Wednesday, September 03, 2014




Advocate readers share Christmas memories

By Victoria Advocate
Dec. 24, 2011 at 12:24 p.m.
Updated Dec. 25, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.


INTRO

Christmas is a beloved time of year, filled with special memories of family, celebration and tradition. The Advocate asked our readers to share their favorite Christmas memories. Here is what you had to say about the magic of Christmas:

Small Christmas, big blessings

I'm 78 years old, and have many Christmas memories. But the best we ever had was December 2008.

I spent five months in the hospital, and when I came home, I had to learn to walk all over again.

My husband quit his job to take care of me. He fed me, washed me and my hair. He learned how to do the laundry, and made sure I took my pills.

We had no money saved, and had to drop all our health, renters and life insurance. We got on Meals on Wheels and received food from a church and the Salvation Army. We couldn't even afford bathroom tissue.

So we made no plans for Christmas, but we received gifts, food, and other items from our neighbors: a bag of food with a turkey, eggnog, and more, from old friends; a basket of food and other things from friends, and bags of necessities from the Senior Citizen Center.

Our only child and her husband sent us gifts and money. And we managed to find a small gift for each other.

God was looking out for us then. It was the best Christmas ever.

Beverly Ledington, Victoria


Good days without the hoopla

I remember when Christmas trees and decorations weren't displayed until Dec. 24. As children, we had a strong anticipation of Santa's coming. The tree was in our living room, and we couldn't see it until Christmas morning.

I remember we got to have our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, after a hardy supper cooked by my mother and grandmother, who lived with us at the time. My parents and their five children - three girls, two boys - plus my grandmother, were there.

There was always a bowl on the table filled with grass from the yard.

Also, a coin was placed under each plate, either a quarter, or silver dollar.

That Christmas, as we opened the door to the living room, we saw the tree agleam with dollar bills. They were hung all over the tree. What a sight that was to behold. We always had a nice tree.

Santa always was good about looking after us with gifts - not a lot, maybe one or two a piece - but it was enough to make us happy. It seems like we always received what we wanted.

Even though there was an economic depression, like now, somehow my parents always provided for us. They were very thrifty. We didn't always have a lot, but we always had a lot of love.

We always made the midnight Mass, decked out in our new clothes. If we got something new to wear, we wore it with pride.

Those were the good days, without all the hoopla that is put in all the stores and television.

To all, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Charlene Wick, Hallettsville


The Christmas doll

In 1960, my teacher, Mrs. Chance, made my Christmas very special. My dad was working at the school as a custodian, so she knew who he was.

My mom had been battling cancer for a year, and on Dec. 10, 1960, she died at the age of 29.

But before she died, she had several good days of health. One day, I went with her to the store and saw the most beautiful doll on display. I begged my mom to buy it for me, but she said maybe Santa would bring it for Christmas.

Since my mom didn't make it to Christmas that year, my dad and grandparents really made it special by buying me lots of presents. But Santa forgot about the doll.

My dad went back to work after the holidays, and one day he came home with a Christmas present.

Mrs. Chance was at the store the day I first saw the doll, and heard me tell my mom about it. When she learned of my mother's passing before Christmas, she went back to the store and bought the doll for me.

Bonnie Rangel, Goliad


Improvising Christmas

It was a cold, windy winter's day in 1953. A migrant worker's family of five was living in their makeshift, drafty home in midwest Ohio. Pinto beans were cooking on the kerosene stove, and Mama was making dough for tortillas.

My sisters - Gloria, 12; Esperanza, 9, and me, 6 - were snuggled on the sofa trying to keep warm. Our baby brother, Jr., was still sleeping.

Gloria whispered, "No Christmas tree this year." Then, she jumped up, ran out of the room, and came back with three brown paper bags.

First, she cut the bottoms off, handed me one and said, "Draw candy canes, ornaments and a big silver star. Color and cut them out."

Gloria gathered everything together. The green bag went over the front room lamp. The ornaments and candy canes, she pasted on the green bag. Then she draped and pasted silver garland all around.

We called Mama to come paste the silver star on the tree.

Suddenly, Gloria turned on the lamp. There, to my 6-year-old eyes, stood the most beautiful Christmas tree - put together with love and imagination.

Irma P. Flores, Victoria


Bride comes home for Christmas

The air vibrated with the excitement of the 1951 family Christmas Eve gathering; a mixture of Southern and Texan traditions. There was always the welcoming smell of tamales, the sound of the egg beater whipping the eggs for nog, and cheese grits bubbling straight from the oven.

This year was special for my grandmother because she was having the gathering at "The House."

My brother was bringing his new bride home - a Yankee. Would we scare her with this overwhelming family?

The vivacious, outgoing bride was quickly embraced by these wild Texans. Surprises were in store for her.

This Christmas called for an old fashioned tree. Dad, the bride, and I bundled up and climbed into the old Ford pickup to search for a tree. We searched along the river bluff. The truck moved slowly, then stopped. Dad handed me the hatchet and said, "Climb up and chop that limb."

My sister-in-law looked puzzled. "I don't see a fir," she said.

Dad smiled, and explained that our Christmas trees were live oaks.

On Christmas Eve, the decorated tree stood in a special corner with an abundance of gifts around it.

My sister-in-law learned to shuck tamales and eat grits. She has adapted beautifully to our customs. Few have managed to share the gift of love and memories of that Christmas in 1951.

Beverly Fletcher, Tivoli


Never stop believing in Santa

The Christmas of 1975 was rough on my family because my dad's work was real slow. Our money jar that year was empty.

My dad sat me and my siblings down for a family talk. Dad said we might not be able to have a Christmas tree, or very many gifts.

We understood, and went on to bed without giving it another thought.

But my dad was a very hard worker and provider, and he hated to disappoint his children.

Days went by, and finally, Christmas morning arrived. We got the biggest surprise that morning when we woke up and walked into the living room.

There, stood the biggest tree with lots of lights and many colorful presents. I asked my dad where all this came from. He winked at me and whispered in my ear, "I know Santa Claus!"

Since that day, I never stopped believing in Santa Claus. I will never forget my dad, who passed away last year with liver problems.

Mary Jane Mata, Victoria


Santa, the cat

My two older sisters were preparing to fly the coop and move to San Antonio. Our white-frame house in Elsa sat behind a beautiful citrus orchard. Christmas funds came from winter vegetable and citrus sales from our farm.

For Christmas that year, my daddy got me a kitten from a feed store he frequented. The furry little thing was in a package under the tree, with holes for him to breathe.

My sisters shooed me out of the living room, lest I hear his plaintive meows.

In the morning I met Santa, an appropriate name for a Christmas cat. As he grew, he became my delight.

However, one fateful day, my brother came complaining that something ate the heads off two of his 4-H chickens. Daddy concluded that it must have been a possum, and set a trap.

The next morning, the possum was trapped - it was Santa. I had to give him back to the feed store because he was no longer safe to keep around chickens.

Sr. Frances Cabrini Janvier, Victoria


My father's last Christmas

My most difficult, but most memorable Christmas in my life thus far, was Christmas 2009.

My father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2009, and that Christmas was spent at MD Anderson Cancer Center. We spent Christmas in the hospital, where my father underwent an intense and difficult Whipple surgical procedure.

y step-mother said if everything was OK the next Christmas, we'd spend it in Hawaii.

So that was our plan the entire year. On Dec. 19, 2010, we flew to Hawaii.

My dad's cancer progressed to stage 4. He was on several chemotherapy treatments and just felt sick. But he kept smiling, and was excited to go to Hawaii. My father had never been there, and he loved the ocean and warm weather.

He got sick on the plane, and we were all very worried. We just wanted to arrive in Hawaii so he could rest. He stayed in bed pretty much the first two days of our vacation, and didn't eat anything.

On the third day, he got up, ate some pancakes I prepared, and cracked a few jokes. It appeared he was feeling better.

The best memory that will stay with me forever is my father standing barefoot in the sand, watching the waves, and being warmed by the Hawaiian sun. He wasn't able to do that in such a long time, and it would be his last time, which I think he knew.

I didn't get a picture of him, but the picture in my mind will stay with me forever.

He felt good at that moment, and was able to rest his mind for a bit. He was able to just feel the sun and sand, listen to the waves, take in the fresh air, and be thankful, which I know he was. He was always appreciative of what he had.

And that was a moment he needed. I am so happy I was able to be there, and be a part of it. I miss him every day.

Saralin Hayes Hopkins, Victoria


Holiday with family, food, fun

At 18 years old, I can't remember much, but I have a memory of a Christmas that only I could have in this town.

It's the simple joy of waking up on Christmas to sacks of Christmas presents that my parents shoved under the tree.

They always took secret trips to Houston to get us only the best toys.

After wrecking the floor with torn paper and plastic bows, we'd get ready for the day. Dad and Mom would spend about an hour getting ready to visit my Momo's house to enjoy lunch.

There, we ate turkey with side dishes only Victoria folks could appreciate, such as rice and beans, dessert glop full of fruit and whipped cream, along with my mom's homemade, store-bought pies.

At Momo's, there were more toys and clothes than I could wish for.

After the food was cleared, and the adults finished talking, we'd head out. Some family stayed behind to enjoy more turkey, tortillas, and sweets. We would quickly hug aunts and uncles, then rush outside to play under the warm December sun.

Then we'd end the day at Faith Family Church, with the sight of my parents raising their hands during prayer, and my brother falling asleep - ready to head home, and back to everyday life.

Delaney Rosales, Victoria


Christmas miracle baby

He gazed up at me with sparkling blue eyes, and a grin that formed a tiny dimple on his right cheek. I couldn't help but smile back, as I picked him up out of his crib and gave him kisses.

It was my first Christmas morning as a mother, and I had my son at my side. I never imagined having Christmas with him, or any other holiday.

Landon was 15 weeks premature and had heart problems, which took a toll on all of his family.

