Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

Oh Christmas! What a wonderful time of year! I am not a huge fan of snow (although the no snow for almost a year thing here in Lincoln is freaking me out) but I am always so excited for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. So much of my love of the holidays stems around my family and what they did to create such a magical time of year when I was a child. 

Every year after Thanksgiving I drag boxes and boxes of Christmas to decorate the house. I always find myself remembering my childhood home, and the houses of my grandparents. Every house in my family was decorated with lights, stockings, trees, and poinsettias. But no one decorates for Christmas quite like my Grandma Gentzler. Back in the day, you couldn’t find a nook , cranny, or room that didn’t have some sort of Christmas in it. She could put the modern day bloggers and “pinteresters” to shame!

I have three favorite memories with her decorations. I always made sure to “go” in the back bathroom because she even hung garland and lights around the mirror. I thought it was fabulous! I have yet to do it in my own home. But I assure you, I will some day. She had a nativity set that we could actually play with, and I looked forward to doing that every time that I went to her house over the holidays.

But what takes the cake for me is this beautifully framed piece of red velvet that has many of her old jewelry pieces that are shaped into a Christmas tree. It is as amazing as it sounds, and when I was little, I could stare at that piece of art for hours. She had lockets with the grandkids’ pictures in them, and every year she added something new. It still hangs in her house today, and when we visit during the holidays, it still makes my heart skip a beat!

On the south side of the Platte River, my Grandma and Grandpa Schneider had lights blazing on the outside. I think I was 9-years-old when mom and dad told me, my sister, and my brother to get in the mini-van because they had a surprise for us. I will never forget pulling into the yard at Grandma and Grandpa Schneider’s and seeing the lights on their entire farm. Lights lined the driveway with posts that Grandpa usually used to put up fence. He had welded a giant Star that was wrapped in yellow lights that was placed high atop a grain bin. My mom had parked a tractor in their front lawn, and outlined the entire thing, and made the wheels look like they were spinning. There were Santa’s, candles, and reindeer. Even the corral at the back of the farm had lights. That will always be one of the best surprises of my life.

 But my parents are the ones that really put the Christmas magic in my heart. I’m still not fully convinced that there isn’t a Santa Claus. Why? 

Because every Christmas Eve the kids at the Lutheran Church in Cozad, Nebraska would put on a fabulous Christmas play, and every year my family participated. Every year we spent hours getting our hair curled, and putting on fancy dresses or costumes…and it seemed like it took the entire day. When I looked out into the audience my Mom, Dad, and both sets of grandparents were always there. 

But somehow when we got home…our Christmas tree lights were on (even though Mom had unplugged them when we left) and there were sleigh and reindeer tracks in our yard. Low and behold, Santa had come while we were at the church program! It happened every year, because he knew we were really busy on Christmas going to the Grandparent’s homes and it worked out great for him, because he got a head start.

That just reminded me…I still believe in Santa!

There are many other fond memories that I have…my mom cooking until the wee hours of the morning so she could deliver her famous baked goods the next day to what seemed like all of the neighbors in a 10-mile radius. I remember watching her sew a stocking for my brother and then again for Alexis five years ago. I remember watching her write every Christmas card by hand. I can still taste Grandpa Schneider’s homemade fudge and Grandpa Gentzler’s cookies. One year Grandma Gentzler made me put cloves in an orange one by one for the homemade wassail.

When you stop and think, it’s pretty amazing what my parents and grandparents did. Like I said, to me it was magic. But I think it was magical because it was tradition and it came from the heart. It wasn’t about buying new, fancy, modern decorations every few years, the things I cherished were what they made with their own hands and let me participate in making with them. 

I hope that this brings back a few fond Christmas memories for you, and I hope that it will inspire you to create many more with the people you love. What will your kids and grandkids look back upon 30 years from this Christmas? What will bring a smile to their face – as these memories do to mine?

Merry Christmas!

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.