Making Christmas Memories to Last a Lifetime

Christmas was always a fun holiday for me and my siblings when we were growing up. It was one of my mom’s favorite occasions and her enthusiasm was definitely infectious. She made memories for us that have lasted a lifetime.

Special Meals

Since we lived in Southern California and all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived in Minnesota, we didn’t have typical extended family celebrations. But, my dad’s cousin lived down the road from us for a number of years, and so we would often celebrate the holidays with “distant relations” who were actually closer to us than most of our next of kin.

My mom would also round up any friends and acquaintances who didn’t have a special place to be at Christmas. She made it special for them to come to our home and made every effort to pull out all the stops. She always planned for extra gifts to be under the tree so that no one would feel left out.

We used the good dishes, lit candles, and hung her special silver Christmas ornaments so that everything sparkled. Toffee Dream was always on the menu as was Apple Pie, and those two desserts are forever linked to sweet memories of my mom.

Special Ornaments

Mom always wanted us to have Christmas ornaments to take with us when we left home. She planned ahead! Early on she collected ornaments and saved those we received as gifts. Today I have an assortment of beautiful ornaments with notes from my mom as to who gave them to me and what year. She also tried to find ornaments that “fit us.” Because I called it a “cagebird,” she bought me a small golden bird cage ornament.

I’ve followed her example by making sure each of my kids has a big Rubbermaid tote that contains the ornaments they’ve received over the years. They love pulling out their boxes at holiday time and choosing ornaments to decorate the tree with.

While our house is certainly no holiday showplace, come December it’s filled with books and decorations that have meaning to our family and conjure all sorts of happy memories.

Special Stockings

My cousin Ed and I were the first grandkids on my mom’s side of the family, born six months apart. Granny handknit us both these very 1970s Santa Claus stockings that have become family heirlooms. All of our siblings and cousins have similar stockings that we would never part with. And over time I’ve discovered that many of my friends have similar stockings that they’ve had since childhood as well!

Granny passed away in 2001. My mom took up the knitting needles, retaught herself to knit and has proceeded to make heirloom, handknit stockings for all the cousins’ spouses and children. We’re a big Polish family, so that’s a lot of stockings!

The poor woman has even reknit some of the FishFam stockings because her daughter is so fickle. Yes, yes, I am. I changed my mind on colors a few times. But, digging into the stockings is a highlight of Christmas morning.

Over the years Nanna, as she is now known, has created a number of new designs, including this Keepsake Tree Stocking. You can leave the tree au naturel, or you can embellish it with button “ornaments” that have special meaning to your child. Perhaps a ducky button for his first Christmas or a ballet shoe button for her first recital. So fun!

Nanna has been a longtime supporter of Christmas in July (as well as my biggest fan), so once again this year, she has created some stockings to give away to LifeasMOM readers.

Two winners will each receive one handknit, heirloom stocking.

(Style or color may vary slightly from what is pictured here.)

How to Enter:

There are three ways that you can enter this giveaway. Pick one, pick ‘em all.

1. Leave a comment, telling us your favorite Christmas memory.

2. Follow @NannaKnits and @FishMama on twitter and tweet about this giveaway. Then come back here and leave a separate comment with your twitter handle, telling me you did so.

3. Subscribe to LifeasMOM in a reader or via email and leave a separate comment, telling me you subscribe.

This giveaway will be open until Sunday night, August 1st at 8 pm, PST. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email. You have 48 hours from the time I send the email to respond, otherwise I reserve the right to choose another winner.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. WINNERS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED.

- Disclosure: Nanna has provided these resources for giveaway. I was not compensated to post positive comments. I love my mom! Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

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Comments

  1. How fun! We moved all over the world when I was little, so every year was very different…don’t have the normal christmas trad like a lot of others. I do have a distinct memory of visiting granny in florida and being in awe that we got to go to the beach to swim for a christmas eve celabration!

