It is Christmastime in the Peach State and, as we Southerners are known for our hospitality, we've invited some holiday company over to share some thoughts on Christmas, friends, and family. Jennifer Perren has been following ABG from the beginning and is herself a gifted writer. We're thankful to have her share her thoughts here as she celebrates her first Georgia Christmas in a long time.
Home for Christmas
By Jennifer Perren
When we all think back on Christmas as children growing up here in Georgia, or anywhere in the US really, chances are we have similar scenarios. Visiting with family, church, food, Sears catalogs on the floor with your brothers circling the toys you want, all that.
I want to tell you a small bit of my Christmas story though: My Grandmother would shop all year, it was her main event. Her house on Christmas Eve was decked out with every possible Christmas anything you could imagine. She was decked out herself. Christmas sweaters, jingle bell earrings, you name it. She made candy of all sort, red velvet cake, pies, every other kind of food you can name. And she was downright jolly. I can still see her crooked grin and her face light up when we would all be there in her house laughing and eating. My family has a great love for and loyalty to each other, forged in these times spent all together. I can recall this scene like it just happened yesterday and it was always the same every year, we only grew taller.
On Christmas Day I would go to my Dad's parents house and my Ma was much the same. She cooked decorated, shopped, dressed the occasion. At the Perren family Christmas, there was always talk of football, work, history, family. One thing I recall and it still happens to this day. No one walks into any room unnoticed. When you come in the door, everyone gets up and greets you with an embrace. "It is so good to see you, I have missed you". It's the same when anyone leaves. Every single person is greatly loved. It has been this way my whole life.
This will be my first Georgia Christmas in nearly 20 years. I have spent the better part of my adult life moving around the country with my now former husband and the US Submarine Navy.
I have spent Christmas in every region of the country. I have had a warm Hawaiian Christmas, with all of my neighbors out on the street in our "slippahs" and shorts. I've seen the snow pile on the evergreens in Washington state and thought to myself I wish all of the people I love could just see this, it would be my gift to them. I've had New England Christmases with friends and family there with warm drinks and firelight, hospitality that could most definitely rival anything here in the south.
I have also celebrated with those of many races and creeds. Been welcomed to homes of friends while they were celebrating Yule and Hanukkah and they have wished me a Merry Christmas in my home, with no offense.
I've spent the holidays with only my babies and no friends or family around, and at times, completely by myself. My memories of home, friends, family and Christmases past to both help me appreciate my home and bring me comfort in a big world.
Having these times with my family gave me a strong sense of who I am, and I have developed traditions of my own with my children. No matter where we've been in the world, on Christmas Eve they all line up to open their only gift under the tree, it's always jammies. Then we drink cocoa while we watch The Polar Express.
I read them the Nativity story, after which one of my children - they take turns every year - will put the baby Jesus in the manger, which is empty until Christmas Eve. While His actual birth date is a topic of debate, I explain to them, all of the holidays observed at this time of year are celebrating light overcoming the darkness. He is and has always been the Light to a dark world.
I still look for Santa. Even though my family has changed and we don't have those gatherings any more. My children are growing up. I still believe in the magic of Christmas. My memories and traditions, family, friends, my faith carry me through the transitions. I'm excited to see what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come will show me.
This year, I'm thankful to be here on red clay at Christmastime, with the Georgia pines over my head, that is the greatest gift I could ever have.
"No peace (on earth) I find."
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire