yelled at her and went back to bed while we played with all the toys. I was 8 when my sister did that. My parents locked the door to there room the next year.

  34. Kelle, you are just too cool! I enjoy reading your blog and watching your kids grow!

    What I remember about Christmas growing up is that my sister and I used to pull out our sleeping bags and sleep at the top of the stairs so we could wait for Santa but every year we fell asleep and missed him!! We would wake up the next morning bummed that we missed Santa but noticed the Pepsi and cookies were gone! That’s right! Our Santa preferred Pepsi not milk:) I will never forget that! I’m trying to start traditions now with our 3 1/2 year old and I love your idea with the Reindeer food!

  35. My birthday is the day after Christmas. How’s that for festive? I have so many wonderful memories of holidays growing up…but my favorite is my first Christmas with my husband. His birthday is Dec. 28th–so for our first year together, we had a holidaypalooza that lasted a whole week! It was such a special time–and I got my first sight of real, deep snow–that I will never forget it. I’m so glad we share this time together every year and can’t wait to share it with our new baby girl! This is her first Christmas, and I want to give her as much wonder as I can.

  36. This post made me cry. Thanks so much Kelle. 😛

    This is exactly how I feel about Christmas (and all holidays), how much I want to create these amazing memories for my kids to look back on and cherish and pass on to their own kids. Thanks for another awesome post that describes exactly how I’m feeling when I can’t describe it myself!

  37. My favorite memories and tradition’s are here.

    And magic they were.

  38. Good Lordy! I cannot wait to go back and read through these comments. I love Christmas. My parents set the bar high both for birthdays and for Christmas; and I’m married to someone who literally has more passion for decking the halls than I do! Seriously, not a complaint. I love how you say that you’re writing their stories, etching their memories. AAAAmen. AAAAmazing.

    My birthday is 6 days before the big day, so I just remember the excitement and buzz. Just putting the tree together – I get teary eyed thinking about it. We were let in the living room, tested each one of the 40-50 year old light strands and replaced those big honking bulbs. Dad would put on a LP called the Joy of Christmas and we would listen to it over and over. Like a story that you wanted to hear again. And then helping Mom and Dad with the balls, the silver, the wooden ornaments, and then our creations. And then helping Dad set up the nativity – that fragile one with the angel whose wings are glued on for the 15th time. And then the lights would be low, candles always lit. And we were allowed to live in that special room from start to stop. Reading books under the Christmas tree, doing homework, playing, living in the moment.

    And then our Christmas morning brunch. I realize how much effort went in to making everything so special. How much my mom loved us (damn, I miss her). I think we are fueled from our memories and that’s what gets us through the slugging, the late nights, the driving in snow. Worth. Every. Second.


  39. I relate to so, so much of this. And I love the truth that we are writing their storybooks. Well said, Mama.

  40. OMG the reindeer food, that is absolutely adorable! Your daughters are too beautiful, I love doing little artsy things with kids! My little sisters are preteens but they still do write to santa It makes me so happy to know there’s still a bit of christmas spirit in preteens lol


  41. beautiful words and photos (like always!). the holidays are THE BEST time of the year, and I can’t wait to recreate the magic with my own kids someday.

    happy friday!

  42. Beautiful post. You’ve definitely got me in the holiday spirit! I remember my dad always had to work on Christmas day. So every Christmas Eve, one of my parents would need to run to the store. My brother & I would tag along, and without fail, Santa would come while we were at the store. I love that although we didn’t do things like everyone else, we had a special, special time that fit our family just perfectly.

  43. Loving this little part of heaven, as always, and acknowledging once more that following this blog has made me an even better (!) person.
    That’s big.
    Thank you!

    Favorite memory:
    in my early childhood – before we moved away – we’d celebrate Christmas at my paternal grandparents’ place, with relatives.
    My grandfather was usually very serious, working as a scientist, being à computer pioneer in his day.
    But: come Christmas he’d play a fanfare in a golden trumpet at the entrance of their beautiful house.
    And he’d be cheerful and laughing.
    This sticks out the most and I think it proves your point Kelle. We write their books.

    Enjoy this weekend!

  44. The tradition in my family was that my brother and I had to wait upstairs until we heard the soundtrack from “The Nutcracker.” Once those opening notes emanated from the speakers, we dashed downstairs to see what Santa had brought.

