My happiest childhood holiday memories were of Christmas Eve at my grandparents house on Snake Pond. Do not let the location scare you - this place was filled to the rooftop with laughter and love all year round. Yet on Christmas Eve, magic happened. Family I had not seen for months all gathered in the parlor to drink cocktails (or hot chocolate in my case), exchange gifts and share stories which would leave the adults bent over in laughter and the kids scurrying about the plush carpet with new toys. Eventually we would head downstairs for dinner - fish chowder, herring and homemade macaroni and cheese with crispy butter soaked croutons baked on top. I would fight my uncle for the celery stuffed with cream cheese and my sister would slide under the table with our cousins to avoid having to try the fish.
But before heading downstairs to the feasting, my grandmother would bring out an envelope with white, sometimes pink wafers. We would take one and make our way to everyone in the room, break off a piece from theirs, say "Peace be with you" and kiss on the cheek. The wafers, Oplatki as they are called in Polish, tasted of sweet paper, melting in your mouth before you could chew it. I was told it was the same as communion wafers (which the adults would have as part of the midnight mass capping off the evening). Though to me, I thought of these as magic slices that kept our family together.
*From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
As time passed, the relatives moved further away and the traditions I grew up with dissolved like a wafter in the snow. Now as an adult I craved something I could could call my own, a tradition I hoped to share with my own chosen family. This includes a bike ride up to the summit of Mount Tamalpais near where I live, peppermint hot chocolate on the way back and a delectable evening feast someplace with a view.
This warmed my heart (and truth be told, froze my toes) but I felt something was missing. I wanted open my heart to those I cared for, to wish them peace and love. So I wrote the church my grandmother Sophie attended so many years ago to request an envelop of wafers which I hope to share. And in my own way I have found a place of light, love and good tidings.
Take five minutes to remember your happiest holiday memory - where were you? What were you wearing? Who were you with? What scent filled the air - Christmas tree?, warm mulled cider? your grandfather's cologne? Write an ode to that memory. Did your holidays not follow a traditional path? Write about what that meant to you, describe all the nuances that made it special or different. If none of that tickles your fancy - describe the perfect holiday celebration as you would have it - no-holds-barred, this world, other world, what ever! Go wild!
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Jenny Astramowicz resides in San Francisco where she works for the local university, trains for endurance events and writes. Her long term dream is to live in France with her two cats.
Not all who wander are lost...
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You can read her poetry at https://zwabisabi.blogspot.com