Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Christmas Pizza

by Annette Dashofy

In keeping with Martha’s bout of nostalgia, yesterday, I’ve decided to continue our trip down Memory Lane.

I’ve been thinking about the Christmases of my youth. Mostly what I’ve been thinking is that I don’t remember all that much about the gifts. And our traditions have changed over the years.

We never did lights outside the house. I remember a set of big red plastic bells with lights in them that Mom used to hang in the windows. And there was a fuzzy plastic set of reindeer that sat on the windowsill in front of a plastic sleigh. A plastic Santa dressed in felt stood nearby. I bet if I dug around in Mom’s attic, I’d find they’re all still up there. Somewhere.

We had one of those silver aluminum trees. I think they’re back in style now. Retro. I remember the year we traded up to a fake green tree with bottle-brush limbs. We’d finally stepped out of the dark ages.

I was never, EVER allowed to open a gift before Christmas morning. And then, I was permitted to open ONE before breakfast. The rest had to wait until after we’d eaten.

I really don’t remember a lot of the gifts I received as a kid. I have pictures of me with a doll, sitting in a child-sized rocking chair. I remember the chair. Not the doll. The gift I have the clearest memories of was a Hot Wheels track with a loop and couple of cars to go with it. Hot Wheels. Yes, I was a tom-boy. I also remember receiving a Magnus chord organ a few years later. I got really good at playing by number. Never did catch on to the whole musical notes concept, though.

After opening gifts and eating lunch, my mom and dad and I would load up gifts for my brother’s family and head to his place. He’s older than I, and married when I was five, so I grew up with my nephews and nieces. Christmas at his house has always been big and grand. And frequently noisy.

A dozen or so years ago, my mom started a new tradition of the Christmas Pizza. My husband and I would head over to their house after opening our own gifts. We’d exchange gifts with my folks and then Mom would fix lunch: The Christmas Pizza. Then we’d all drive to my brother’s for the rest of the celebration. The pizza thing got lost in recent years when my dad’s health turned bad. We spent several Christmas lunches at the nursing home with him. This year, my mom announced she wants to reinstate the Christmas Pizza tradition. For the record, I never turn down pizza.

Christmases here are smaller and quieter now. We don’t have kids, so decorating is kept to a minimum. But I admit I’m looking forward to that Christmas Pizza. Then we’ll all drive to my nephew’s house, which is about the only residence large enough to accommodate the growing family for the big, grand (and very noisy) half of our day.

So tell us about your Christmas memories. Do you have traditions that you stick to year to year? Do you recall treasured gifts from your childhood? Did you open your gifts on Christmas eve or have to wait for Christmas morning? And do you have a Christmas Pizza tradition in your family?

Let’s reminisce.


Gina said...

Annette - I don't remember much about specific gifts, either, except for when I was three years old and got exactly what I asked for - a baby brother, who was born on December 20. [Oddly enough, I hadn't requested him from Santa. I had asked the storks at Highland Park Zoo.]

We always had a real tree, decorated with aluminum icicles and fragile balls and strings of lights, with the manger scene underneath, one of the lights looped into the top to double as the star of Bethlehem, and the never-ending vigilance required to keep the cat from climbing the tree. I can remember chasing Princess as she ran through the living room, trailing tinsel.

Being raised Catholic, the celebration always included attending mass, either at midnight on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, with all the seasonal singing. When I was in high school, a group of us stayed at a friend's house a few days before Christmas and went out caroling. I had my guitar along and was trying to play accompaniment but it isn't easy when your fingers are frozen! Trying to play with gloves on makes the notes come out all strange and muffled . . .

Annette said...

Gina, you triggered a couple of long forgotten Christmas memories for me. I was in a Christmas show at our church one year. And I do remember going caroling with my 4H group a time or two.

Joyce said...

We always shared a house with my grandparents (even before my dad died when I was 2). As far back as I can remember, we'd go to midnight Mass and while we were gone, Santa brought our presents. I never did figure out how anyone managed to do that. We'd open our gifts, have "breakfast" and go to bed for a few hours.

Thinking about it now, Mom was smart. She was a night owl, so she'd be up anyway and we'd have toys to keep us quiet in the morning so she could sleep in.

When our kids were small, we had Christmas in the morning--mostly because it took half the night to assemble things like the Batcave and the Ghostbuster Firehouse. When they got older we started a tradition of a Christmas Eve dinner at a nice restaurant, then Mass, then open gifts after that.

Annette said...

I like that Christmas eve dinner at a nice restaurant, Joyce! I might have to try that one.

ramona said...

Annette, I am very curious about this Christmas Pizza. Is it regular pizza, or is it decorated?

