Memories of Christmases Past

Illustration: Erika Gesmundo

Home for the Holidays

This is an illustration of our family home in the Philippines that brings all the good memories of Christmas joy for me. We lived at this house with my grandparents until my teenage years. It was a yearly tradition of my mum’s side of the family to come over to our place to celebrate Christmas. My mum had six brothers and, together with all their families, everyone would arrive with presents and food to share. The house was always filled with so much celebration, joy and love.

Nicole Gesmundo, Graphic Designer

Wonderfully Made

These handmade Christmas stockings never fail to bring me joy! Every year when I get them out, I’m instantly transported to our ‘beach life’ in Gisborne, where we lived when our children were preschoolers. It was a season spent building sandcastles and paddling in the ocean, as we created memories with wonderful friends and our beautiful faith community.

The Christmas stockings were handmade by Heidi Berry not just for my children (and Mat and I), but for every child on the Gisborne Salvation Army Mainly Music roll in 2003! As well as beautifully sewing over 60 stockings, Heidi hand-painted every child’s name on their very own Christmas stocking- a labour of love reflective of Heidi’s desire that every Mainly Music parent would catch a glimpse of God’s bespoke love for them and the truth that they are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Jules Badger, Senior Writer

In Loving Memory

My mum passed away from ovarian cancer when I was a small boy. Every Christmas Eve, we would have lasagna for dinner. She would always join us, even though she was very ill.
I was eight years old when she died. But every year after, we had lasagna on Christmas Eve in her memory. This family tradition continued, I learned, even many years after I moved away. I found out because my partner and I surprised my family this past Christmas, appearing unannounced on their doorstep at their horse farm in the perpetually rainy hills near the Oregon Coast.

It was the first time I had seen my family in almost a decade. They were speechless. After getting over their shock enough to invite us in, they asked if we’d like to join them for dinner. It was lasagna.

Ben Mack, Media Officer

Angel With Air Miles

This Christmas decoration always makes me smile as it reminds me of my first Christmas living outside of New Zealand. I was feeling very homesick when this quirky homemade angel arrived in the mail. I immediately felt connected to home and my quirky friend back in New Zealand who took the time to make it for me.

Since that first Christmas, it has travelled around the world with me and I have hung it on my tree every year. Even though I am now living back in NZ, it still speaks to me of love, friendship and the joy of Christmas regardless of where you may be celebrating.

Fay Foster, Communications Administrator

A Christmas Tale

Memories of Christmas traditions are sparked for me by sights, smells, tastes and sounds. The sounds of Christmases past include our local Salvation Army band playing carols around our neighbourhood days before Christmas; Carols by Candlelight services; warm summer nights spent drifting off to sleep while listening to Nat King Cole singing ‘Silent Night’.

But nothing sounds more like Christmas to me
than the annual Christmas morning story ‘The Littlest Angel’, as told by Loretta Young and Gregory Peck. My grandmother owned a rendition of the story on four old 78-speed records. These were played at various speeds just for fun, but the story is sweet and the voices velvety. The 78s have long since disappeared, but I recently found this version produced in 1973, and I take great delight passing on the tradition to my children and grandchildren.

Vivienne Hill

SALT Editor, Communications Manager

All Heart

Like many families, our shoulder-height, plasticky Christmas tree has a number of whimsical ornaments on it which have been collected over the years, including an orb-like ukulele player that looks like Elvis, and a heavy SeaWorld polar bear. This heart, however, is one of the first things I look for when my family pulls out the box of Christmas decorations each year. I have no memory of its construction, but I know that I made it (or haphazardly stuck bits of cellophane onto a pre-cut heart) as a gift for my grandma when I was two years old. A child prodigy!

It had pride of place on my grandma’s Christmas tree for many years. My sister and I would always help her put up the Christmas tree, and I loved it when she’d ask me to put the heart somewhere on the tree where she could see it well. I felt so loved that she cherished this tape-covered piece of card, just because it was from her granddaughter.

When my grandma passed away a few years ago, this little heart moved from her Christmas tree to ours. It feels really special to have something of hers on our family tree, and this wonky pink heart still means a lot to me. Even if I think my crafting skills could have done with some work.

