Remembering Christmas Eve traditions

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, December 9, 2017

When we think of the best Christmases of our lives, I’m sure we think back to our childhood. I know I do. After all, Christmas belongs to children.

It’s not the gifts I remember, but the magic of the season. Decorating our Christmas tree was the best time of all. My mother loved tinsel and we got to fling it by handfuls onto the decorated tree. The multicolored lights would twinkle and bounce off the shiny tinsel and our entire little world was transformed. Sitting around that tree at night and just watching those lights dance was like being in a fantasy world.

A Christmas Eve tradition when we were growing up was to pile into the car with our blankets and pillows and our parents would drive us around town looking at the Christmas decorations. That trip always included a drive out to the now-defunct International Paper Co. mill in Natchez, where workers there put up a series drive-through Christmas exhibit of mechanical, moving displays that teased the imagination of every child. It was one of my favorite parts of Christmas growing up.

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International Paper employed thousands in Natchez and the city hasn’t recovered from its closing. Thankfully, former IP workers salvaged those Christmas displays and Natchez children can see them today in all their glory along the bluff. If you haven’t seen them, it’s worth the hour or so drive down to Natchez.

The highlight of those Christmas Eve drives when I was a little girls was my stepfather pointing out the red light glowing on top of a radio tower someplace in Natchez and telling us, “Look, there’s Rudolph. He’s in Natchez! See his nose!” We would squeal and urge them to hurry and get us home so we could go to bed before Santa arrived.

As I got older, participating in the church choir Christmas programs became an annual tradition. Many of Vicksburg’s churches are known for their annual Christmas programs. One such is the annual Christmas cantata at Crawford Street United Methodist Church. This year’s, The Mystery and The Majesty, is set for Sunday, Dec. 17, beginning at 10:55 a.m.

Also, as I got older, Christmas Eve services became important. This year I’m looking forward to joining Sam Godfrey and Jim Miller and Tina Abernathy at Christ Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve.

Growing older is bittersweet — and it’s hard work. But part of that work is making the best of what life has given us. Sometimes we have to look good to realize all the gifts in our lives, but the exercise of looking is good for the soul.

My mother loved Christmas — particularly Christmas Eve — and having all of her children and grandchildren gathered around her. Even after my stepfather was gone and her children had so many children of their own they spent Christmas at their own homes, she still put up a Christmas tree. Every year.

I hope our children today are making the same kind of innocent, wonderful memories that will warm their hearts for many years to come, like my memories warm mine.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at