That Christmas was a gift from God, letting me know my son would always be with me.

I strapped Landon in his car seat, and drove over to my parents' house. I knew everyone was excited about this Christmas. Landon was the first grandchild, so he would be spoiled on Christmas day.

I walked inside, and my family gathered around the living room to exchange presents. They watched as Landon attempted to open gifts. Sitting on my lap, he chewed on wrapping paper, and was frustrated because Gigi had to open his presents for him.

But Landon didn't pout at his gifts, or dislike anything he got. He just marveled at all of his toys, and that's all a mother could ask for.

Nancy Campbell, Goliad


Searching for Santa

On Christmas Eve, we bake cookies and a cake in honor of Jesus's birthday. Then we load up in our vehicle, and make a stop at Cimarron Express for a cup of hot chocolate.

Then we drive toward Riverside Park in search of Santa's reindeer. We usually find them behind the RV park on Vine Street, or down Red River Street near the convention center.

We greet the reindeer, and tell them where we live. Then we drive to Cuero's "Christmas in the Park." We tour the park twice, in case we missed something the first time around.

Then we come back to Victoria, and drive around town looking for the best Christmas-lit houses.

We don't have gifts under the tree at home because Mom and Dad don't buy presents, or shop on Black Friday. To our surprise, when we come home, gifts are scattered under the tree.

Crumbs are left where cookies once were, and the milk is gone!

The fireplace screen is a mess, decorations are tipped over, and Santa is gone. Until Christmas Eve, no gifts were under the tree.

The kids are allowed to open one gift, and save the rest until the morning. Everyone is thankful.

Jennifer Perez, Victoria


The Christmas star

Of all the holidays, the celebration of Christmas Eve is forever etched in the memory of my heart.

It was on this day, that a tree - usually a cedar cut from the farm - was decorated and put up in our living room.

We fasted from food, yet spent the day baking and cooking for the evening's supper. The celebration feast began when the first star would appear in the late evening hour.

After the traditional meal of fish, and oysters, and other wonderful food, we proceeded to open our gifts.

At midnight, we attended Mass at the local church, which was adorned with poinsettias, and a manger scene where the infant Jesus lay in a bed of straw.

There was no doubt in my mind that Jesus was the center of this celebration.

Each Christmas Eve, I still step outside at dusk, and look up to the sky to see that first star, that let my family know many years ago it was time to go inside and taste the celebration that was about to begin.

Emma Raska, Yoakum


Christmas spirit is alive

Growing up, I knew that my parents struggled to make ends meet. But it was not until I had a child of my own, that I realized how difficult it can be to make Christmas special.

One Christmas, when I was about 9 years old, my parents sat me and my sister down, and told us that they could not afford presents that year. I was sad and disappointed, and I cried because I longed to be like the other kids with lots of presents under the tree.

The closer it got to Christmas, the more it hurt to see our small, but beautiful tree, with nothing underneath.

A few days before Christmas, my mom, sister and I were sitting in the living room when we heard a knock at the door. My mom opened the door, and there were several people from our church with Christmas presents for our family. They came in, and placed the mound of presents under our tree. My family felt so blessed that year.

That is my most treasured Christmas memory because it taught me there are caring people in the world, who keep the Christmas spirit alive and well.

Kathern Sparks, Victoria


The walking doll

I saw it at the grocery store when I went shopping with Mom - a walking doll. I loved it, and found my mother to tell her about it.

Lo and behold, on Christmas Day, there it was under the tree for me! I could not believe it!

That was many years ago. I don't know what ever happened to the doll, but the memory has never left me. As much as that doll meant to me then, it has meant so much more as the years have gone by.

I grew up, got married, had children, went to college and embarked on a teaching career. Then one day it hit me. My parents could not have afforded to buy me that doll. They were hardworking people, who barely made ends meet. Yet they sacrificed, so I could have it.

I still get emotional when I think about it. Unfortunately, when I came to this realization, they had both passed away, and I was not able to thank them in the special way they deserved. You see, they gave me more than a doll; they gave me a beautiful memory.

Elma Constancio, Palacios


Christmases of old

I'm in my 80s, and have lived through many Christmas seasons. My special Christmas memories are the ones during World War II. Remember Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941? That was 70 years ago, and war was declared soon after.

With so much caring and sharing everywhere, the true meaning of Christmas was so enjoyable. Never have I seen and witnessed loyalty, pride, and sincere patriotism as I did at that time.

Without regrets, many sacrifices were made on the home front, in order for the military to be well supplied.

Christmastime brought thoughts of home. Many families opened their homes for those away from home during Christmas.

Churches held special Christmas programs and special invitations were given to those in military uniform.

A little church, once located on Austin Street, always sang the old Christmas songs that sent out heavenly sounds. It was so very beautiful.

An apple, an orange, and a little candy cane were handed to each child and military person in attendance.

I'll always cherish the Christmas memories during the years of the second world war.

Edith Brewer, Yoakum


God and grandmother answer Christmas prayer

Christmas is the time for love. Christmas is the time for cheer. But the Lord Jesus is here not only at Christmas, but also the entire year.

