This year, on November 2nd, my father, Jack Smith, passed away. I had the privilege of spending the last 2 1/2 weeks of his life with him every day, with exception of one. I rubbed his feet, gave him sips of water and just generally sat and held his hand and did whatever it was he wanted done. He had cancer and from the time of his diagnosis to his death, only one month passed. It was quick and painless, just the way he wanted it.
Needless to say, I miss my dad. It's Christmas time and he's not here, but I am grateful for all the Christmases I got to have with him. He always wanted to include his elderly mother and his brother, whom had never been married, as well as pretty much anybody else he heard about that did not have a place to go for Christmas. My father was very selfless and giving.
My job at Thrifty Fun is submit recipes, of which I literally have thousands. While most of my cooking techniques were handed down to me from my mother, my dad also played a part, but usually only at holidays. His big specialty was ham. He always bought and baked a large, bone-in ham. Never have I tasted ham any more delicious than when my dad made it! I don't really know of anything special he did. I just know that ham tasted better than anything!
Christmas at our house while I was growing up was always a big deal. Many gifts were exchanged and there was much time spent with family, which really meant a lot more than the gifts that were given. My mother used to make candy galore and I helped her quite a bit. She was, and still is, a talented lady, though Parkinson's disease has made it difficult for her to cook much due to the severe shaking of her hands.
As time marched on, my husband and I moved 4 1/2 hours away from our family and we have not been able to spend the time there with them on the holidays as much as we have wanted to, but we have come to begin some of our own traditions. For example, every Christmas morning, my husband will gather us all around and read the Christmas story from the Bible of how Jesus was born. He can never keep a dry eye when reading this to all of us. We did this the whole time our daughters were small and we continue to do it every year and, hopefully, always will. We then pass out the gifts and take turns each opening a gift until all are opened. Then we have a large meal together, play games or just watch a good movie and snack on Christmas goodies and relax for the rest of the day. It's nothing fancy, but it's special to us because we are together. There have also been several times over the 20 years we have lived here that friends, who knew we were not able to spend Christmas with our extended family, have opened their homes and invited us to spend Christmas with them. Those times are just as special, as many of them have become like family to us.
I guess the reason I wanted to write this is because, especially now that my dad is no longer with us, I feel so impressed that family time together is so important. My dad always wanted his kids, and especially his grandkids, to be around him. How I wish I would have been able to make that drive more often to spend time with him. This Christmas will be lonely because I know he is not with us. There will be no phone call to wish us all a Merry Christmas from 'grandpa' this year. However, we will march on and enjoy the holiday together because that is exactly the way he would want it! There is also peace in knowing he will be spending his first Christmas in Heaven!
I know this little piece isn't about food, but I felt the need just to remind all of us, myself included, of just how important our families are and how important time spent together is. This Christmas, be thankful for your family and friends and try to remember just how blessed we really are. And if you know of someone who has no place to go this year, please consider including them in your plans. Reach out to someone who needs you to care for them.
May all of you Thrifty Fun readers have the Merriest Christmas ever!
Editor's Note: Thank you, Robin, for such an eloquent Christmas message. We are all so sorry for your family's loss, your dad sounded like a wonderful man.
ThriftyFun would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and New Year.
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When my children were very small, I wanted them to have fun with Christmas and Santa, but I also wanted them to understand what the true meaning is behind this holiday.
When our kids were little, we bought or made two ornaments with dates each year for the tree for each child. When the oldest got married and left home, we were able to give him a box with all the ornaments from his first Christmas through the most recent.
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Growing up we never had much money, but we always had a nice Christmas thanks to Mom. There were 4 of us kids and we got at least a few presents each, but it was very important to Mom that we had our stockings also.
I just wanted to share a wonderful tradition that I started about five years ago and I've enjoyed it so much. I call it my "Christmas Eve walk." I had been feeling a little depressed this particular Christmas Eve and was trying to come up with something I could do to make myself feel better when an idea came to me...
Start a Christmas tradition with your kids. It will be something they look forward to every year as they are growing up, and will remember with fondness all their grown-up years.
On Christmas Eve, my family has our two girls try to find the Christmas box Mrs. Santa left for them. It always contains a new set of pajama's. After they put on the pajamas, our family drives around town looking at Christmas lights and live nativity scenes in different neighborhoods. We've done this for 21 years and they still love this tradition that officially starts Christmas for them.
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We, as a family, write out a note on what and why it is that we appreciate each other, separating each reason why with the next family member's name, until all in the family are written out on the paper.
We have an unique Christmas tradition at our house. When the kids no longer believed in Santa and the thrill of the moment wasn't as intense as it once was we started this. On Christmas morning each child receives a small piece of paper with a poem/hint on it and they have to figure out the clue and follow it just to find another clue. After the third clue there is their gift.
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After I moved off to college, my family started a new tradition. Every year we'll all get together the week after Christmas in a city that's about equal distance for all of us. We'll stay in a nice hotel, watch as many movies as we can, do some shopping, go to a museum or two, and catch up. This is when we exchange our family gifts.
My Family were not church going people and neither was my husband's so we had to come up with our own traditions. In doing Geneology for both families I saw that we had a lot of German ancestors so I went on line and found out about the german tradition of the Advent Wreath.
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