Holly Morton-Chong, General Editor

Let It Snow

One of my favourite December activities as a young teen was decorating my bedroom for Christmas. What started with a few bits of tinsel, grew to a full-scale fake snow operation within a couple of years. Having purchased my can of artificial snow spray from The Warehouse, I’d set about creating newspaper templates for my bedroom windows. Using sellotape to hold the newspaper in place, I’d generously spray the strong-smelling snow around my DIY templates until I was satisfied that the perfect Christmas images had been achieved. Angels were my go-to motif. I’d finish off the look with fairy lights draped over my curtain rail, making it impossible to properly close my curtains for almost two months of the year. No lungs or carpet were permanently damaged in the making of this Christmas memory.

Lauren Millington, Senior Graphic Designer

Bite-sized Treats

Our kitchen is a very busy place to be the week before Christmas. Out come well-worn mixing bowls, slightly askew kitchen scales and my trusty old blue spatula. These ordinary kitchen companions have all collaborated in more culinary creations than they could count. My blue spatula certainly shows the scars of a well-loved and well-used utensil. Most noticeable is the small piece that is missing at the top. Several years ago, while waiting for our cake to cook I encouraged my then two-year-old eldest child to enjoy the leftover chocolate batter. Perhaps, due to my unclear instructions, she did what you do when you are learning to eat using utensils—she took a bite. Hastily, I retrieved the crunchy mouthful and together we licked the bowl clean. While it’s true that the Christmas season
can easily feel hectic, every time I use my slightly imperfect spatula, I am reminded that the commotion of Christmas can quickly be silenced by the simple joy of licking the spoon.

Kelly Cooper, Staff Writer

Blossoming Joy

One of my holiday memories is camping with my husband and his family at Opunake beach. It was my first visit to that area and I remember driving down the hill into the little beach community and being absolutely stunned by the magnificent red of pōhutukawa trees against the backdrop of the black sand and blue ocean.

We spent our time exploring the coastline, discovering rock pools, trying to catch a fish off the beach, passing a seal sleeping on the rocks, and roasting marshmallows in the evening. This holiday marked the first of many with my husband’s family and now when I see pōhutukawa trees it reminds me of the great joy of spending time with loved ones.

Captain Rachel Montgomery, Staff Writer

A Great Surprise

Like many families, our shoulder-height, plasticky Christmas tree has a number of whimsical ornaments on it that have been collected over the years, including an orb-like ukulele player that looks like Elvis, and a heavy SeaWorld polar bear. This heart, however, is one of the first things I look for when my family pulls out the box of Christmas decorations each year. I have no memory of its construction, but I know that I made it (or haphazardly stuck bits of cellophane onto a pre-cut heart) as a gift for my grandma when I was two years old. A child prodigy!

It had pride of place on my grandma’s Christmas tree for many years. My sister and I would always help her put up the Christmas tree, and I loved it when she’d ask me to put the heart somewhere on the tree where she could see it well. I felt so loved that she cherished this tape-covered piece of card, just because it was from her granddaughter.

When my grandma passed away a few years ago, this little heart moved from her Christmas tree to ours. It feels really special to have something of hers on our family tree, and this wonky pink heart still means a lot to me. Even if I think my crafting skills could have done with some work.

Matt Gillon, Web Manager

Dancing into the Christmas Spirit

One of my family’s Christmas traditions is always having the Boney M Christmas album playing while decorating the tree, and also on Christmas Day while all the food is being prepared. Growing up we had a holiday home about 30 minutes outside our town and Christmas was always held there with whatever cousins/aunties/uncles were around at the time. We’d attend church on Christmas morning, then pack up the car and head out to the bach. My aunty would always bring her CD player from home and have the Boney M album blasting! The aunties would be singing and dancing along and it really helped everyone get in the Christmas spirit.

I used to feel embarrassed by their enthusiasm but now I appreciate what a fun and celebratory atmosphere they created. We’d have special treats like cherries, pistachios and a cheese platter to snack on while all the food was being cooked. To this day, playing the Boney M CD never fails to get me in the Christmas spirit!

Julia Martino, Social Media Manager

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