It happened in 1988, outside of the Casa Ole restaurant entrance at the Victoria Mall. I was 15 years old, skateboarding with my brother and friends.

My beloved grandmother Matilde had recently died, and next to my mother, she was the most important person in my life. She always favored me, and gave me money for Christmas.

That's how I bought gifts for everyone. But she was not with us that December. So as I skated, I prayed to my grandmother through our Lord Jesus Christ, to let her know I love and miss her very much, and that I didn't know how I was going to make it through Christmas without her.

And as soon as I finished praying and made the sign of the cross, a bag containing a receipt from the Piercing Pagoda store flew by, and stopped right at my feet. It had $90 inside the bag.

They were both listening. You do the math. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! God bless us all!

Mark Soto, Victoria


Wishing for snow

One of my fondest memories of Christmas is the year of the snowfall on Christmas Eve in Victoria. To make our Christmas more perfect, our whole family was safe in our home for the holidays.

Some of our grandchildren had never seen snow, and some of our grandchildren lived in Wisconsin. They were excited to see snow in Texas. That year, there was no snow in Wisconsin until after Christmas.

We hosted a Christmas Eve open house the night of the snow and were delighted to have had a crowd.

The Christmas decorations in the yard looked so beautiful reflecting off the snow. We were fearful the snow would quit falling anytime, but it continued to fall throughout the night.

Each holiday season I make a wish for snow here in Victoria - here's wishing!

Jo Cornstubble, Victoria


Arizona Christmas

When I was 4 years old, my father was lucky to find a steady job. Most of them paid him $1 per day in a citrus grove near Yuma, Ariz.

We lived in a small house near the Yuma Desert. At that time, my brother was 1, and my sister was 6 years old. We certainly had no money for a Christmas tree. The Great Depression had arrived by 1929.

Mamma took an axe, and all three children into the desert, and cut a greasewood shrub. These shrubs grow to about two-feet high, and have small, shiny leaves. It was about 1/2

Mamma put the shrub in a big bucket and put oranges and grapefruits all around it. These were free for us because my father worked in the grove.

My sister made paper chains from colored funnies and flour paste. Soon we had the most beautiful tree we'd ever seen!

In fact, 83 years later, I still can't recall a more delightful Christmas tree!

Opal Parsley White, Goliad


It is about the small things

The memory of my best Christmas was in 1967, when I was 5 years old. My presents had no wrapping paper or bows, just my name on a tag.

One present that year, was a doll with long hair. It came with rollers and a brush.

We didn't have a lot, so I did not think I was getting anything that big.

Earlier this month, my son and I attended a Christmas party for special needs adults and their families. As I was enjoying the music and food, a young lady sat beside me, and a young man sat across from her. She said, "I am your Christmas buddy. What do you want for Christmas?"

"Notebook paper and pencils, not pens," he replied.

We should all remember the very small things. Not the amount or quantity.

Mary Ann Medina, Markham


Overjoyed with Eve snowfall

It was Christmas Eve 2004. My 89-year-old mother wanted to go to candlelight Christmas Eve services at our church in Portland. It was very cold at 10:30 that night. But I bundled her up, and my husband helped put her, and her walker, into the car. Then I drove us to the church.

After the services, we filed out of the darkened church with lighted candles, singing "Silent Night."

And when I opened the door, the most beautiful sight of falling snow was completely covering the ground.

The children coming out of the church were ecstatic and making snow angels on the lawn.

Churchgoers were laughing with joy, and the air was filled with "oohs" and "ahs."

I rushed to the car, and picked up my husband and mother.

My windshield wipers were so icy, they were having trouble clearing the glass.

We were all so overjoyed with this beautiful sight. We drove around for a while, taking in God's gift on such a special night.

It was easily 2 a.m. by the time everyone got to bed.

My daughter and I were still awake, however, and we heard knocking on the door. Peeping outside, we saw Santa Claus standing on the porch.

We were afraid to open the door because this would be a good ploy for someone to get you to willingly open a door.

While the two of us discussed what to do, Santa stood smiling and "ho-ho-ing" on the cold porch. Finally, my neighbor's wife stepped out from behind him and said, "Merry Christmas!"

We let Santa inside, and had a good laugh when he explained that he did not want to waste suiting up for the occasion. He had planned to surprise their grandchildren in Corpus Christi, but the Harbor Bridge was closed.

All in all, the South Texas Christmas miracle of 2004 gave me a special Christmas memory.

Carol Quick, Victoria


'I lost the baby Jesus'

Since most of my life was spent in the classroom, I chose a classroom memory.

Part of my curriculum requirements were to have students write a variety of speeches.

Just before school was out for the holidays, I'd assign a demonstration speech.

One student, Jon, was in a rather small class, which seemed to increase the pressure of standing before his friends. Some students brought intricate, detailed ornaments for their demonstration - the kind that makes teachers wonder if the students really created these miracles. But they finished the process with sufficient enough skill to dispel all doubt.