    • elizabeth says:

      @Lee,Love that. I am in FL and usually on Christmas Eve morning, I take the kids for a picnic on the beach. Then when we come home, they get cleaned up and rest quietly so that I can cook interrupted for that evening.
      One of my husband’s traditions that we have is a special hot chocolate (basically hershey bars melted into heated milk with cinnamon) and it always seems to warm out for hot drinks! We tried to meld our cultural traditions as well, which I think has been nice for the kids and *hopefully* sets a good example of compromise.

  2. Anne Marie says:

    My favorite memory is attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was the only time we were allowed to stay up late. The beauty of the Minnesota snow and the church all lit up with candles was breath taking.

  3. Anne Marie says:

    I am an email subscriber.

  4. My favorite memories are all about opening stockings in the wee hours of the morning. And I have the same santa stocking!

  5. I’m a subscriber

  6. My favorite Christmas memory is to get up really really early and make some homemade yeast cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Yummy!

  7. My favorite Christmas memory??? There’s so many! I love Christmas! But a very special Christmas to me was the year my husband went out by himself and got me a real tree and decorated it. I had been having a very rough December, with headaches that left me pretty much either sleeping or crying. It was so special to me that he did that for me, knowing how much I love real Christmas Trees!

  8. I’m also an email subscriber!

  9. My favorite memory was/is attending family Mass on Christmas Eve. Every year, after the Gospel reading, the priest would invite all the children in church to gather round the altar and he’d direct his homily to the littlest members of the church. One year, when telling the story of the 3 wise men, the priest began by saying that Jesus had many visitors, but he wanted to talk about 3 in particular. The priest asked the children who they thought the 3 visitors were, and one little boy yelled out “The 3 little pigs!” The entire church erupted in laughter! I’ve always loved attending that Mass and watching the joy and wonder on the faces of all the little children as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

  10. My favorite memory/tradition (She still does this for the ones left at home.) is when Mom would make homemade yeast bread for Christmas Eve dinner. We’d lather butter, jam, or honey over the hot bread and then wash it down with milk before heading out to the Christmas Eve service at church.

  11. I subscribe!

  12. One of my favorite Christmas memories (I have so many) is the Christmas that my mom and my brother made me a dollhouse. It just a cardboard box, but my mom and brother made room dividers and put down carpet and painted the rooms different colors. It was perfect for my barbies, and I loved it. As a mom now, I know how much work went into it, and I hope that my mom knows how much I loved it!

  13. That must have been a really popular pattern in the 70’s because my husband still has his:-)

  14. My favorite memory is eating moravian cookies and drinking hot chocolate while reading Christmas stories on Christmas Eve!

  15. EVERYone is going to want one of your mom’s stockings so I’ll bet this will be the most popular contest ever! I love the idea of the empty tree that can be accesorized (or not). It’s enough to make me want to take up knitting again too, so I can make some for my family. :-)

    My favorite memory of Christmas is the extreme tension as I waited, wondering what the gifts under the tree were. I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand it, but I always did!

  16. I subscribe via email so I don’t miss a post!

  17. Love the stockings. My favorite Christmas memory was in 1984. My grandmother made all the girls in the family a quilted tree skirt. No two were alike. Each as individual as the recipient. It was such a sweet time of having ALL the family together. She passed away in 2006 and we haven’t all gotten together since then. I’m hoping one day we will be able to get together at Christmas and celebrate the memories together.

  18. I get your posts in my reader.

  19. My parents always allowed us to open one gift on Christmas Eve after we returned from midnight mass.

  20. Jennifer P says:

    My favorite memory was one Christmas when my parents and grandparents stayed up late talking and having a grand time….a grand loud time…and woke up my sister and I. At 2 AM, we went to see what all the fuss was about, and my wired family decided it was past midnight (so technically Christmas) and if we opened presents now we wouldn’t have to wake up early! So we did! And it was much easier than trying to drag all of them out at bed :)

  21. Favorite Christmas memory: I was three and got a bouncy horse. No wrapping, no tag, no need – I KNEW it belonged to me, not my siblings. That was the best present ever. I rode that thing and broke off the dowels multiple times until I think I (finally) got too big for it – maybe around age 7.
    Best Thanksgiving memory: I know you didn’t ask, but it’s great – we went through all the costume jewelry in the house and put on as much as we could and had dinner. Hilarious – nothing matched, no bracelets fit me so I had several broaches on, plus layers of necklaces.

