Northern Wilds Magazine

Christmas Pasts: Childhood Memories

Whether it’s recent or from your childhood, it seems everyone has a favorite Christmas or holiday memory; something special that you’ll never forget. Maybe it’s when you finally got that puppy you had been begging for. Or perhaps it was the warm, fuzzy feeling you got while singing Christmas carols as a child at the local nursing home. Curious, we asked a few of our writers to tell us about their favorite Christmas memories.

Looking back at past Christmases, two special memories spring up from my childhood days.

My first-ever Christmas memory happened when I was four years old. According to my Mom, the two of us were looking at Christmas-decorated windows in the fishing village of Lowestoft on England’s east coast. We had been living here since leaving the post-WWII United Nations Displaced Persons Camp in Eckernforde, West Germany, where I had been born in the town castle’s temporary maternity wing.

The only detail I remember of our pre-Christmas jaunt was a window display of books that included what I thought was the most beautiful book in the world. I remember gazing at the cover, mesmerized by it—the earliest ‘wow’ moment I can recall in my life. It was that beautiful! I wished I could have it.

A photo of four-year-old Elle in Lowestoft,  England, dressed in a white, Christmas snowflake sweater knitted by her mom.  | ELLE ANDRA-WARNER
A photo of four-year-old Elle in Lowestoft, England, dressed in a white, Christmas snowflake sweater knitted by her mom.

On Christmas Eve, the table was set with lots of food. People came to visit and even Santa Claus (Jõuluvana in Estonian) dropped in to say hello, adding some presents under the tree. Then, like now, we opened presents on Christmas Eve. I can’t remember what my presents were, except for one: the beautiful book from the window display. Excited and on a happy-high, I can remember feeling so very lucky and special that Santa—who I believed was real—had made it happen. To me, it was all part of that mysterious, wonderful magic of Christmas.

That was our last Christmas in England, and the beautiful book probably didn’t get packed for our journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada. That’s okay—I’ll always remember the wonderful feeling of receiving the most beautiful book in the world and believing in something magical.

Another childhood Christmas memory is about shoes and elves. Seven days before Christmas Eve, my siblings and I would put our shoes up on the window sill at night, in anticipation of finding some little gift in the morning. As the story goes, Santa’s Christmas elves came by at night and if you had been generally ‘good,’ they’d put a small gift in your shoe. If you had misbehaved, you might find twigs—I always got gifts. And if you tried to stay awake to see them, they didn’t come. It is an Estonian tradition that we continue even today, though shoes now get lined up in a row by the front door. And though we have solved the mystery of the elves, the Christmas magic of “I wonder what’s in my shoe?” continues.

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