Jon was the last to speak. He carefully withdrew an assortment of colored, two-dimensional figures resembling paper dolls, from a shoe box. He carefully arranged a familiar Christmas scene: the three Magi, angels, Mary, Joseph, and a three-dimensional stall.

Jon, who was agile and confident on the basketball court, began an awkward explanation of how and why he created his replica of the Nativity scene.

Beneath a droopy wisp of blond hair, his face had become flushed. Suddenly, his face lost all color. I thought surely he was about to faint. "Jon?" I said.

He looked directly at me. His look was desperate. Surely, making a speech couldn't have triggered such a reaction? Jon was a good student. The color began returning to his face.

He managed to regain his composure exclaiming, "I've lost the baby Jesus!"

The class began to giggle, then broke into uproarious laughter.

"Jon, I'm afraid a lot of us have," I said.

He sat down and began to smile, and then he started laughing, too.

When I hear Christmas carols playing over the Halloween decorations, or read of Black Friday people stampeding others to buy electronics, I think of Jon - who knew there couldn't be a Christmas without the baby Jesus.

Linda Henderson, Cuero


Coming home for Christmas

My Christmas in December 2010 was unexpectedly one of the best Christmases ever.

My husband had been deployed with the U.S. Navy in May of that year to Djibouti, Africa.

A lot of exciting things were going on around this time: our daughter Kinsley's first Christmas, and my sister was getting married to one of my husband's best friends.

Little did I know, he secretly planned his leave during this time.

He spent two days traveling so he could spend Christmas with us, and share the wonderful memories with me. It was, by far, one of the best Christmas memories ever!

Bonnie LaFlamme, Victoria


Jesus is reason for season

When my siblings and I were little, we lived in a small town named Mirando City.

We had the most beautiful Christmas, thanks to my Aunt Lala, the most loving, caring and giving person. She would invite my mother, grandmother and some of the ladies from town, to come to her house a few days before Christmas to make tamales, pan de polvo and menudo for the Posada.

On Christmas Eve, my father and mother would take us to church for the midnight Mass. Then we would go to my Aunt Lala's house for the Posada, where she had a life-size Nativity scene.

We would pray, sing and then all go outside and pair off and hold our scarves. My aunt would bring the baby Jesus, and we would sing and rock the baby Jesus to sleep. We always looked forward to the night baby Jesus was born.

Everyone in-and-around town would come and enjoy the Nativity scene and the food.

On Christmas day, we would open our gifts. Jesus was, and still is, truly the reason for the season.

Thanks to my Aunt Lala for my Christmas memories.

Norma Davila, unknown town


Simple Christmas

My special memory of Christmas was going to the creek bottom to search for the perfect, live oak tree limb that resembled a Christmas tree.

Daddy would use a handsaw to cut the limb, and we would gather Spanish moss.

At home, we would fill a bucket of dirt to put the tree inside. The moss would cover the bucket, and drape around the tree for a skirt. We had a few ornaments, but mostly we would color lines in our tablets, cut them out, and make chains for the tree.

Mother would also make popcorn, and we would string the popcorn to make chains for the tree.

Because we had no electricity, there were no lights on our tree. But the icicles on the tree would glow by the kerosene lamp.

Apples and oranges were placed under the tree for decoration, and to eat.

When we entered our house, all four rooms smelled like apples.

On Christmas Eve, the kids would be sent out to rake leaves, and Santa would visit our home and leave one gift under the tree to enjoy.

We usually went to midnight Mass or 6 a.m. Mass to celebrate our Lord's birth.

Janet "Nat" Heikel Foerster, Goliad


Christmas in the country

More than 75 years ago, when I was about 5 years old, I went home with my two cousins to spend the night. I was raised in town, but they lived on a farm in the country about 10 miles away.

It was a new experience to see all their animals, and watch them feed the chickens and turkeys.

After a delicious supper, we hurried to their little country church at a place called Caddo.

The weather was so cold, but they had a big pot bellied stove to keep us warm. We found a seat in the church, which was decorated so pretty with all kinds of shiny stuff.

And inside the church, they had the biggest, prettiest Christmas tree I had ever seen. I couldn't keep my eyes off it.

Then it was time to start the program, and the preacher read the Christmas story after we sang carols. Following the prayers, it was time to go home.

We were putting our coats on, when we heard bells jingling and a loud "Ho, ho, ho!" It was Santa Claus. He gave every person there a bag of fruit, nuts and candy.

This was one of the best Christmas memories I can remember - Christmas in the country.

Hazel Meyer, Port Lavaca


Santa Claus stops by

On a cold Christmas morning, when I was 5 years old, my mother gathered me up and carried me from the bedroom to the living room.

A fresh cut Christmas tree from our farm was in the corner of the room. Hanging on the tree were clip-on candles, cinnamon sticks, licorice, small apples, strings of popcorn, and orange drops on a string. Together, they perfumed the home with such good smells.

