Welcome to the week before the week of Christmas! This is Amy Sorensen, and I hope your holiday plans are going smoothly. (Me…I still have 75% of my shopping left to do. It’s been way too warm here in Utah, unnaturally warm, and the weather is totally raining on my Christmas spirit. Actually, I’d welcome even some rain right about now!)
When I was a little kid, one of our holiday traditions was to hop into the car one night close to Christmas, all six of us squished in together. Then we’d drive around for as long as we could, looking at the lights on people’s houses. Sometimes we’d bring treats to snack on, or stop for a soda to drink in the car, and a few times we’d go to a restaurant somewhere along the way. But the focus was just on being together and admiring beauty.
I’d forgotten all about that tradition until I read the journaling on Jennifer Larson’s layout in this month’s gallery , and then the memories came tumbling back: the way the vinyl seats of our old Plymouth felt against my legs, the shivering before the car got warm and the luscious heat after. All those big, beautiful houses lit up to celebrate Christmas. My sisters and I alternatively arguing and laughing, my dad telling us stories.
How’d I forget that?
So I’ve been thinking this month about my childhood Christmases. The strongest memories and the vaguest. (I have a very fuzzy memory of sitting in an old, unfamiliar house next to an old-fashioned Christmas tree, eating those walnut cookies covered with powdered sugar, but no one in my family can explain it for me.) Writing down some details, asking my mom and sisters about others, even sifting through old photos at my mom’s. Even making a layout about myself!
(Forgive my crooked photo of this layout. My regular camera is being repaired and I just cannot seem to get a straight-on picture with my cell phone! I tried 18 times...)
All of this remembering has given this December a unique feeling. It’s put me back in touch with how it felt to be a kid at Christmas (wasn’t that the best time to be a kid?), as well as given me some renewed holiday energy for making my kids’ Christmas more magical this year. I think that sometimes, in the rush and excitement of December-daily style albums (of documenting right now) we forget that our memories of Christmas are also important. So here’s a little tiny December challenge: write down something about your childhood Decembers. Maybe make a layout, or post it on your blog. Don’t make it complicated—just write down a story or two!
To get you started, here are 31 Christmas journaling prompts. I’m including a PDF at the end for you to download and keep.
1. The Christmas tree. Just one, or multiples? When did you decorate the tree? Real or fake? What color of lights?
2. Ornaments. Cute? Elegant? Homemade? Fancy? What were your favorites? What stories can you tell about the ornaments? Where are they now?
3. Decorations. Aside from the tree, how was your house decorated? Thematic or eclectic? What decorations did you love?
4. Gift-opening traditions. When did you open gifts? What kinds of things did Santa bring and what did your family do? Did you open gifts one at a time or was it a free-for-all?
5. Holiday meals. What sorts of food did you have at Christmas time? How did meals change during the holidays?
6. Christmas breakfast. A tradition every year, or random dishes? Did you eat before or after opening gifts?
7. Baked goods. What sort of baking did you do in your home, specifically for the holidays? Do you still make these treats?
8. Siblings. Did you exchange gifts with your brothers and sisters? What experiences did you have with them?
9. Extended family. Did your grandparents show up on Christmas morning or did you go to their house? What about aunts, uncles, cousins—how did you interact with them during the holidays?
10. Santa Claus. How did the man in red function at your house? Did all the gifts come from him, or just a few? Did he wrap or not wrap?
11. The stockings. What did they look like? Where did you hang them? When did you open them? What gifts were you likely to find every single year in your stocking?
12. Your worst Christmas ever. Which Christmas had some memorably bad or difficult parts? How did that change you or your relationship to the holidays?
13. Christmas Eve. Did you leave cookies for Santa? On what kind of plate? If not, did you leave something else? What other Christmas-Eve traditions did your family have?
14. Parties. What kind of holiday fetes did you attend? Do you have any stories of things that happened there?
15. Going to visit Santa. Where did you see him? Did you see the same Santa every time? What do you remember asking him for?
16. A unique experience. Do you have something unique that happened to you during the holidays? Something that was unlike anything else and only happened once?
17. Favorite gift. What was the best gift you ever got?
18. Memorable gift. Maybe you absolutely hated it, but you never forgot it: the most memorable gift you ever received?
19. Life-changing gift. Big changes can sometimes be caused by small gifts. What gift altered your life, and how?
20. Wrapping traditions. How were your presents wrapped, and who wrapped them? Was there anything unique about how your family wrapped gifts?
21. Your adolescent Christmases. How did things change after you were a teenager?
22. Finding out about Santa. When and how did you find out about Santa Claus? How did this change you?
23. Christmas music. Did you listen to Christmas music as a kid? How and where? What were some of your favorite Christmas songs?
24. Church + Christmas. How did your family combine Christmas with religious observations?
25. Christmas break traditions. What kinds of things did you do during the weeks between Christmas and school starting again?
26. Gifts that repeated. Which gifts were always under the Christmas tree? Did you like this repetition or did it start to be obvious after a while?
27. Christmas entertainment. What movies, books, or TV specials were a part of your holidays? Did you go to A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or Handel’s Messiah?
28. The holidays at school. What kinds of holiday crafts, programs, or plays were you involved in at school?
29. December weather. Was it usually snowy during December? Did it ever snow on Christmas day? Was there a time when the weather influenced your plans or traditions?
30. An old photo. Find a picture from one of your childhood Christmases and study it. What details does it include? What memories does it spark? Write down a list of memories, or pick one to focus an entire paragraph on.
31. Snippet of memory. What has writing about your childhood Christmases helped you remember about Christmas outside of these questions?
Here is the PDF: Download 31 Childhood Christmas Journaling Prompts