  22. When I was growing up I lived with my Mom and Step-Dad (he raised me from when I was like 2 so he was really my Dad). There were 3 of us kids. My Mom didn’t work until we were much older and all in school. So, it was just my Dad to supply all of our needs and to buy for us for Christmas. My parents didn’t have a whole lot of money, but they ALWAYS made Christmas seem so wonderful to us. It was like magic. Mom would cook a meal on Christmas Day or we would go to my Grandmother’s house to eat. Christmas morning was always such a fun time. Poor Mom & Dad would just get in the bed from fixing all the things and putting together what Santa had brought. Our stockings were always so much fun too. I remember one year getting up at wee hours of the morning. I mean we would get up at like 2 or 3 in the morning because Santa had came! One of us would go running into their room and wake them-well…..get them out of the slight doze they may have and they would get up and watch and take pictures. I remember getting a new baby doll in a little craddle. I LOVED baby dolls as a little girl. I actually still have all of my Cabbage Patch Kids. I think I have about 8 of them. I always explain to our kids (we have 5) that I took care of my things, that is why I still have the dolls that I had and they still look really good.

    I also remember a year when my parents got my little sister a T.V. Her OWN T.V. which was just unreal when I was a kid. Her response (ungreatful-as she has always been-love her but…..she’s still this way) “Why do I need a t.v. we have one right here in the living room.” My brother & I were floored-as were my parents! My brother and I looked at each other and our parents and said, “I’ll take it if she doesn’t want it!!” LOL :0) We weren’t that shy about it. HA! Just funny the things you remember as a kid.

    Nice traveling down memory lane. Thank you. Makes me want to call my parents up and just tell them Thank you…..

    Angie

  23. My favorite memory is going to Grandma’s house- we always celebrated with all our cousins, etc. I loved looking at her huge Christmas tree and all the ornaments.

  24. I’m an email subscriber.

  25. Christmas music and vacation from school. Both as a child and as a mom!!

  26. My favorite Christmas memory is shopping for Christmas trees with my parents. They would always pick a nice tree for the family, and then they would let me find a twig that had fallen from another tree and make my own Christmas tree. When we got home, they would string lights on it just like the big one and even add ornaments (only one or two small ones), and put it in its own water container (a butter container with a hole in the lid). There my tree sat next to the big tree all season.

  27. I am an RSS subscriber!

  28. I tweeted about the giveaway @VTOrganizeNOW

  29. I do not knit or crochet. But my husband has a handknit stocking from when he was a child so he always wanted us to have that same kind. We were at a Christmas store and found some for our girls lat year. They were so excited to have their own knit stockings. So, I am the only one without a handknit stocking. The funny thing is, I couldn’t part with our other stockings that we have used since the kids were little. Just the basic red and white stocking that everyone put the names on with silver glitter. That’s haw my family did stockings. So, now we have 2 sets,(almost), one for upstairs and one for downstairs. I wonder which ones my girls will have hanging in their homes someday?

  30. What a gorgeous stocking! I’m a knitter so I know the work and care that goes into hand making a stocking. My favorite memories center around our yearly tradition of making a gingerbread house. Every year, my kids decide (after much discussion) what we’ll make and we plan it out, bake it, and then decorate it. It serves as a holiday decoration and, finally, they get to smash it & eat it!

  31. My favorite Christmas tradition is having a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve.

  32. I am an email subscriber.

  33. sarah w says:

    my favorite memory was on christmas eve we sat outside under the stars (we lived in a tropical region at the time) and talked – i can’t remember what we talked about, but it was a a beautiful family bonding moment.

  34. sarah w says:

    i subscribe by rss

  35. Kelly K says:

    I can not even tell you the emotions that went through me when I saw the picture of the Santa stockings! When I was little my grandparents lived with my dad and I. My grandmom had made me a purple stocking with a snowman on it that has somehow gotten lost over the years and breaks my heart. My grandmom and grandpop actually had those Santa stockings that grandmom made them! I have so many memories of them being stuffed full every year hanging on the posts of the foot board of their bed! (Jean Nate’ and Old Spice every year LOL) After they had both passed away the stockings got passed along to me knowing they had meaning to me. Well, one of my kids got ahold of one of them and cut it up!!! I still have one and I think I may have the cut up pieces of the other. If I could send you mine to copy and have a replacement for the ruined one that would mean the world to me!! Having those stockings are like having my grandparents with me at Christmas!

  36. Jennifer says:

    My favorite Christmas memory is really a tradition because we still do it. Every Christmas Eve my parents always gave us new matching pj’s to wear that night for pictures the next morning. I have continued to do that with my children for the last 23 years and this year I get to add my first 2 grandbabies into the tradition. They will be 8 months and 4 months old at Christmas I can’t wait! I hope this will be their favorite Christmas memory one day too!

  37. Jennifer says:

    I get your emails, thanks!

  38. Susan Forthman says:

    My favorite Christmas memory is our Church’s Christmas Eve Candlelight Service surrounded by family and friends

  39. Susan Forthman says:

    email subscriber too

  40. Sarah G says:

    Isn’t there a favorite Christmas memory made every year?!

    Tops must be: A bitterly cold and dark night upon leaving the Christmas Eve service with bright white snow; entering in to the warm house filled with the glittering lights of the tree, family connections, laughter of children, anticipation of the celebration and all the sweet goodies to eat!

    It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of The Year”!

  41. my favorite Christmas memory: midnight mass.

  42. My favorite Christmas memory is probably the first Christmas with my husband. It was so special and fun to start traditions with the two of us.

  43. Already a subscriber!

  44. Colleen says:

    I love your site – I am an email subscriber!

  45. I subscribe via Google Reader : )

  46. oh a Christmas stocking would be so wonderful! My husband and I have hand knitted stockings and my boys have store bought : (

    My favorite Christmas memory is going to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve. My cousin was there with his family, my grandparents and my great grandparents tucked into my grandparents small home on their farm. We had a big dinner, played games and opened our gifts from each other. On Christmas day my grandparents would come to our homes to see what Santa had brought us : )

  47. I follow you in a reader!

  48. hmmm… favorite Christmas memory: probably when my parents decided to get my brother and I a puppy. They put us in the car with blind folds on and drove us around to get all lost- we actually ended up at my Grandparent’s house- and there was our first puppy!

  49. My favorite memory, like you, is the ornaments. We got one each year. At least one, if not more. When I had my own tree to put them on at 25 there were too many for the tree. When mom packed them the year before she had put in notes just for me. I still love to read them each year.

  50. I follow in google reader

  51. My favorite memory of Christmas is the ceder tree we always got.The smell is great!

  52. I get your emails.

  53. My favorite Christmas memory is going for a drive Saturday night with my Grandparents looking at the Christmas lights and looking for “Santa’s sleigh in the sky. Thank you for the chance to win.

    koinonia572001@yahoo.com

  54. Follow FishMama and NanaKnits on Twitter and tweeted:
    http://twitter.com/nanatide/status/19758560017

  55. Email subscriber. Thanks again!

    koinonia572001@yahoo.com

  56. My favorite memory is attending Midnight Mass with my mom and brother and then coming home and opening one gift before bed. Felt good to always start Christmas off with the true meaning.

  57. I”m an email subscriber

  58. I subscribe via email

  59. Favorite memory: I guess I just loved the excitement and the anticipation. As I get older, I love the magic of it for my kids. Trying really hard to keep the real reason for the season a priority.

  60. My favorite Christmas memory is family get togethers- unlike you, I grew up near all my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We all had so much fun playing games and of course eating good food. Even though we are spread far and wide today, we all still talk about holiday memories.

  61. How funny! I come from a polish family too. My paternal grandmother spoke polish and lived with us until she passed. I have fond memories of homemade pierogi and chrusecik(although usually not for christmas). I’m torn on entering the giveaway. The stockings are beautiful but I have 4 kiddos and I wouldn’t want to start a war.

