The Things That Make Christmas

They’re the things we keep carefully wrapped and stored away all year in basements and attics.

They once belonged to our parents, grandparents, or us when we were tiny; though battered and aged, these objects glow with the luminescence of decades’ worth of Christmas memories. They are our time capsules, instantly transporting us back a generation or more to our childhood when we waited breathlessly, sleeplessly for Santa to arrive.

The stories attached to Christmas objects are part of their hold on us. Here are three of mine:

The fruitcake tin:

My grandparents wed in 1941, smack in the middle of World War Two, when rationing meant a pared-down Christmas for everyone, not least newlyweds on a tight budget.

My grandmother, a superb cook and baker, was looking for the perfect cake pan, one in which she would bake her fruitcake, a true Christmas luxury.

With war-era metal rationing in full force, my grandfather was somehow able to scrape together the funds to buy the materials necessary, and found a tinsmith who fashioned the cake tin of my grandmother’s dreams.

She used it exactly once a year for the steaming and baking of her famous dark fruitcake, a taste that brings me back immediately to her warm kitchen and even warmer welcome hugs at the holidays.

I love how this tin reminds me both of my childhood, and of my grandparents’ love for each other over 54 years of marriage.

 The angel:

I wish I knew where she came from, what 1930s or ‘40s department store shelf she perched on, in her vinyl dress and Wallis Simpson tiara, waiting to sail to the top of someone’s Christmas tree.

The angel’s cardboard wingtips are broken. Every year I’m sure she’ll topple off, smashing her irreplaceable china head in a million unglueable pieces at my feet. My husband says, “I don’t want to be the one to drop that angel!”

She’s outlived flashier tree toppers by decades. She’s survived several moves, wrapped carefully in her Laura Secord chocolate box, waiting for her annual two weeks of glory. I call her my flapper angel, the queen of Christmas.

Long may she reign!

The red sparklers:

When my husband was a little boy, these upside-down tinsel umbrellas were the stars of the show. A 1960s-70s creation, they burst forth like small, red fireworks, an effect enhanced by nearby tree lights. If you were going to lie on a couch in the living room and stare happily at your decorated tree, there would likely be an ornament or two that always caught your eye, drawing your focused contemplation for minutes at a time. For Ian, the sparklers were the special objects of his childhood Christmas.

As you unwrap each of your special Christmas objects, I wish you that sweet, warm flood of remembrance that comes but once a year.