Phinney Family Christmas

By Jane Phinney

I grew up in a small town in Northwest Iowa. My Christmas memories are vivid of tree-trimming with traditional large lights and silver, flowing icicles. Christmas Eve always meant attending the church program, featuring the prepared music of the Sunday school kid's classes. (My church was huge so we used the high school auditorium to accommodate the festivities.) The highlight of the evening, for us kids, was at the end of the program. We were welcomed to come up front to the stage and receive the traditional brown lunch sack full of Christmas goodies: peanut brittle, chocolate crème drops, and a big, juicy apple. Things felt just about perfect back then. You know the old-fashioned Christmas cards...wreath-adorned doors, decorated streetlamps, snow falling softly. That feeling was my world. I don't much remember the gifts. It was the traditions that marked my heart.

After marrying Steve, and especially after having children, we gradually started developing our own family traditions. We discovered through the years, that our sentimental daughters attached great value to these memories. Still this very day. The girls were 11, 9, and 6 when we moved away from the Colorado snow to the Phoenix desert. Out first Christmas was rather shocking! Things just felt "odd". But it didn't take too long for us to create additional holiday memories.

At our house, Christmas preparations begin the Friday after Thanksgiving. (We believe you should enjoy the fruit of your labors as long as possible!) Steve and Jessi spend most of the day outside, putting up lights and simple decorations. (My artsy husband is very good at this....straight lines, spaced rows, color-coordinated. Some of you know the drill.) A few years ago grandchildren joined the fun, even if they couldn't climb the ladders. Being with Opa outside is a big deal. In the evening, we put on Christmas music, make hot chocolate and the whole family gathers to decorate our tree. We used to buy our 3 daughters an ornament every year so, in addition to the ones they made as children. So we have quite a varied collection. It's the same every year....the stories start as the ornaments are unwrapped. Now the girls are telling them to the grandbabies as they hang their mommy's treasures. When all is said and done, we just sit there and stare, mesmerized by the moment but also by the memories. Where did all the time go? How did they grow so fast? I can't believe I'm this old! All it takes is a grandbaby on our laps or arms wrapped around our neck, to remind us that these family moments of contentment are what make life worthwhile. The Saturday after Thanksgiving has traditionally been our ornament-painting day at a local pottery establishment. This started before the girls were married and hopefully, will continue on, as the babies grow up to join us. We have wonderful memories of bringing snacks and spending all afternoon creating. We laugh and reminisce while painting and listening to Christmas music.

In the early 90's we discovered a Chinese restaurant near our home. After one visit, we were hooked on the food, and the people. We made this place our Christmas Eve "staple", before riding around to look at Christmas displays. These folks knew our tradition and always gave the girls specials treats. When they moved to a new location, we followed. Last year, our first holiday in Kansas, a winter storm nixed these plans but I'm happy to report we have found our Chinese restaurant. As time marches on and the family grows, we have adapted our plans to accommodate the individual units within our extended family. We've moved our Christmas Eve traditions to the 23rd so the kids & grandchildren can share their own traditions/memories separate from Opa & Oma. But on Christmas Day, everyone still gathers at our house to share limited gifts and Christmas dinner.

My point in sharing these memories is to encourage you to take time for the little things. This is what giving is all about. It's not about what money can buy but about how hearts are knit together, in love, to the glory of God. Do we have perfect holidays? No. Are there sometimes unexpected glitches to a well thought out plan? Yes. Are things sometimes noisy & chaotic? Almost always. Is it worth it? Absolutely! For Steve and me, it is another avenue to express God's love to our family. And it is pure joy when our grandchildren express excitement for family traditions.

From Our Christmas to Yours,
The Phinney Family

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