2016-06-03

Editor's Note: Beliefnet featured a holiday books contest with the question, 'What's the one holiday memory you will never forget?'  We share the amazing stories of the five winners here.

During Christmas night, when I was an extremely young girl, I awoke to chatter in the kitchen. It sounded like two women. My sister was asleep in the same bed, so I nudged her awake. The two of us went off to investigate. First, we went to our parents’ room, but they were both sleeping and snoring soundly. Next, we proceeded down the stairs. No lights were on anywhere, but we could still hear the holiday sounds of clanking dishes, high heels on linoleum, running water, and the chatter of exciting preparation for the holidays. We looked in the living room and saw our presents sprawled out underneath the tree. Still hearing the festivities, we proceeded to the kitchen, but when we got within a few feet of the kitchen, the sounds suddenly stopped.

The two of us entered the kitchen to find it dark, and the way it was left the night before. Everything was put away, neat, and tidy. Not a single sign of the festive activities that we heard. We even checked the sink and the dish towel, and both were dry.

Immediately, my sister and I took off for our bedroom. We were somewhat scared, and we both took turns staying awake to listen for the sounds again. Eventually, we both fell asleep.

The next morning, we both ran downstairs to open our presents. Before we could begin, we had to tell our parents about what had happened. We explained how we heard two women in high heels having a grand time. Both our parents went pale. We girls refused to proceed with Christmas until they talked to us. You see, when our parents had looked at the house, one elderly woman was there. Our parents explained that she was moving because her sister, who had lived with her, had passed away. I asked my mother if the remaining sister was alive, but she didn't know.

The nightly festivities became a regular custom during all holidays. One Easter, I, all by myself, stood at the top of the stairwell and talked to the women. I explained that I thought they were wonderful people, and it was great that they were having such a wonderful time, but could they make sure we didn't hear them since it scared us? All of a sudden, the festivities ended. Never to be heard again.

To this day, I have never forgotten this. Even though it seems scary, it wasn't. if the festivities were just an echo from the past, why did they stop when I asked? Who knows? Perhaps those two sweet sisters are still celebrating their holidays in that very kitchen to this day.

This is a very true story. At a later age, when we discussed this, my mother did tell me that my parents had put presents out before they went to bed at 11 PM. The festivities always happened in the early AM—during which we would always find our parents asleep.

- Cecilia Andes of Pennsylvania

I have a lot of wonderful Christmas memories spent with family and friends, but the Christmas of 1980 has to be my favorite. I was approximately seven months pregnant, and my parents and my sister had made the trip to Jacksonville, FL to spend Christmas with my husband and me. Money had been tight, so I had made several gifts. I had made less expensive ones more special by embroidering them, and I had also made some really cute ornaments for our tree. Our meal turned out perfect and was made even better because we were able to share it with family. We stayed up until the wee hours talking and watching holiday movies.

Finally exhausted, we went to sleep. Well, we didn't get to sleep for long because my water broke (or at least I was pretty sure I had...my husband wasn't quite so sure). My husband and my father took me to the hospital to find out for sure what was going on. I knew for sure I was in labor just as soon as we walked through the emergency doors. I remember looking at my daddy and telling him, "I'm going to be here awhile." My beautiful son was born at 10:27 a.m. by Caesarian section, six weeks premature. It was as if God had said, "Here's my Christmas present to you this year. I love you; that's why I sent MY son to you so many Christmas' ago. Now your son can help remind you of my gift whenever you are feeling low. “ I still say that, with the exception of Jesus, my son Ryan was my best Christmas present.

- Robin Henry of Florida

When I was nine-years-old, my father was in the hospital during the holidays. Money was scarce and mom had five children to dress and to find presents for on Christmas. She told us the story of the Christmas Angel who, like the original Christmas Angels, brought tidings of great joy. Two days before Christmas, we heard a knock on the front door. When mom went to answer it, no one was there, but she found a package on the doormat. She brought it inside so we could all open it together. It had a label on it that read, "From the Christmas Angel.” Inside the package were new dresses for all four girls and a new dress shirt and pants for my brother. There was even a dress for my mom. Everyone screamed with joy and ran off to try on our Christmas Angel gifts.

- Kathleen Bergquist of Minnesota

My favorite Christmas memory is from when I turned 10-years-old. That Christmas was the last one spent as a family. My parents moved my brother and me to Florida and, soon afterwards, they divorced. I was always a "Daddy's girl." To lose him almost killed me, especially being in a new place and not feeling that my mother was capable of taking care of my brother, who was six years older, and me. That was also the last year I was sexually abused by my brother. You can imagine why that was a lasting memory for me. Don't ask me why it stopped when the opportunity was even greater for my brother to abuse me without my father being at home.

That Christmas, as a sheltered little 10-year-old, I felt very grown up because I got many of the things on my list…a princess ring, hair accessories, grown-up clothes, but most Importantly, I got my own private telephone. I had wanted a phone so badly, but was told I wasn't old enough to have a phone. When I opened that gift, I felt so grown up and so loved. When I think of that last Christmas so long ago, it truly does give me happiness and peace in my heart. God has been good to me and even though I have had some real struggles, I have had a good life. Today, at 61- years-old, I am totally alone. Both parents are gone now. I haven't seen my brother since my mother died 16 years ago. Even though I have developed a terminal condition and don't know if I will even have another Christmas, I am still so blessed.

- Shirley Little of Georgia

My favorite Christmas memory was the year my son turned seven-years-old and someone at school told him there was no Santa. He came home in tears and it broke my heart to see his innocence ruined by a thoughtless comment.

I told a friend at work what had happened, and we came up with the idea of having her husband’s friend call my son one night and say he was Santa. I gave her a copy of my son’s letter to Santa and a few nights later the phone rang. I answered it and told my son (who was also named Nicholas) that it was someone for him. He took the phone and got the most joyous expression on his face.

The friend told him that it was Santa, that he understood Nicholas didn't believe Santa existed anymore.

They had a conversation where my son was told the things he had put in his letter to Santa.. Then the friend told my son to always believe in magic and the joy of Christmas. He also reminded him that yes, Christmas was about Santa and toys, but the reason gifts were given was because of the first Christmas when gifts were given to the Christ child. He reminded Nicholas to always remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and to keep him in his heart all year long...not just at Christmas time.

After that phone call, there was no one who could convince my son that Santa didn't exist. Plus, Nicholas would also tell people the real meaning of Christmas and the story of the Christ child.

Nicholas is now 30-years-old and he became a father five months ago. A few nights ago, he reminded me of that phone call all those years ago and how much it had meant to him. He hopes that the first time his own son hears there is no Santa, a phone call will be made to remind him of the true meaning of Christmas.

- Deborah Finan of Florida

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