Except for the usual commercial ones, we had no special Christmas traditions in my family when I was a child. We didn’t even prepare our own dinner, since the head of the household, a career military man, was expected to show up, family in tow, to partake of the U.S. Army’s generic holiday spread at the officers’ mess. That was also the case at Thanksgiving, so my cherished childhood memories do not include the tantalizing aroma of a juicy turkey bubbling in the oven, its skin growing crisp and golden, nor of chopping celery and onions for Big Mama’s cracker dressing, an extended-family tradition that I reclaimed later in my life.
As an American military family abroad, first in Japan and later in Germany, we attended non-denominational Protestant religious services, too, promoting a kind of generic Christianity in these formative years. So, until I was old enough to introduce other families’ traditions into our home, the warm memories of my Christmases past were pretty much confined to enjoying the caliber of the loot I found under a foldable aluminum Christmas tree – like the year I was eleven, when I was able to cadge a silver charm bracelet AND a lavender skirt and sweater set.
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