  62. TallyMichelle says:

    Bow heads…my sister and I would stick *at least* one bow to our foreheads while opening presents. Now we make our sons do it!

  63. TallyMichelle says:

    Following both of you!

  64. TallyMichelle says:

    Subscriber too!

  65. My favorite memory is just being with my family baking cookies, going to church, visiting with special friends. It really is a magical time.

  66. Ruth Hill says:

    You know, a favorite Christmas memory was when I was very young, and I was afraid of Santa but believed he was real. My uncle set it up that I would hear the reindeer bells, and I immediately hid. But on the doorstep was a wonderful gift that I had asked for. I really believed Santa had come by.

    ruthaw_1974@yahoo.com

  67. Ruth Hill says:

    e-mail subscriber

  68. Just had to say that you look a lot like your mother in that top photo. Also, my husband’s family has the same stockings knit by his grandmother. Must have been a popular pattern in the 70’s!
    I have so many good Christmas memories, but I always looked forward to setting up the tree right after Thanksgiving. We would always listen to the Ray Coniff Singers Christmas album while doing it. I know the whole thing by heart!

  69. Christmas in July! I love it. My favorite memory is of the family all getting together and the amazing food, often fresh from local farms. I just subscribed!

  70. My favorite Christmas memory is baking Jesus a birthday cake with my mom every year – now I do it every year with my daughter!

  71. Way back in the early 70’s when my parents were newlyweds they bought a Christmas record album that had a bonus Christmas poster that was HUGE!! Through the years that have passed since then as they (and later we seven children) traveled to different countries as missionaries, that poster would come out to decorate the wall. Some years we didn’t even have a tree and would just put our presents on a decorated table in front of that poster. The years that the poster was on the wall were usually slim years in the present department (chocolates and soaps were standard fare those years), but our home was always full of love and laughter.

  72. I also subscribe via Google Reader.

  73. Ooohh…, toffee dream? Are you planning on posting that recipe? Because it sounds YUM!

  74. Malisa P. says:

    My favorite Christmas memory is the meals our family makes. Whether its the Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day breakfast/brunch, or dinner, it is always so tasty and the house is incredibly loud from all the kids!

  75. Malisa P. says:

    I subscribe to your newsletter/e-mail feeds.

  76. My favorite memory is the cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (I’ve always liked food, I guess!)

  77. We enjoyed counting down the days to Christmas by tearing rings off of the paper chain we’d make at the beginning of the season out of wrapping paper and construction paper. Helped with the anticipation! Thanks for sharing your great traditions – and those adorable stockings!

  78. I subscribe to LifeasMom via RSS reader.

  79. Carri Siebenmark says:

    Getting Sonic and driving around looking at the lights!

  80. I have too many favorite Christmas memories to count. However, I guess one of them would be going to the Christmas Eve service with family & friends and having dinner with everyone after, then sleeping in front of the Christmas tree and waking up super early to open stockings. What’s amazing about this is that am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person.

  81. My favorite Christmas memory was my daughter’s first Christmas. We were in our other, small house and it was just us 3. What a special time!

  82. I subscribe in a reader.

  83. I subscribe via e-mail.

  84. I thought that this story was sweet while I was reading and then I go to the end and saw that you mom is doing a giveaway for your readers and it made me cry. That is so incredibly sweet of her!

    Holidays were always great with my family so I can’t really pick just one holiday memory.

  85. Laura Quirk says:

    Your children are blessed to have special Nanna stockings! On the day before Christmas every year when I was growing up my Dad drove us to Grandma’s house to cut down a Christmas tree and eat cookies made special for our arrival. We then took the tree home to show my Mom – who always approved of our choice ; ) and spent Christmas Eve decorating it.

  86. My favorite Christmas memory is walking down the stairs on Christmas morning to the sound of the Percy Faith Orchestra’s “Joy to the World.”