    It’s a tradition my husband and I have been using since we got married 4.5 years ago, the playing of “The Nutcracker” first thing Christmas morning. We added our firstborn to the family 10 days before Christmas last year, and as he nears his first birthday, I can’t wait to continue this tradition with him and future children.

    I absolutely love what you said about ignoring exhaustion, focusing on the prize of Lainey’s happiness, and writing memories that will shape your children’s futures. We’re having our son’s first birthday party next weekend and I’ve already essentially been told by one friend that she has “better things to do with her free time than make an extravaganza out of her son’s first birthday.”

    I know he won’t remember the party, but I’m just trying to lay the foundation for our family – that we celebrate birthdays because they’re another year that we’ve been blessed with the birthday person in our life. Sorry this is so long! :)

  45. When we went on car trips and it rained, my dad busted out his fatherly magic. He could make the rain stop. He would command the skies to “stop” and the rain would totally pause for a second. AMAZING. Once when he was performing his magic I looked up. We were driving under and over pass. Sigh. That there was some free wonder that I will absolutely pass down to my kids!

  46. I love that you take the kids out in the wagon to look at all of the lights….I think I need to copy you on this one!

    You are awesome at getting in the spirit so early. I think I’m going to pull out all of our decorations this weekend and started on it all. I think once everything is up it will be easier to bring in the cheer. I’m a little nervous about Arya trying to take it all down, but I guess that’s part of the teaching process wit our little ones.

    My most magical memory as a child was that every year on Christmas Eve, my dad would take me to see family and every time we came home, Santa had been there and there were presents under the tree. I finally had to ask him how he did it when I was an adult….it was the best! :) My dad hated trecking me out every year, but it was all worth it to see the happiness I experience from it.

    Oh and the train, how could I forget the train. It was set up around the base of our tree and I loved to watch it go round and round.

    Then there was the Christmas tree with my mom. It was always so special and still is. Every ornament gets put on the tree, there can never be an empty space and the tinsel has to be put on just right.

    Those are the memories that are engrained in me forever. I’m excited to start making those memories for Arya.

  47. What a delightful post. All rings so true to me and beautifully written! Raising my stepdaughters I always knew what a amazing privilege it was to get to create some of that holiday magic for them every year. I so look forward to sharing that with little kids again when we have more children in the coming years.
    The sweet picture of Nella enchanted with the tree captures something really special about childhood Christmastime.My favorite childhood memories of the holidays all have one thing in common and that is light: colored Christmas lights, beautiful winter sunsets in Montana, flickering candlelight and so on. That seems appropriate, after all it is the season of lights. This is the most wonderful time of the year when people strive to light up the hearts of their fellow humans with joy, cheer and goodwill. Happy Holidays!

  48. My parents fly the holiday freak flag. My mother is Hungarian, so we got the best of both, we celebrated Christmas Eve and day. Presents from family on Christmas eve, Santa pillowcases that magically filled up overnight with little toys, presents and chocolates, I remember being so excited about that, feeling the heaviness of the pillow at the end of my bed with my toes. We knew we had to wait until daylight to open them, so at around 5.30am my sister and I would exclaim as we took them out one by one. We’d run out then to see the bigger gifts under the tree, which we weren’t allowed to open until after church.
    Dad used to make special chocolate truffles (a tradition I took over when I was older), we had a library of special Christmas books to read, and an advent calendar to open, and each advent Sunday we’d have a special roast (chicken, beef, pork, lamb) lunch with guests and light the new advent candle. Dad would read the Christmas story in parts each night of Christmas week.
    But maybe my favourite is that we celebrated St Nicholas on Dec 5, we’d carefully polish our best shoes, write our letters to Santa, and put out carrots for his horse and cookies and milk for him. Then we’d wake early to find them full of Christmas Lollies, chocolate and summer fruits like cherries and peaches. Once they even left some tinsel dangling out the window to convince us that was how he got out! We believed it all!
    I’m still crazy for christmas traditions, and we’re going to deliver St Nicholas treats to Rob’s daughter (she doesn’t live with us, it’s complicated!) next week, but next year I have to say that I’m hoping that we will have another little person in the family who I can continue the traditions my parents instilled in me, and maybe a few new ones!
    Thanks Kelle for sharing your Christmas love, I’m going to miss your Hallmark posts. Hope Lainey’s party rocks!

