by Katie Parker

Every December, my family has the unique opportunity to visit with Santa Claus. Not because we hide under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and wait for him to show up—we wouldn’t all fit under there anyway—but because my grandma had a knack for making friends.

One day as Grandma was out doing her shopping, she ran into a woman in the cookie aisle of Dick’s Marketplace. She looked a little stressed, so Grandma stopped to ask her if she needed any help. The two struck up an easy conversation, and Grandma discovered that this woman had been looking for her husband’s favorite cookies for Christmas, but all of the stores were sold out. Grandma pulled the last box of those cookies out of her cart and willingly handed them over. Grandma wanted no payment except this woman’s and her husband’s presence at the annual family Christmas party. The woman readily agreed, as she and her husband loved Christmas parties, and they didn’t have time to attend many of them.

One week later, Grandma opened the door to find a big bag of presents sitting on the front porch. Standing behind the bag was the woman. “My husband’s running a little late,” she said, “I hope you don’t mind that we brought presents for the children; I’ll leave them out here for Nick to bring in when he comes. He loves making an entrance.”

Grandma welcomed her inside and introduced her to everyone. They had just got settled back in their seats when the door opened and the sound of sleigh bells filled the living room. “Ho, Ho, Ho,” Santa Claus said as he carried the bag of presents to an empty chair. “Merry Christmas!”

The children were excited to find that somehow he had managed to bring a present for each of them. They went up one at a time when he called their name to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Then, Mr. and Mrs. Claus thanked Grandma and Grandpa for inviting them over and quietly left as everyone sang “Silent Night.”

So maybe this isn’t exactly how it happened, but, to be honest, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. However the tradition began, a couple of days before Christmas, Santa Claus comes to my family’s Christmas party to sing with us and give all of the kids a pre-Christmas present. He tells a joke about the tenth reindeer that always gets overlooked in the song “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (“Olive” the other reindeer that used to laugh and call him names); he asks one of the kids to hold the sleigh bells while everyone sings “Jingle Bells;” and, before he leaves to prepare for Christmas Eve, he asks us all to sing his favorite Christmas song, “Silent Night” and remember who Christmas is really about.

Twenty-one years later, Grandma has passed away, but this party is still a highlight of my Christmas vacation. Even though I have been labeled too old to get a present of my own, it is so much fun to watch my nieces, nephews, and cousins sit on Santa’s lap—sometimes less than willingly—and sing along with his favorite songs. Family and music are two of my favorite parts of Christmas because they help to bring the true spirit of the holiday into my life; I am glad that this tradition is still going strong in my family.

Whether or not your family celebrates Christmas, we can all share in the happiness of family togetherness and tradition. Beliefs vary from person to person, but the value of family is universal, and we can all share in the joy of being a part of one all year long.

James Christmas Grandma Christmas