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Thursday, December 05, 2013

What is Your Most Memorable Christmas?

First, I'll tell you mine (then you tell me yours down below). Figured I only write here once a month, and this is December, so why not do some Christmas?

My most memorable Christmas happened in 5th grade. At the end of that year, our family moved south to Florida so my Dad could work on the Apollo Space Program. I’ve lived here in Florida pretty much ever since. And I've had some fine Christmas moments in Florida, but the memory of that Christmas in 5th grade resurfaces every year at Christmastime.

Because that was the year I experienced my last Christmas with snow. And it wasn't just a flurry. It came down hard, starting right after dark.

We lived in a suburb of Philadelphia. For fans of my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, the neighborhood closely resembles what I described in the book. In Philly, we could always count on it being cold at Christmas, but not that it would snow. It snowed at least a few times during the winter, but on Christmas Eve? That was pretty rare.

In fact, I can only recall that one time in my childhood...that very last year in 5th grade.

I remember my little sister on that Christmas Eve (she's now a grandmother of seven), being the first one to see it. She screamed as she looked out the window of our living room, “It’s snowing! It’s really snowing!” We all ran to look.

Behind us, the Christmas tree stood sparkling in the corner, surrounded by tempting presents. The stockings were hung, thumb-tacked to the stairway (we didn’t have a fireplace). Sugar cookies and egg nog were set out on the coffee table for Santa. But none of that mattered now. It was snowing! My big brother opened the front door and we all ran outside, spinning around with our mouths open, trying to catch the snowflakes on our tongues.

“Kids, get in here. You’ll catch colds,” our mother called, to no avail. I looked back at her, standing there in the doorway smiling (she’s with the Lord now, these past four Christmases).

We eventually did come inside and finished our Christmas Eve traditions. But every few moments, one of us would get up and check on the snow’s progress.

It kept snowing, all night.

We awoke on Christmas Day, not to just the delightful scene of shiny presents under the tree in our living room, but to a virtual Winter Wonderland outside. A full two feet of snow had fallen, with drifts of four to five feet in some places. I’ve yet to see a Christmas card that matches the beauty that lingers in my mind, even now as I recall that scene.

And like a Christmas gift that keeps giving…the next day, the snow plows came through, piling up two equal mountains of snow on opposite sides of the street. Our street was filled with kids (picture the Leave It To Beaver era). The plows had made two perfect snow forts. All week long, it was our side against their side of the street.

I don't remember a single Christmas gift I got that year, but I do remember the snow on Christmas Eve, and having some of the most amazing snowball fights in kid history throughout that Christmas vacation.

Okay...your turn. What was your most memorable Christmas growing up?

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 9 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Dance. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah Awards. Six of his books have been Top Picks on RT Reviews. Three were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year. Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take long walks. To connect with Dan or check out his books, go to:


  1. One immediately comes to mind, Dan, although all of "my" Christmases were good. This one stands out for two gifts I received as a young girl. One of those gifts was a beautifully illustrated book of Black Beauty. To this city-born-and-raised horse lover, it became a treasure. The second gift was a full-size royal blue Schwinn bicycle. That bike would give me many years of pleasure. I remember Dad took pictures of me posing with that book, straddling my new bike, with a toothy grin on my awkward frame. I've always loved Christmas, but that one remains uniquely special.

    1. Wow, you got both of your favorite gifts in one Christmas? I can see my wife LOVING that book as a girl. She became totally infatuated with horses. She wasn't quite a city girl, maybe a suburb girl, but she worked and saved during high school and bought a horse to ride on the weekends (boarded him out in the country).

  2. I was a Navy brat, so I have a wide variety. I think, though, my most memorable was the year mom and I spent Christmas in San Diego. Dad was out to sea on the USS Kitty Hawk. Mom and I found a pitiful little tree for our apartment (Navy housing in San Diego had a looong waiting list). We went to Sea World on Navy Night and played in fake snow. I still remember the small fogbank that hung over what was really crushed ice. We went shopping at the Navy Exchange and I was so proud of the riding dog that I bought for my baby sister for about $4. On the Christmas Eve, we went up to Oceanside to spend the holiday with our Navy friends, the Goodboes. Everyone but me went out shopping and, as I lay alone on the Goodboes couch, Sleigh Ride came over the radio. It was 70 degrees outside, not a snowflake in sight. I think that was one of the happiest moments of my life. And no, I don't remember a single gift I got that year, either.