As we were going through the room, a rustling noise broke the silence. There, under the tree, was a pair of mice enjoying Christmas, too. It scared me, and I'll never forget.

Then we entered the kitchen, where we found kerosene lamps, a large wood-burning stove, cream of wheat and hot chocolate.

Later, we would dress up in our Sunday best, and visit my cousin's house for supper. Turkey, dressing, pies, homemade divinity, fudge and egg nog were all on the menu.

My cousins had electricity and colored lights because they were railroad people.

We began singing Christmas carols, and there was a knock on the door. Then we heard "Ho, ho, ho!"

We opened the door, and saw Santa Claus. He had dolls for each of us, and a large electric train set. We played all night with the toys.

Because of that one Christmas night that I'll never forget, I'll always believe in Santa Claus. And I'll always remember Mr. Harry Alexander - Victoria's Santa.

Fredaline Najvar, Victoria


Santa runs late

Christmas was always special because my father always told me Santa stories, and we sang Christmas songs together.

My name is Gloria Lopez, and my father was Jesus "El Palomo" Luna. We lived on the McFaddin Ranch. My father was the school janitor for over 40 years.

I never thought we were poor, but now I know why some of my Christmases did not include presents.

Even without gifts, I always got a stocking with candy, oranges, apples and some quarters.

My father used to tell me that by the time Santa got to my house, it was already daylight, so he couldn't stop at our house.

One Christmas morning in 1958, I woke up to no presents. Santa was running late again. That morning, my Mom and I walked more than two miles to my grandparents' house because my father didn't own a car.

My grandfather asked me if Santa had left me some presents. I started to cry, and told him Santa hadn't stopped at my house.

Suddenly, my father walks out of the next room with gifts. He told me Santa had lost his way, and left my presents at my grandparents' house instead of my own.

I got a doll, and an iron with an ironing board. I still have that iron.

I miss my father every day. But I miss him most of all at Christmastime.

Gloria Luna Lopez, Victoria


Pillow Pet pandemonium

It was the Saturday before Christmas and my sister and I were watching cartoons. Suddenly, the Pillow Pet commercial came on. "I really hope we get a Pillow Pet for Christmas!" said Sissy.

"Me too. I would like the ladybug a lot," I said.

"I want the unicorn; it's so pretty," said Sissy, dreamily.

A few days later, Sissy and I really wanted to know if we were going to get what we wanted. So, when our mom and dad weren't looking, Sissy and I crept into Mommy and Daddy's room.

"Look at this," I whispered, showing her a shopping list with Pillow Pets written on it.

We cheered with excitement.

Finally, it was Christmas. To our great disappointment, none of our gifts were Pillow Pets. Sissy even started crying.

Heartbroken, we went to our room. Moments later, we were surprised to find two Pillow Pets standing on a perfectly made bed.

Quicker than you could say "Merry Christmas," Sissy and I were squeezing our new presents and screaming, "We got Pillow Pets!"

It was a thrilling Christmas.

Victoria Reyes, (3rd grade)


Christmas kitchen mess

There was a crash in the kitchen, then a piercing scream, followed by a howl of laughter.

I remember Christmas 2009 like it was yesterday.

I was helping grandma cook the Christmas feast. Everything was hectic at first. A large mess of flour and sugar were scattered across the floor.

We were preparing turkey, ham, pecan and chocolate pies, turkey dressing, green beans, and yams. It was going to be magnificent.

The pies were my favorite thing to cook, made of Karo syrup, pecans, cocoa powder, and whipped cream. They were tasty, wonderful, Christmas pies.

Even though it was a pigsty in the kitchen, my grandma and I had more fun than monkeys in a barrel.

Christmas may have started as a mess, but it was sure fun.

A peaceful evening with family always makes me smile. I know a lot of people think Christmas is all about receiving, but it's the giving, laughing, cheer, and happiness that count.

By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted. We all sat down to watch "A Christmas Carol," then we fell fast asleep. Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.

Montavius Coleman, Inez


First snow

Swish! The slushy ice from the melted snow spews all around me, as I jump into the partially melted frozen rain.

All around me, I hear the sounds of icicles going "drip, drop."

The temperature is probably about 20 degrees, and to keep warm and toasty, I'm wearing about four layers of clothes. The weight of the clothes make it hard to walk.

So instead, I wobble around my front yard like a penguin in Antarctica. As I make my way around the yard, I stop in every fresh patch of snow and make snow angels. After a while, it looks like graceful angels have fallen from the sky.

My dad and I used the remaining snow to make a snowman. But we weren't very successful.

Instead, we played in the frozen wonderland outside our house. That year, the Christmas of 2004, was my most memorable Christmas because it was my first time to see snow.

Looking back on that memory makes me hope that we may receive another Christmas miracle like that again.

Taylor McGinnis, Edna


Mom gets married

When you are a kid, there is always one day you look forward to every year. The day you go to bed early, just so you can wake up your parents at 6 a.m., screaming "He came, he really came!"

Usually all the best Christmas memories are about opening the presents, or eating all the junk food.