  49. Merry Christmas Kelle! For as far back as I can remember, my Dad had a lunch-size brown paper bag with HIS very own, very special Christmas tree decorations tucked neatly inside. Inside that bag were about a dozen colorful, 3-dimensional Santa dye-cut ornaments made of heavy paper. They were GOD AWFUL UGLY. Every year, we’d see him dig through the boxes for “THE bag” and every year we’d roll our eyes and moan “Not THOSE again….”. I don’t know why, but those simple, inexpensive, dye-cuts were his favorite decorations on the tree. Forty five years later, my own Christmas tree is adorned with many home-made decorations that each of our three children crafted through the years. Amongst them – the only two remaining GOD AWFUL UGLY Santa dye-cut ornaments in existence today. And, I LOVE THEM!!!

  50. We had an elf.

    Every year when we would arrive home with our Christmas Tree, one of Santa’s Elves sat waiting for us in between our front doors.

    The thing was totally home made and run ragged from being loved on through so many years. A cotton ball head, googly eyes, and a little felt body – no bigger than my adult-sized hand.

    He was magical. When no one was looking, he would move around the house. One minute he’d be chillin’ out with baby Jesus in the manger and the next he was perched on the Christmas tree.

    I was always SO sad when Santa brought him back to the North Pole (but I think the presents Santa left helped me get over that 😉 )

    I actually believed in that elf longer than I believed in Santa. Maybe not REALLY… But I convinced myself that I did!

    LOVE this post and everything it stands for :)

  51. “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.” — ummm…WOW… this gave me goosebumps. thank you for writing in away that says ‘i totally get you’.this is a quote that i will forever remember!!!

  52. My most magical memory of the holiday is going over to my granparents house and waiting impatiently to open presents and just being with the family. I would give anything to live those moments over again. I am doing my best to create beautiful memories for my boys and their Grandparents.

  53. I am a long time lurker and never-commenter, but i had to stop and tell you that this quote: “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.” gave me goosebumps. For days, I’ve been trying to come up with enough energy to decorate for the holidays and claiming thatmy 5 month old won’t remember it, but now I’m doing it. If only for the photos and the chance that he might remember. Thanks for this amazing post.

  54. You rock! Particularly in that first photo where you’re not looking at your Dad, rather, eye-balling the photographer with a “Are you getting this? You should adjust the settings a wee bit, that dial, yup, right there…quit f^%$ing around. Don’t make me come over there!” OK, I get carried away.

    Love you, love what you stand for, LOVE what you’re doing for your kids. No store-bought gift is ever going trump those memories. God knew what he was doing when he made you a Mama. xo

    ps. I just spent a ludicrous amount of money at Blue Q – I released a little urine whilst perusing their products, which will be perfect for friends and coworkers. Priceless. Thanks for the share.

  55. Christmas is always so magical as a kid. I can’t wait to have a baby to create magic for them.

    I have two favorite Christmas traditions.. One is my brothers and sisters and I all slept in the same room. We wore matching pajamas on Christmas EVE and we would watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and try and listen for Santa coming down the chimney.

    My other favorite tradition is the Christmas Elf. He would always come to our house every night and leave us a special treat in our Christmas Countdown calender. Sometimes it would be candy, sometimes a note, and when I was in high school the Elf got REALLLL generous and would leave us dollar bills. It was so fun!

  56. Nella favors you so much when you were little. The first picture on this post reminded me of her. You are the one in your Mom’s lap, right? Wonderful post. You always give me such great inspiration. A night at the North Pole sounds like sooooo much fun!!! We have our 1st Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party next Saturday. Thanks for the idea. Hope it turns out wonderful!!!

  57. fantastic post! and i love the photo of Nella being caught at the Christmas tree….her expression says, “dang it! i’m busted!”

  58. Goosebumps…your words gave me goosebumps!…

  59. I can remember SO clearly lying in my 4 poster canopy bed and I heard reindeer on our roof. I SWEAR. And I still believe it to this day. I’ll never forget watching out my window in the sky for Santa. So magical.

    Also, you reminded me that I used to have the Precious Moments bible as a child and loved reading that.


  60. aww..these are awesome!!!

  61. You, as a child, look so much like Nella! She will be gorgeous! just like Lainey.
    Being from Arizona, it’s not “winter” here either. As a child, my parents used to make sleigh track grooves int he carpet out front. They must have lay pipes in the yard for hours. You could see where santa landed out front and where he took off. It was incredible. I am still in awe!