    1. Isn't it amazing how, in the moment as kids, it's all about the gifts. But as time passes, we can hardly remember a single one? Instead, we treasure the kinds of things you just wrote about. And the only gift you did recall was the one you gave, not one you received.

  3. Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I grew up in the era of your novel, The Unfinished Gift. I remember the Christmas we lived in Dallas on Lockheed St. The neighborhood had streets all named for WWll planes and places as it was a housing project built in 1944 and we moved into a brand new house. That fall of 1944, my baby brother was born. I was 8 years old and helped Mother take care of him. He was like a big baby doll to me and I loved him so much as did my little sister. I asked Santa for a baby doll that Christmas, and that's exactly what I got. It was a life size infant doll with a soft rubbery head, hands and feet and a cloth body. When dressed with her bonnet on, she looked like a real baby. I loved that doll more than any other gift I had ever received. It was also the last Christmas we were a family as my parents divorced soon after my brother's first birthday. I will never forget that doll or that Christmas.

    1. That's a wonderful memory, Martha (though sad it's also your last as a family all together). My mom had a doll memory, as I recall. They were quite poor and she had a rather old, worn out doll that she loved. Two weeks before Christmas, it disappeared, and she was heartbroken. Couldn't find it anywhere. It reappeared on Christmas morning under the tree cleaned up and with a brand new dress. That was all her mother could afford, making a new dress. She was thrilled to get the doll back but, when we heard the story, we all felt like it was kind of a crazy thing for our grandmother to do, putting her through 2 weeks of torment like that.

  4. Your reply to Martha, Dan, made me have to jump in. Every Christmas is my favorite. I celebrate Christmas beginning on Nov. 1 until Jan. 30. Why waste a good thing? I had two older brothers who secretly played Santa with me. By 5th grade, none of my friends believed, but there was no way I could not believe! Santa called me on the phone; he peeked in the window to see if I was good, sent me letters, etc. Three Christmases, he even took my favorite doll, but he was kind enough to leave me a note saying the doll would return on Christmas Day, and she did with new clothes -- winter coat, hat, and muff; majorette costume; wedding gown. My friends said I was crazy to believe. I told them they will find out the truth when they grow up. My 5th grade teacher read us a story of Santa, then said, "I hope none of you still believe in Santa." Of course, she knew I did. I went home and asked my mother while she was in the bathroom and could not see me cry. Her response was, "Santa is the spirit of Christmas. Never stop believing." And I haven't! I can even still hear the bell ring (ala "The Polar Express").

    1. A true believer, Nina. Love it. Your brother's story reminds me of something I did with my nieces several years in a row when they were at that "border age" of still believing but wobbling. Our kids weren't born yet. My sister-in-law's family and us used to spend Christmas Eve with us at my in-laws big country house. They had a huge fireplace that we didn't light Christmas Eve (so Santa wouldn't get burned).

      To help my nieces get to bed when they were too excited, I'd slip out, get on a ladder in the backyard (with a set of jingle bells in hand) and make quite a clatter on the roof, heading toward the chimney. Then I'd ring the bells over the chimney and call out to them in my best Santa voice. I could hear them screaming from the living room. I'd tell them I can't come down until they're sound asleep and promise to come back a little later and see.

      They'd go tearing off for their bedroom, and we wouldn't hear another sound out of them all night. Made for a very fun morning.

  5. Mine happened when my youngest son was about 2. The hubs is a Brit, and in England, instead of writing a letter to Santa, they wrote a note on tissue paper and the chimney draft carried the note up the chimney and out to Santa. About this same time, he became fascinated with his granddad's dentures. Granddad would slide the lowers in and out and Greg tried to catch them. It was a riot. On Christmas Eve, we were gathered around the table, when Greg climbs out of his highchair, runs to the fire place and holler up the chimney, "Tanta .. gran'dad wants new teef."

    1. The faith of a child. Great story, Ane.


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