When I was younger, we had Christmas Eve parties at my grandmother's house and opened gifts there. My GM, bless her, was the WORST gift-giver ever. One year, she gave all of her little granddaughters pin cushions. Another year, pillow cases. When she finally couldn't shop anymore and starting giving checks, it was kind of sad.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Annette, I'm not sure, but could you be my long lost sister? There are some erie similarities.

Aluminum Christmas Tree (ours was on a revolving stand and had one of the 4-color lighted wheel lights shining on it)

Magnus organ (I remember the air pump revving up when you turned the on knob)

Hot Wheels loop track

Red plastic bells that went in the window (each bell light winked on and off)

However, we went out for a drive to look at house lights on Christmas eve. When we returned, Santa had visitied and the presents were under the tree. We opened gifts Christmas eve then we went to midnight mass where my father sang in the choir and would sing his traditional solo of O' Holy Night. It remains one of my favorite Christmas songs. I sang a solo one year for the Children's choir (O Little Town Of Bethlehem.) Right afterward, I lost my voice and broke out in hives. My dad revealed to me his secret. A big swig of Wild Turkey about an hour before mass.

Annette said...

Ramona, it's just a standard, frozen, store-bought pizza. Somehow, it always tastes better on Christmas day than any other time, though.

Will, our tree didn't turn, but we did have the multi-colored light thingie on it.

If I had to sing a solo, the audience would be the ones who needed the Wild Turkey.

Jemi Fraser said...

I think one of my fave gifts was my boxed edition of the Hobbit. Still take it off to school & show it off :)

Joyce said...

And here I thought your mom made the pizza from scratch. I have a great pizza dough recipe (I make it almost every week) if she (or you) would like it.

btw, I had a Magnus chord organ, too.

Annette said...

Joyce, the closest thing to homemade pizza my mother ever made was Chef-Boyardee.

Joyce said...

That doesn't count.

Annette said...

Yeah, I know it doesn't.

sarrcbum said...

Lasagna...always the curiosity of our Christmas Eves. Because my father was a rather rigid man, we never ever went anywhere on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (he wasn't going to drive with all those crazies on the road), my mother had the entire extended family over for Christmas Eve dinner every year. There was tons of food, cookies, desserts, adult 'slush' and presents - lots and lots of presents.
My mother would cook for days - turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, rolls (homemade) and on and on. And then she made lasagna. Every year. On top of all the other stuff. Finally when I was older, I asked her why in the world she made lasagna on top of all that other food. Her reply? She was worried there wouldn't be enough.
I guess you can take the woman out of the depression but not the depression out of the woman.
I still miss that slightly overbaked lasagna.

Becky said...

I remember Christmas for 14 years then mom changes church and no more Christmas. Then 14 Christmas with my in-laws they die so then a small Christmas at home. Then 8 Christmas with Dan & his wife and sometimes his in-laws and this year he and his wife are divorcing and he goes to North Caroline for Christmas. Bah Humbug Merry Christmas.

Becky said...

But I remember we had real trees dad would go to grampap's an get a tree that was bare in the back and we would put it the corner with blue lights and tinsel. The first three years Fred & I had real trees. Then an artificial one. Most years I decorated the outside with lights, an angel, Santa, elves, a reindeer and sleigh, a tree & candy cane. But I didn't put them out this year. Last year I bought a pre lit tree love it. Truthfully I love Christmas.

queenofmean said...

For as long as I can remember we went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. My dad sang in the choir and we always got to the church around 11:00. When we were young, we had to go straight to bed when we got home (otherwise, Santa wouldn’t come). When we were older, we opened our gifts after mass and slept in Christmas morning.

Early afternoon, we went to our cousins’ house or they came to ours (we alternated each year). Then we’d conspire and switch kids for a few days during the Christmas break.

My mom baked sugar cookies and we made a mess decorating them. It was always fun. On occasion, we even had a few neighborhood kids join in.

Most of the traditions have carried on. With our expanding families, we don’t visit the cousins on Christmas now.

And this year in October, my dad passed away. It’s been a little harder to feel merry this year. Midnight mass was particularly difficult, but I wanted to go. The choir always ended with ‘Joy to the World’. I loved that song and my dad would tease me each year that they were going to change it. Of course, they ended this year (and every other) with the song. We used to sit and listen for his voice and I missed hearing it this year. It wasn’t all bad. We had some good times and we reminisced, laughing and crying. But it will still always be the first Christmas without Dad.

Annette said...

Sending you a big cyberhug, Queen. The first Christmas after a huge loss like that is always traumatic. This was our third Christmas since my dad past and I still feel the void.

queenofmean said...

Thanks for the hug, Annette. All of the 'firsts' over the next year will be difficult, but like I told my mom, we'll get thru them together.