  62. my best friend still gives me those candycane cookies that you guys are making in one of the pictures for christmas. we live in different states now, but every years she sends me some, because we ate them all the time when we were kids and she knows it makes me happy. made me smile knowing you guys make those yummy cookies too.
    my favorite memory is listening to the Oakridge boys Christmas album while we decorated the christmas tree. wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!

  63. Easy.
    Favorite Christmas memory: It wasn’t really a tradition (unless you count always being broke a traditon–haha). Anyway, it was the year my dad lost his job and we had to move. The house was packed up, but we still had a decorated tree and a few presents wrapped in the comics section of the newspaper. We each opened one gift, my dad included…which happened to be a bright yellow t-shirt we bought him that said NANU NANU in large print smack dab in the middle of his chest (big Mork & Mindy fans at the time :). Then my dad took 5 of the 7 of us kids to McDonald’s for dinner. I VERY distinctly remember him pausing when the McDonald’s gal asked him if there would be anything else. I watched him count his change and then say, “No, that will be all.” He didn’t order anything for himself, and the thought of my Dad being hungry hurt my 12 year old sensitive heart! So, I pretended I wasn’t hungry and gave him mine. Plus, my hamburger had mustard on it. I don’t like mustard. Hahaha! But seriously, before I even opened my burger, I KNEW I was giving him mine. I had a plan. And he wore the NANU NANU t-shirt proudly. He marched right into McDonald’s with that hideous thing on–I guess that’s not saying much, but hey, he wore it in public and made us feel like we had picked out the best gift ever!

    In love with the Nella pic at the tree….little dolly girl!

  64. My family all together in three houses on 200 acres of Vermont land, in the snow, with dogs around and kids and music.

    Good Lord I’m lucky.


  65. Do I spy a Father Christmas Letter? My mom and dad always teamed up to write us a Father Christmas Letter every year with a painting done by Santa and now they are doing it for my girls :) That is one of my favorite things. Along with almost everything else!

  66. so many stories in that tattered storybook…hard to pick just one…excited to write some for my kiddos…it is WONDERful!!!

    My sister and I never knew how “not rich” my parents were – they fooled us with love and meaning and all of the magical fabulousness that makes one little family one lucky family… even though there were a few years I pretended to dread every second of it…I always loved taht we gathered as a family to add our own personal ornaments to our family tree every year…transforming the evergreen into a vibrant tower of memories past and in-the-making…and now, our tree holds some of those very same ornaments…hung as a family…tradition!! I love it!!!

  67. Ha! I picture your house like the department store after buddy the elf stays up all night decorating. So freakin awesome!

  68. Growing up, my brothers and I were not allowed to wake each other or our parents up until some unbelievably late hour. 9am maybe?

    Would stay in our beds as long as possible then one of us would walk to the other siblings’ beds and whisper, “Are you awake?” Of course, even if the sibling was asleep, that was all it took to wake them up. Sneaky.

    Then we’d go downstairs and open our stockings — the one thing we were allowed to open on our own.

    Then we’d climb up on the counter, and get my moms china (aka great gramma’s!) off the top shelf and set the table. Looking back as an adult, I applaud my mom for not throwing a fit over this. But we never broke one dish or cup… she obviously knew to choose her battles.

    Once the table was set with everything we could think of for breakfast — dishes, silverware, juices, etc… we’d take turns playing the Christmas carols we’d been working on in piano lessons. We weren’t waking mom and dad up — we were just playing music. What sneaky little children.

    It makes me smile to remember this. I have no idea how old we were when we started or how many years it lasted but it is etched in my memory forever and is bringing happy tears to my eyes as I write about it. :o)

  69. I think one of the greatest gifts a person can have is the ability to inspire people. You truly inspire me. Right now my son is sleeping underneath a canopy of paper snowflakes, felt stars, and twinkle lights. It’s his very own North Pole. My daughter is getting her pink version tomorrow :)
    From my childhood I remember my sister and I spending hours squishing, shaking, smelling every present trying to guess what they were… I mean hours and hours and hours. We never got tired of that sense of mystery and excitement. love christmastime!

