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Unwrapping the Magic: Christmas Memories and Nostalgia from Our Residents

December 19, 2023

In the words of John Williams in his song “Somewhere in My Memory,” much of our Christmas nostalgia seems to center on “feeling that gingerbread feeling.” What exactly is that you ask? I like to think it’s that unique sense of warmth and coziness you get at Christmas. When we were young, the excitement of magic at Christmas was so tangible—patiently waiting for December 25th, preparing for the birth of a savior, and the arrival of a jolly old elf bearing a sack full of gifts. Indeed, ask any kid from 1 to 99, and you’ll invariably evoke the same twinkle in the eyes. The magic of Christmas never fades, but what makes it so magical?

We asked our residents here at The Hickman about their memories of the season: their childhood recollections of Christmas, the festive traditions handed down within their families from one generation to the next, and the holiday activities they look forward to each year. As you’ll see, the magic of Christmas is still very much present in the lives of our residents, even though their childhoods were many decades ago. The magic is woven throughout their years of memories and in their cherished moments with loved ones near and far.

For many, childhood memories of their Christmas tree remain among their fondest. First up was the search for the perfect tree, as Karen W. remembers. Dick W. describes how he would cut down the Christmas tree on their family farm. “I like seeing it lit up in our living room … I can still picture the tree in our home,” he says. Nora M. recalls waking up on Christmas morning to find the tree fully decorated and thinking that Santa did it. Ann H. loved decorating the house and tree for Christmas, and Pat B. remembers the excitement she felt seeing the gifts under her family’s Christmas tree.

For Ken H. and Ann H., music stirs up the warm recollections of Christmas. One of Dick W’s favorite memories is of going caroling during the holiday season.

Special family traditions hold a special place in the hearts of our residents. For many, enjoying the Christmas decorations in their home and their community was an annual holiday tradition. Ken H. remembers going to his mother’s friend’s house each year. “It was always very special and cozy, with lots of decorations,” he says. Pat B. and Ann H. remember driving around looking at Christmas lights with their loved ones.

For others, gathering to share a special holiday meal with family stands out as a favorite Christmas memory. “We had a large family, and it was great to see them [at Christmas dinners],” remembers Josephine T. Similarly, Gary G. recounts how his family would decorate the tree and share a turkey dinner together.

Yet surpassing it all, at the core of every memory of trees and lights, carols and meals, is one common thread: family and friends. Spending time with loved ones seems to be the most cherished Christmas memory of all the residents with whom we spoke. Time spent with family and friends holds a special place in the hearts of Ann and Karen and is something they look forward to each year. One of Nora’s favorite things about the season is “getting together with the family and children on Christmas Eve and opening gifts with the children on Christmas Day.” Ken H., Pat B., Gary G., and Josephine T. enjoy seeing friends and family at the holidays, some of whom they might not get to see very often.

When asked what makes Christmas unique for him, Dick W. replied quite simply, “family.” While the many holiday traditions themselves are significant for our residents, the people they have shared them with make them not just memorable but deeply meaningful. Family, including friends who have become like family, is truly at the heart of the holidays for our residents. Sharing the joy of Christmas with those they love is what started the magic all those years ago—and it’s what continues to keep the magic alive for them today. As John Williams goes on to so vividly capture after describing those gingerbread feelings, “somewhere in my memory, Christmas joys all around me … living in my memory all of the music, all of the magic, all of the family home here with me.” Christmas joys are in the memories of our residents; are they in yours, too?