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Magical Christmas Memories

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps...means a little bit more.”

How the Grinch stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Mama Must Provide a Perfect Christmas

In 1969, all my seven-year-old daughter wanted for Christmas was a Crissy doll with hair that grew.

I was teaching second grade, helping prepare for a church Christmas program, providing Uber services for my own children, and trying to decorate for Christmas. Somehow, Christmas shopping would have to wait until school was dismissed for Christmas. That day came, I had my list, even made it out based on the location of the store, I was ready and knew that I could do this in four hours. Wait, what? No one had the Crissy doll, they were sold out. No problem, I’ll just call my dad and he can look in Carthage. They, too, were sold out. I drove to several towns located within 50 miles of my home. No one had the Crissy doll! I was in tears; every mom wants their children to have a perfect Christmas and I was going to be responsible for ruining my daughter's Christmas. I went home and started calling towns within a one-hundred-mile radius. I found the doll at a store in Dickson, told my sad story, and asked them to hold the doll for me. I took a day off work and drove to Dickson the get the doll. I smiled as I drove home, Crissy and I would provide the perfect Christmas for my daughter.

Is it the Present or the Presence?

A couple of weeks ago, I called my 55-year-old daughter and asked her to share with me a favorite Christmas memory. I was ready for a vivid description of Crissy. I would know that all the trouble to get that doll was worth it, I would finally be validated as the mom who provided a perfect Christmas for my daughter. I was waiting to hear her say, “The year I got Crissy, the 18-inch doll with auburn hair that grew. You could lengthen and shorten her hair by turning a knob on her back. And, she had beautiful fashionable clothes.”

Here is what I heard, “When we went to granddaddy Huff’s for Christmas and everyone was there. I remember the smells when you walked into the house. And the food, there were cakes, cookies, candy, boiled custard, and a table full of ham, turkey, and sides. I can still smell the cedar Christmas tree. An added bonus was all the cousins were there and I was the oldest. I guess, at some point in your life, it must be good to be the oldest. It was what you think Christmas should be! Oh, and I remember Granddaddy Huff having the house so hot that candles melted. As soon as we got there, he’d put another log on the fire. He wanted to make sure we did not get cold.” After listening to this, I couldn’t help it, the words just slipped right out. I asked, “And, what about the year you got that **** Crissy doll, I thought that would be one of your favorite memories?” She replied, “Oh yeah, I remember that was a good present.”

Parents if you can’t find that one item that your child wants, forget it! I promise you it will not be what they remember when asked for a Christmas memory. Which brings me to the question, “Is it about the presence or the present?”

At What Age Does this Change?

It’s no secret that children love toys and receive a multitude of gifts. I’m not sure at what age they start to remember experiences, not gifts. When I asked my young adult grandchildren about their favorite Christmas memories. They recalled rearranging the furniture to make room for the uncles, aunts, and cousins. The big Christmas tree and the stocking all hung in the same place each year were also mentioned. One event recalled in detail, occurred prior to Christmas day when Santa came to my house. After one cried, one tried to pull his beard off, and everyone told him what they wanted; he departed. As he departed, the parents took the children outside on the deck in the back of the house. An uncle went on the other side of the house and flashed a red light across the sky while ringing sleigh bells. The children were sure they had just witnessed Rudolph taking Santa and sleigh on to visit another home.

One adult grandchild remembered going into the woods with cousins and building a fort on Christmas Day afternoon while parents napped. (The woods were visible from the house, they were safe.)

Would anyone’s first memory be of a gift they received? I was determined to keep interviewing family and friends in all age groups.

Memories from the ’30s and 40’s

I was sure that I would find that people who lived in the ’30s and ’40s would remember a gift they received. After all, times were hard and cash was not readily available. Can you believe there was a pre-credit card era? One lady did remember going to Montgomery Ward Department Store about 1939 for a promotional giveaway. They gave away a storybook that introduced the world to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

A family member stated that they had so little when she was young but she could remember how her mother loved Christmas; used what she had and could find in nature to decorate the house. She recalled her mother cooking for days. She especially remembered the jam cake with caramel frosting. She, too, loves Christmas and decorating her home. She uses the same jam cake recipe and makes the cake for her family today. Proving that traditions are passed from generation to generation. But, no one actually mentioned or recalled a gift they received.