  70. It was the last Christmas that my Daddy was alive (he died when I was eight). My grandmother always waited to put up the tree until we all arrived (now I know why). I thought decorating the tree at her house was the most glorious experience ever. Opening paper-wrapped ancient glass ornaments that were already faded into soft pinks and moss greens. But that year was especially memorable. My Daddy and my uncle Bill loaded the five cousins up in the back of the station wagon and set out to find the perfect tree. We were headed to my grandfather’s property along the river just outside of the tiny hamlet of Samson, AL. We trudged for what seemed like hours to find the one tree that would fit the bill. My Daddy and uncle took turns with the saw and soon we were all grabbing one of the branches to “help” drag the tree to the car. I remember our surprise when we got there and found a flashing light on the top of a state trooper car. I was scared but my Daddy and uncle soon cleared things up. The property with No Trespassing signs all over it belonged to my grandfather. We identified ourselves and were good to go (don’t you just love a small town?!) We got home, told the story over and over, warmed up with hot cocoa and were soon decorating that infamous tree with the beautiful vintage ornaments. I remember my Daddy’s big laugh and treasure the memory of it most of all. How I long to hear it again….someday.

  71. First off, let me just say it makes me so sad (almost to the point of tears) that the Hallmark posts are ending. I have so enjoyed and been encouraged by every single one. Thank you, so much! (Both you Kelle and Hallmark)

    I have so many childhood memories. This is technically my last December as a child (I turn 18 Dec 21st) but I will hopefully still be a child had heart for (MANY) years to come. :) I think the strongest memory is of putting the angel on the tree. There are 4 of us kids and each year my dad would lift a different kid up to put that angel on the tree. It was a sad, sad year when I was too big to be lifted. That and 24 hours of a Christmas Story. Both make my Christmas season bright :)

  72. I love your wagon ride light-watching idea! We love taking the kids to see the lights. At every house (yes, every), my daughter yells, “Kissmiss lights!”

    I remember Christmas Eves at home around the table wiht our advent wreath, singing Christmas hymns, listening to the Christmas story–then getting into pjs for a ride to look at Christmas lights. Oh! and Santa hid gifts at our house (surprisingly, he hides them at my house now, too, for my kids). It rocked.

  73. My favorite Christmas memory is a tradition we still do today. Every year we each get an ornament and I look forward to pulling them all out every year to look back and remember when we first got them. We tried a themed tree one year (ONE year in my past 25 years) and decided we were too attached to the many memories all those ornaments bring back each Christmas!

  74. I saw Rudolph’s nose in the sky!!! To this day I still believe I saw it! It was magical and only happened once, so it felt more real!

    And another tradition that I will hands down continue with my littles…before running out to the Christmas tree (and after mama has her coffee) we all sing Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!!

  75. I loved the sharing of your memories with us. Just 3 short days ago was the funeral of my Father in Law. He was a wonderful man whom adored his children and grandchildren. Money was in short supply all his years of farming, yet he somehow helped to make Christmas magical for all of us. Whether it be tromping through the woods to find just the right Cedar tree or carefully taking the boxes that stored the ancient Christmas Lights and handmade ornaments and placing the Aluminum Foil star with glitter for the top of the tree. He will be missed very much this year, but your story helped me realize that the tradition of Christmas Memories must continue. Tomorrow I will pull out my box of ornaments and adorn our tree so his memories will continue with his great grandaughter. Closing my eyes I can envision his smile as he evaluates the tree and reminds us the star is just a little crooked but not too bad.

  76. My mom made Christmas absolutely magical for me. My two favorite memories are a letter I got from Santa Christmas morning that had Rudolph’s paw print on it. The other was when I came home from a Christmas pageant when I was 4 or 5 and Santa had visited our house early. I mean gifts under the tree, stockings filled and a note that said he knew we’d be travelling for Christmas so he wanted us to have our new toys to take on the road. Awesome for a little kid!

  77. My fave holiday memory….we always got new Christmas pj’s to wear Christmas Eve, and opening 1 present that night. Just one!

  78. Be sure to grab your wagon and head to Victoria Park (in North Naples) for a spin — the girls will just love it! Some of the best decorations in town!

  79. A tradition in my family growing up was that we always went to early Mass on Christmas morning prior to opening any presents.

    I remember that feeling of anticipation while sitting in Church and the happiness of our Parish Priest coming round for breakfast after and him being there for the sharing of gifts and food.

  80. My most magical, meaningful childhood holiday memories are cold crisp winter afternoons spent annually in the City to see the Nutcracker Ballet, followed by a ice-skating in downtown. The City would be decorated for the season and everyone would be out and about shopping for gifts, in a generally pleasant mood, in addition to the Nutcracker that always managed to transport me to another magical place. I just remember bubbling with happiness every year and feeling as though I were in some excerpt from a Christmas novel.

