When you learn a little more about your mothers through an advent calendar


December 19, 2015 by Terumi

christmas tree craft made by kids

Would you believe my mom and mom-in-law can both play accordions? I deeply regret that I didn’t force them to play a duet at our wedding ages ago because we so rarely hear this instrument anymore and to have TWO in a family is mind-blowing.  This thought came to me when I was sitting in Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Cafe where they have more accordions than I’ve ever seen in my life hanging on the ceiling and I laughed out loud because both my mothers play.

accordion collection at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle

My advent calendar is over halfway through and each day I receive a memory I am filled with such amazement over the beautiful things people in my life do at this time of year.  We all do different things and  love this time of year for different reasons but these are the precious things that make our lives.

I love that there are many commonalities in our traditions.  My mom-in-law talks of oranges and oranges were so much a part of my Christmas growing up too.  We always had oranges in our stockings and my grandpa would get oranges in boxes with Mt. Fuji on them. And at New Years we would always have a Kagami Mochi and I still try and make sure we have one in our Seattle home.  Thank you Pat for sending your Christmas joy.  It is really lovely watching you prepare for Christmas and the amazing meal you create.  The kids look forward to the traditional Ukranian Christmas feast every year and love seeing your tree and hanging out with family.

advent picture from grandma p


Who would have thought that Christmas joy is heralded by peanuts in shells and mandarin oranges wrapped in green tissue appearing in the grocery stores?  For me, it’s as much a harbinger as carols played over radios and public address systems alike and stores displaying decorations.  Perhaps it’s because every year during our school Christmas concerts each child was given a small bag of peanuts in shells, mandarin oranges wrapped in green tissue paper, and, of course, a few hard Christmas candies.  And again, at home, the peanuts and oranges were staples during the Christmas season.

Christmas joy has always been about getting together with our family and friends; it’s greetings of “Merry Christmas” and warm hugs, by children, grandchildren, and friends; it’s enjoying the traditional Christmas meal, whose aromas fill the whole house and is eaten on a finely laid festive table.

Lying under the Christmas tree, gazing up at all the twinkling lights, watching the bulb lights bubble up its liquid and breathing in the scent of the evergreen tree all the while dreaming about what might be in the carefully wrapped colourful bundles lying next to me was certainly a childhood Christmas joy.

It is the crunching sound of the crisp snow beneath your boots, admiring the sparkling frost crystals on trees and rooftops or its painting on window panes, and the twinkling lights adorning trees and homes; or catching a falling snowflake on the tip of your tongue while making a snowman, or sledding, or skating in an outdoor rink until your cheeks are rosy red and numb to the touch.

Christmas joy is watching Christmas concerts and programs honouring the newborn King, and hearing the jingling bells beckoning donations for charity, and delivering food baskets to people who are having hard times, or sharing the good news and Christmas cheer by carolling from home to home.

But, foremost, Christmas Joy really is about ‘Joy to the World’. For we remember the first advent, the birthday of a King, Immanuel (God with us), a Saviour who is Christ the Lord, who was born not in a palace, but a stable, not laid in a stately cradle, but a manger filled with hay, not King of one nation, but the entire world, entire universe.  His kingdom is one of love, joy, peace, selflessness, humility, service; these we celebrate.  As we welcome Christ, Immanuel, to our human family, we remember, we celebrate this birth.

I love that my mom too talks of bubble lights and Christmas joy in her memories and I love imagining both women in times long before I knew them.  My mom came from Japan and didn’t celebrate Christmas and I know how hard her parents must have tried to create a Canadian Christmas for their girls.  I know how hard my parents try to make Christmas magical and I love that it still is. I am excited that my mom is making my grandma’s stuffing recipe for Christmas this year.  It’s incredible how you can taste a little bit of your own history through the nostalgia of a meal and feel a connection to people you love even though you’ve lost them long ago.

I was four years old when we came to Canada, and Christmas was a new celebration for our family.  My parents, though, wanted all of us to assimilate into Canadian life as much as possible, so I remember my mother roasting a turkey each year for Christmas day.  The stuffing was a kind of delicious mashed potato stuffing that I plan to try this year since it is gluten-free and suitable for everyone in the family. I don’t remember the other trimmings for the dinner table, but I remember enjoying the feeling of celebrating Christmas as my friends did at their homes.

In those days, it was just the five of us – my parents and their three daughters.  But the Christmas tree was up decked with a ton of tinsel, garlands and angel hair.  The bubble candle lights were a fascinating addition to the tree sometime during my growing up years.  Santa came, too, and Christmas Eve was exciting for my younger sisters and me.  The first gift I remember receiving from Santa was a large stocking with a Zorro ball in it among other things, but the ball is what I remember. Obviously it didn’t take much to excite me in those days!  Christmas celebrations were small for us in those days, but still so beautiful, exciting, and fun.  I am thankful to my parents for doing their best to ensure that their girls embraced Canadian life and Christmas in their new country.
Christmas celebrations today for me are wonderful with all of our large family and friends helping to celebrate the happy holiday season.  The house is bright and sparkling in its Christmas garb, and the tree takes its usual spot as the centre of Christmas celebration.  The house is full of laughter, joy and anticipation on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning is a joy to join happy children and grandchildren opening their gifts.  Christmas dinner is a feast not only of delicious food, but also a time to enjoy the warmth and joy of family. The traditions that we have developed over the years help us to remember the past and provide Christmas memories for our children and their children.  How wonderful Christmas is!

Thank you moms for not only sharing Christmas memories but for providing the foundation for so many traditions in my little family.  It’s beautiful to see where traditions come from and how they evolve over time. Through reflecting and sharing these memories I’m truly moved at how much joy has come from this project and I’m so thankful for all who have participated.

Happy Weekend!  I hope you and yours are out and about and having some fun and making some traditions too:)  I love hearing about traditions and please feel free to share below if you have something that makes this time of year special for you too!


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