My Dad loved Christmas. Every year, he hung a giant wreath from our balcony, strung lights on the bushes outside, hauled a giant, fresh tree into the house and supervised the ornament placement.
He did his own Christmas shopping as well, mostly on Christmas Eve day, although one year he spent weeks building and painting a puppet theatre he presented to my son Charlie.
My dad’s sister, Aunt Martha, who has become the family historian, recently told me a story that shed some light on the roots of my dad’s love for the holiday and provided another example of my grandma’s legendary practicality.
It turns out my Dad, his brother George and his sister Martha enjoyed two Christmas celebrations throughout their childhood, one on Christmas Eve, because the Kostelnik family practiced the Roman Catholic faith, and one on January 7, because their maternal grandmother’s family identified as Greek Orthodox.
This split religious identification worked out beautifully for my frugal grandma, who bought a Christmas tree each Christmas from the general store that employed her.
“A week before Christmas Grandma would buy a tree at the company store,” Aunt Martha told me. “Pap brought the tree home and your Dad and Uncle George would go down to Baba’s and bring home the Christmas ornaments. The ornaments were stored in a wooden dynamite box (from the coal mine). Pap put the tree in the stand and the emptied dynamite box was turned upside down and the tree placed on the box. The box and surrounding area were covered with a white sheet.”
It all sounds pretty magical and I love the idea of a single Christmas tree spreading joy to two households.
In honor of my dad, his mom, his grandma and his love of Christmas, I’m going to keep our tree up until January 7 as well. In fact, I’m sitting at my dining room table, looking over at it right now.
Merry extended Christmas from all of my beloved Pennsylvania relatives and me. And, if you care to come caroling at my house in the coming days, I may have a shot of whiskey for you.