  81. I LOVE your blog! and Im your newest follower! you can follow back at:

  82. Oh I have so many, and all of them involve my grandparents.

    I remember the Christmas we spent in Las Vegas when my grandma thought it would be funny if Santa wrapped all the presents with the comic pages of the newspaper…and spent half the night tracking down enough papers to make that vision a reality. Of course, her plight was unbeknown to me until years later.

    I remember the Christmas that she made a ginger bread village. It was waiting for me when we walked in her front door. I didn’t want to take off a single peppermint.

    And then there is last Christmas. She was dying on Christmas Eve. She wasn’t able to talk anymore, but she smiled as I hung up our stockings in her bedroom. We decided to move the tree into the hall outside her bedroom door, and let my kids open their presents. I gave her my last gift, and tried like crazy to actually make it work. It wouldn’t, but she didn’t care.

    She died about 30 minutes later. She was waiting for one more Christmas memory.

  83. Two words: Roller Skates. Walking up to see a pair of white skates of my very own is a memory I will take with me all my life. Including, later, wearing those skates and flying around the rink to the rocking tunes of the King of Pop. It was the most amazing, unexpected gift and I still don’t know how my Mom found two identical pairs of used roller skates in sizes my sister and I needed. Must have been some help from Santa!

  84. “You are the author of their storybook, writing memories and elements of their character every day. Make it meaningful. Give them wonder.”
    Oh my, I love this Kelle….you’ve summed it perfectly :)
    I don’t think I can pick just one most favourable Christmas childhood memory….coz I too was blessed with parents who made every year so special & so new….yet so full of tradition & fun! To me, the Christmas season means; FAMILY, and I hope to also embed this memory & notion into my own children.

  85. Love the picture of Nella looking at the Christmas Tree!!!
    So darn cute:):):):):):):)

  86. I love this post. I posted something similar on my blog. My parents weren’t huge on traditions but I love being able to start my own traditions with my kids. This year we started “The 25 days of Christmas”

    My favorite memory is driving around looking at Christmas lights, only my mom was too busy looking at the lights, hit a curb, and lost a hub cap. We spent the rest of the night searching for it….but I found it and forever saved the night in her eyes:)

  87. When I was 9 years old, we moved across the country. Now luckily for my mom, it was moving home. We had family here. My godparents lived here. I remember that first christmas in my godparents tiny apartment, my sister, two other kids and myself all standing around the table decorating cookies.
    Now almost 20 years later, that yearly tradition is my favourite thing about Christmas. It grew in size every year that some years there were 20+ kids all there to decorate cookies and watch Nestor the Long Eared Christmas Donkey.
    It’s the perfect occasion :)

  88. I actually can’t relate to any of this at all, but that’s why I read. I hated Christmas growing up. I hated the constant shopping, the mindless obligation, the chaos in our already horribly messy house. Plastic bags full of hastily chosen sale items stacked in hallways, on our dining table. More plastic bags full of half-priced holiday crap as we inevitably hit up the day after Christmas sales. Completely transparent excuses that Santa hadn’t visited our house yet, but he would visit after we drove to my Grandpa’s to open presents with my mom’s family, the kids wrapping presents in the car as we drove. Gifts, both giving and receiving them, felt like a mindless burden. The home was not a place of light, wonder, warmth, or togetherness. As I grew up, my parents gradually became hoarders, so it was kind of impossible for the four of us to comfortably spend time in one room together, let alone welcome loved ones into our home.

    But now I’m the mom.

    And my boy is so naturally, irrepressibly happy and loving, and I want things to be special and magical for him. I want his home to be filled with warmth and wonder and light and love. Sometimes it feels intimidating because I know I’m starting from scratch, or because money is not abundant, but honestly, Kelle, the light you shine helps.

  89. Kelle, I wish I had memories like you. A past to remember that my parents tried to weave into my memory every day. But just because *I* don’t have memories, doesn’t mean I’m not trying my darndest to make sure my two kids have them. I appreciate your unfailing determination to leave memories so bold in your daughters’ lives. I pray that they remember every single fun thing you’ve done for them and that one day they come to understand just how much work you put into every day to make their lives so special. You are truly amazing.

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