  87. My favorite Christmas memory as a child was hunting around our house for evidence of elves! My mother always told us that Santa’s elves would visit each house a week before Christmas to make sure that all the kids were being good. We each had a bag and would collect anything we thought was suspicious!

  88. Merry Jo says:

    I subscribe on google reader. Merry Christmas in July! :)

  89. Sarah H. says:

    I love the music of Christmas!

  90. Sarah H. says:
  91. My favorite memory is lying awake with my sisters on Christmas Eve, seeing if we could hear Santa yet.

  92. Thank you for such a generous giveaway! My favourite Christmas memory is using our felt Advent calendar. It was a big felt tree, with little ornaments in pockets below, one for each day of the month. My sister & I would take turns putting them up, and would look forward to it all day!

  93. My mom always cooks a huge dinner on Christmas Eve and we sit around all night and talk. This past Christmas, we even took a family trip. It was awesome just to be around the ones you love (presents not required) for this blessed holiday.

  94. CARRIE YOUNG says:

    Favorite Christmas Memory: one year we had Chistmas at my grandparents house and my grandpap insisted that we ate breakfast BEFORE we could open our presents. It was torture to sit and eye everything up under the tree while eating!

    We (sort of) do this to our little ones…they can’t see the tree or presents but they have to sit on the stairway in anticipation while my husband and I make coffee, set up the camcorder and turn on the tree lights. It’s great! :)

  95. My sisters and I have those same santa stockings and my parents still hang them up every year! One of my favorite Christmas memories was my oldest daughter’s 1st Christmas (she is now 6). Our power was out for 11 days over Christmas due to an ice storm. We packed up all of our presents (which were a crazy amount for a 10 month old!) and stayed with my parents over the holidays.

  96. We open the presents one at a time with our children. They each take their turn presenting their gifts to each other and watch them open. I love it!

  97. I subscribe to your feed.

  98. How I love your story! I am enjoying your Christmas in July stories so much that I’ve gone back to look at the last 2 years! What an encouragement, and what an awesome mom you have (and are!). I absolutely love Christmas, and I would love to win a knit stocking! I would then beg you to ask her to make more and sell them to me so our family of 4 so far could each have one. ;) My favorite Christmas memories are with my immediate family at my Grandmother’s house. She has since remarried and moved faraway, and Christmas is different, but we carry on some of the traditions. I loved going to Grandmother’s and helping her decorate a giant tree-always much too big, but we loved that. She had boxes of ornaments we’d carry down from the attic and carefully unwrap. It was almost as much fun to wrap them in newspaper and box them up again after Christmas. The one thing I can’t replicate is my favorite part about Christmas-just being there with her and my whole family. Now I cherish the memories and thank her for them. :)

  99. Catherine says:

    I remember Christmas when I was 10. I had begged and begged my parents for a pet for ages and ages, and finally they decided I could have a pet Hamster. It was about a week or two before Christmas and the night of our school concert. I was supposed to be playing a Christmas Carol on the Xylophone and my parents told me about 10 minutes before I went on that I could go choose a Hamster the next day. I was running round the school telling everyone and my teacher was trying to calm me down before I went on stage. I got my Hamster and his name was Twinkle. He lived to the ripe old age of 4.

  100. Catherine says:

    Subscriber via google.

  101. The Christmas I gave my dad a baby doll, announcing our first pregnancy. The look on his face was priceless.

  102. And I subscribe to your feed too.

  103. Just found this blog. Cool site. I love the stockings your mom and grandma made. What a cool memory and tradition to pass down.

    I also just signed up to be a email subscriber.

  104. My favorite memory was heading to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house once we had opened presents at our house!

  105. My favorite Christmas memories from a child would be snooping and finding wrapped gifts and peeking at them (then, trying to tape them back up just like Momma did).

  106. I subscribe to your blog already.

  107. So many memories to chose from. I think back often to my first Christmas with my husband when we were married. He had very little money. In fact, my mom sent us a Christmas tree and all the ornaments. We didn’t have much, but we had each other and loved it. I remember sitting on the couch, sipping hot chocolate looking at the lights on our poor little tree with only one present under it for each of us. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

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