But my Christmas memory happens the day after Christmas. It was seven years ago that a very special moment happened. It was a moment that would change my life, and my family's life forever.

My mom and stepfather were getting married. I was in the wedding, of course, as a flower girl. I remember being the happiest girl in the world because I was able to stand up there with my mommy in her beautiful dress, in front of everybody.

After the wedding me and some other little kids danced in a shower of bubbles.

My mom and stepfather had their special dance together, too. They looked so happy dancing. My mom looked like she was gliding above the floor.

The wedding will always be the memory that I will never forget.

Samantha Fleming, Inez


Spending time with family

Singing songs, dancing, and decorating the Christmas tree are all ingredients for a perfect Christmas.

I will never forget on Christmas in particular, it was the best I ever had. I have delightful memories of laughing with family and friends, hanging stockings and waiting for St. Nick. The smells of cinnamon and spice filled the air, and the cries of joy when all of us are opening our gifts.

Opening presents is fun, but Christmas is all about family.

Playing in the snow can get frustrating when you are trying to hit your sister in the face with a snowball. She ducks and covers, and I miss. Then I get furious, and tackle her to the ground.

After playing in the snow, we need to defrost. We go inside to eat Christmas dinner, and drink hot chocolate. Eating delicious ham and turkey can brighten your whole day.

In the end, it doesn't even matter about the presents or the food. Christmas is all about spending time with family, and celebrating a whole day of love. This is a Christmas I will never, ever forget.

Kylie Robert, LaWard


A puppy for Christmas

As mistletoe and tinsel danced around the ceiling, the sweet aroma of apple cinnamon drifted through the air. Our Christmas tree convened in the corner of the brightly lit room. Crystal and wooden ornaments dangled from its branches.

Crisp and freshly-bought presents were carefully positioned underneath the tree. Family members moseyed around the busy room arranging dishes of treats and decorations.

As the parents and grandparents hand out gifts, I sneak a peanut butter cookie into my mouth for a delicious complement to our Christmas dinner.

As bags are opened, a small noise erupts from a medium-sized box marked with my name. The room becomes silent, as I shred the glittery wrapping paper onto the cushioned carpet. The lid glides off the box, and a small brown puppy jumps on my lap. The puppy licked my face with its warm tongue, as if to let me know, "Hey! I'm right here!"

Then it settled down and melted my heart. It looked at me as if I were the prize, rather than the outrageously lucky winner.

Katherine Lefler Schroeder, Victoria


Winter wonderland

Waking up on Dec. 25, 2004, was like waking up in a dream. When you see snow for the first time, a sense of awe washes over you.

I remember looking out the window on that special Christmas, and thanking God for the beautiful blanket of snow. I kept rubbing my eyes, thinking it was just a mirage. Soon, my little sister was wide awake, and bouncing off the walls. She was not only excited that Santa Claus had come, but also because it was actually snowing.

So we opened our presents quickly, then changed into appropriate snow clothing. I remember feeling the coldest breeze on my face when I burst out the door.

It was amazing to actually smell and taste the snow. It was the perfect winter wonderland.

The snow was falling lightly, and everything was snuggled under a blanket of white. Moments later, the perfect blanket of snow was full of footprints.

We played happily in the snow, prancing and even falling flat on our faces. But we still laughed gleefully when we got back up.

Christmas will always be my favorite time of the year, but there was so much joy the year it snowed. That's why Dec. 25, 2004, is my favorite Christmas memory.

Katy Tumlinson, Inez


Christmas-red nail polish

My mom rushed out the door to turn on the car and warm it up. The door slammed behind her as she scurried into the house, shivering from the chilly December air.

Her face pouted when she realized my older sisters' hair wasn't fixed, and my nails weren't painted. She sat me down in the highchair at the dining room table with Playdough and a bottle of nail polish within reach.

My hand crept up the table, as my mom walked into the bathroom. I snatched the bottle, and hurriedly opened it so my mom wouldn't hear. Bright red nail polish gushed out of the bottle onto my face, fingers, and pajamas.

My mom stormed into the room, ready to lay a hand on my behind.

We had Christmas pictures in 30 minutes and my face and fingers were now very, very red. She ripped off my pajamas, threw all four kids into the car, grabbed the nail polish remover and started scrubbing.

We arrived at the photographer on time and took beautiful pictures. Nobody knew that I had been bathed in nail polish remover only minutes before.

Amy Hessler, Victoria


Honoring a father's memory

We decided to celebrate Christmas early last year, on Dec. 18. That morning, as I walked into the living room, I saw there were presents under the tree.

I could smell the sweet aroma of pie and turkey coming from the kitchen.

My father and I sat down to watch some football. We ate at about noon, and after much anticipation, we finally sat down to open presents.

When it was my dad's turn, he started shouting and pretending to cry at every present he opened. But then he went to open a small box. He stopped, looked at me, and opened it painfully slowly. To his surprise, he found an elegant Citizen watch and cried with real joy.

At about 8 p.m., he decided to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" with my mother.