Is it about Money?

I thought about how little money families had in the ’30s and ’40s and decided people who grew up in the ’50s with more cash to spend would recall a gift they received. I called a friend and asked her to recall their favorite Christmas memories. She did not hesitate and quickly started naming memories. She remembered going to get the Christmas tree, putting it in a bucket, and having to put water in the bucket every day. She continued with memories of placing icicles on the tree, of a bulb on the lights on the tree going out and having to check each one to find the dead bulb and listening to Christmas music. She did not mention a favorite gift.

When she mentioned getting the Christmas tree and placing it in a bucket, it sparked a memory for me. Growing up on a farm in Granville. We went to the woods and cut a cedar tree to use for a Christmas tree. Actually, the process of locating a potential Christmas tree started in July. While walking in the woods, I’d often look for a small perfectly shaped cedar tree and watch it grow. Just as I was sure it was the perfect tree; a goat would eat the side out of the tree breaking some of the beautiful branches. And again, I was in search of a perfect Christmas tree.

One year we found a perfectly shaped tree and took it home. After my dad cut the base allowing it to stand in the bucket, there was a limb low on the trunk which did not allow it to fit in the bucket. He cut the branch. The branch just happened to extend all the way to the top of the tree. With this branch gone, there was an ugly hole in the tree. We placed the tree in a corner with a hole to the back. I was very unhappy and wanted to go look for another tree but instead, we just place extra decorations on the tree.

Magical Christmas Memories

Can you imagine life without memories? They are like a diary that we carry with us all the time. They put a smile on our faces every time we remember. Would you share some of your Christmas memories with our readers? More importantly, make wonderful Christmas memories with your families. Remember, “Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps...means a little bit more.”

Historic Granville is open Wednesday- Friday 11AM-3PM and Saturday 11 AM-5 PM is a wonderful place to step back in time and make memories with your family.

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Karen Hall Sarraga
Karen Hall Sarraga
Dec 31, 2021

I have a couple of Christmas memories of gifts received and given. As children we always got an apple and an orange in our stockings. My mom, Betty Huff, told us that she always had an apple and an orange in her stocking on Christmas morning and fresh fruit in winter was something special when she was growing up. Later the apple and orange changed to a chocolate orange and I continue the tradition.

I also clearly remember a Christmas gift from my paternal grandfather. I was in my early teens and it was probably the year my grandma had passed. He gave me a bundle of about 8 small sewing scissors held together with a rubber band and…


I could so identify as a mother with your wonderful story! But, my special Christmas memory isn't about what I gave my children. It's about how I received my gifts one very special Christmas.

One year my family made plans to spend Christmas at my grandparent's farm near Cookeville (they were both born near Granville). My dad had to work on December 24th, so we planned to leave Nashville when his work was done. My sister and I were so worried about how Santa would find us. A few minutes before we loaded in the car, the telephone rang. It was Santa! He said he'd heard we'd be away and had come early. He told us to check the front…


And when Grandaddy Huff put another log on the fire, the aunts would start sweating because they had on their heavy duty Christmas sweaters. I was the recipient of the Crissy doll, but I also had that moment when I became a mom and forgot the Jumping Monkey game back in the closet in Texas. I didn't discover it until Christmas Eve when Santa was putting out toys in Tennessee. I had my brother call as Santa Christmas morning to tell Randy that his Jumping Monkey game was waiting for him back home in Tx. Every box he opened that year he would say, "Well this could be a Jumpin' Monkey". Killed my mommy heart! Now we play Jumping Mo…


Cynthia Matthews
Cynthia Matthews
Nov 29, 2021

So much fun to read! Thanks, again, Liz, for a wonderful story!

Happy memories of Christmas are popping into my head! I can remember a few gifts, but they are not the first things I think of. I go back to the house I grew up in and I can still see the tree in its place and all the decorations.

I was a Snooper. Every year I ferreted out my unwrapped presents - until my parents figured out that I was a burgeoning Nancy Drew and did a more efficient job of hiding them. I went crazy looking for them that year!

I do remember one present - a doll called "BRAT" I can still see her in m…

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