Remembering Christmases Past During a Challenging Present

500+ Free Christmas Wreath & Wreath Images - Pixabay

We are  approaching the Christmas 2020 holidays with misgivings because much about it this year is so un-Christmassy. With the COVID-19 pandemic running wild in our midst, along with bruised feelings in the aftermath of our national election,  it certainly isn’t getting to feel a lot like Christmas.  Perhaps we can make things have a little more of the “joy to world” spirit by laying aside today’s constraints and looking back–getting a little nostalgic, going back to a time when there was no pandemic, no quarantine, no social distancing, and no political malice.

I was revising the manuscript of my follow-up book  to Dark Days on the Fairest Isle a few days ago when I came to a scene in which it is Christmas morning and Claire, back on the island for a visit,  steals into her very sick Granny Belle’s room just to take a look at her. But as soon as the door opens and a streak of light falls across the bed, the old lady snaps, “Who dat!” surprising Claire who thought that the now weak, bed-ridden Granny Belle was asleep.  Claire darts over to the bed, kisses her grandmother’s wrinkled cheek, and whispers  “Merry Christmas.”  Granny Belle doesn’t know it’s Christmas. Claire begins to remind her about a Christmas past in which the two of them went to Christmas Market in downtown Kingston when Claire was ten years old. Claire gets wrapped up in her excitement, telling about getting a fifi and a balloon in the shape of rabbit with long, pointed ears. She carries the balloon high on its string and blows her fifi, making noise with the milling crowd in the street blocked off for shoppers only. It’s a warm Christmas memory for Claire, although Granny Belle hasn’t heard a word.

After reading what I had written, I thought it would be good if this Christmas we could raise the curtain on the past, look back to our childhood, and bring forward a Christmas memory to  cheer our hearts and help stabilize us in these unsettling times. So dust off your childhood memories of  Christmas. Indulge in a little nostalgia.  I have one incident that has stayed with me. I even wrote a short story about it called “Miss Clemmie and Me” and had the privilege of reading it on the radio one year at Christmastime.   In the gray dawn on Christmas morning when I was about nine years old, my neighbor, Miss Clemmie, took me to the Christmas service at her church. The service over, I thought we would be heading home, but no. Miss Clemmie led me to the bus stop and we boarded a different bus from the one that would take us home. We ended up at a race track. Was Miss Clemmie a betting woman?  We did stay at the tracks for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the horses bolt out of their  starting gates  and charge off down the track. The crowd cheered and people jumped up and down. I had a great time. The love and excitement I now get from watching horses race  was born on a Christmas day.

One childhood story that is rememberd every Christmas is poet Dylan Thomas’  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” It’s a simple story of a young boy’s romanticized recounting of the unpretentious, innocent days of Christmases past. He says, “I can never remember whether it snowed six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed  for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.” His story has some beautifully captured word pictures of snow, such as “snow that came shaken from white wash-buckets down the sky.” He remembers the jolly time  with his family and with his friends tromping through the snow-covered streets.  “Always on Christmas night there was music,”  he says, and “it was warm in the little house ”  where  “there are uncles  at Christmas. The same uncles.” Like many other children, he remembers  “the useless presents.”  The child’s narrative voice is sweet and sincere in this yuletide classic which shares his recollections of the companionship of friends and neighbors and the extended family at a most enjoyable time of the year.

Some may be quick to  point out that December 25 is not Jesus’ birthday. We all know that, but it would be the height of ingratitude and thoughtlessness  to have a momentous birth such as His–a birth predicted centuries before it occurred–go uncelebrated.  His  was a birth with a purpose.    A well-known carol strikes this important theological note:

Born to raise  the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

 Shepherds out under the night sky on the Judean hills  rejoiced when they heard the news of the birth of the Christ Child. We, too, can rejoice  at the news that is still new, still “good tidings.”

And the Child grew “in favor with God and man,” and “when He was come to years,”  He took note of the little ones and welcomed them into  His presence  with a message for us older ones when He  said,  “Let the  little  children  come to me. . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:14 NKJV).

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;
Be born in us today.

Merry Christmas!




  • Pauline

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder to make room in our daily lives for Jesus. Come Lord Jesus come, and renew the face of the earth. Thank you!

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Pauline,
      It may have become trite, but it is still true. Jesus is the reason for the season.
      I wanted to capture a little of the spirit of peace and loveliness that this special
      season brings. I’m glad my post struck a responsive note with you. Thank you for your
      meaningful comment. Christmas blessings to you. JN

  • Nanette Schell

    Dear Judith,
    I got up this morning and the first thing I did was sit at my desk and read your wonderful blog.
    It has brought back memories of years gone by when I remembered my first snow in England
    I must have been about ten when I looked out of the window and saw fir trees bent over and
    a young boy on a sled along with a man on skis. The snow was so deep and crisp.
    Of memories of Forest Glen when the snow turned the place into a Currier and Ives picture.
    You have a certain way to jog our memory into a different place, a good place, and I think of
    you in that good place.
    Claire was one of my favorite characters in “Fairest Isle” and I hope we will hear more about her
    in the future.
    Christmas will be celebrated in a different way this year because of the deadly virus. There will
    be hope in our heart’s for a cure, Christmas will still be a reminder of Christmas long ago.
    Love, Nanette.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Nanette,
      It wasn’t hard for you to jog your memories for beautiful recollections of Christmas. Isn’t it satisfying to think of
      the things that have given us joy? May the spirit and love of this wonderful season be yours. You bring so much
      happiness to others. Christmas blessings to you. JN

  • Fartema

    Judith, what a beautiful, heart warming, touching reminder of the ‘reason for the season.’ Your words of encouragement always brings me a measure of Joy. With time on my hand, this Christmas season, I again made a prayer chain garland to drape my
    little Christmas tree you once admired on my tiny porch. Thank you.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Fartema, I’m always glad to hear from you. You spread joy. I’ve seen your
      prayer chain. It’s beautiful. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. JN

  • Glenda Hubbell

    I enjoyed reading you Christmas blog. Brought back memories of my Christmases past. I hope you and Michael had a blessed Christmas. I just bought next year’s women’s devotional book. Was delighted to read your submission. Such a privlege to know you. Glenda

    • Judith Nembhard

      Hello Glenda,
      I’m glad you read my post. Those long-ago Christmases were fun, weren’t they? Their simplicity was part of their charm. Good memories.
      Thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate your kind words. JN