For some reason, God decided it was time for my dad to be with him. My father passed away on Dec. 18, 2010, but left me with the best Christmas a son could ask for. Every day, I wear the watch that touched him so much, as a way to honor him.

Trent Perry, Inez


Farmhouse festivities

Christmas on Sestak Hill is a memory that stays with me forever. We had 16 uncles and aunts, 28 cousins, and one of the best grandmas ever, crammed into a tiny farmhouse. It was a recipe for holiday success.

On Christmas Eve, the festivities began. The cousins quickly hugged Grandma before heading to the hay-filled barn, or congregating in the bedroom. We were planning a secret production of the birth of Jesus Christ to be performed later that evening.

Food, laughter and love were plentiful. As night fell upon us, the only way to conjure up Santa Claus was to pile all the cousins on the living room couch to sing Christmas songs.

With a tap on the door, we knew Santa had arrived. Through the years, different uncles made their debut as the Santa. Later, male cousins performed the coveted role.

It was never about the presents at Grandma's house, although Santa found gifts for all.

As the night dwindled, it was time to depart. It was sad to leave, but we knew this special day would come to life again in another 365 days.

Barbara Charbula, Inez


Christmas in Espana

Christmas 2008 was the best Christmas I ever had. My family and I flew to Spain where my grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles live.

We drove to San Antonio, then flew to Portugal. From Porto, Portugal, we had to take another flight to Barcelona, Spain.

When we got there, I was greeted by my cousins and grandparents.

"Hola. como estas, Kevin?" which means, "Hello. How are you?" in Spanish. I greeted everyone with a big, warm hug.

We spent two weeks in Spain.

On Christmas, my dad said he had a big surprise for me. At 10 p.m., I would have a lot of fun, he said. Before I knew it, we went to Camp Nou, one of the biggest stadiums in the world.

That night, I screamed my lungs out. Ninety minutes passed, and Barcelona beat Levante 4-1. It was one of the best soccer games ever, and definitely the best Christmas that I've ever had in my life.

Kevin Montemavor, Lolita


The day before Santa

The best Christmas was in 2005. I was about 4-feet-5, and the snow was almost to my chest. It was so cold, I was sneezing ice cubes.

I felt amazing after sipping hot chocolate and pigging out on some delicious cookies.

Once my family came over, we greeted them, and then the kids wanted to play. I think I ran out of the door at a million miles per hour.

I was surprised I was sweating; I didn't think it was possible to sweat in the freezing cold.

Then my aunt called us in for dinner. After we enjoyed the incredible meal, I thought I might vomit because I had eaten so much.

After I finished opening presents and everyone left, I was ready for Santa to come. After we were all tucked in, I could have sworn I heard Santa walking down the hall. Then I closed my eyes, and fell into a deep sleep. I couldn't wait to open my presents!

Jakub Rozsypal, LaSalle


White elephant Christmas

My favorite Christmas was about four years ago. I was at my cousins' house a week before Christmas, and we were upstairs acting out the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Unfortunately, I was played a boy's part - 10 lords a leaping - but I had fun anyway.

My brother was embarrassed to play the nine ladies dancing, and forced my mom to be that one. So he got to play eight maids a milking.

It was so much fun. For one thing, you spend time with your family, and have buckets and buckets of fun at the same time.

Right after we acted out the "Twelve Days of Christmas" we all went upstairs to exchange presents. We would all get in a circle and wait until it was our turn to pick a present. If you did not like your present, you could switch presents with someone else.

Anyway, so when it was my turn to choose a gift, I got the one with the prettiest wrapping paper on it. It was a knife - boring!

My dad got fluffy, white house shoes and lotion that he did not want. But I did not want that either.

After my great-aunt picked her present, I wanted to trade with her because she got Skittles lotion and Skittles shampoo and conditioner, and other Skittles things. So I traded with her. She didn't mind having the knife, she would not use it anyway.

This was my favorite Christmas because I spent time with my family and we had a great time.

Shelby Williams, LaWard


The peppermint stick

I can remember as a child, I used to love going to Grandma's. She spoiled all the grandkids, but I always thought she spoiled me the most.

The first Christmas I remember was at grandma's house in 1985. I was 4 1/2

We spent the day playing outside in the snow. We made snow angels, snowmen, and even had snowball fights.

It was a day I will always remember. Grandma had so many grandkids, but not much money for presents.

Every Christmas, we received a small, brown goodie bag filled with an apple, orange, pecans and a giant peppermint stick.

As we got older, we stopped receiving the bags, but she continued giving us the peppermint stick.

Years have passed, and in 2009, so did Grandma. But I will always cherish our memories. I will continue the tradition of the goodie bags with my children, nieces, and nephews.

Out of all the gifts I could ever ask for, I would do anything to receive one more peppermint stick from my grandma's hands.

Sandra Banda, Victoria


Grandma's Life Savers

As we were growing up, my grandparents did not have much. So for Christmas, all the grandchildren were given a pair of socks and a book with rolls of LifeSavers in them.

As long as I can remember, that's what we got each year. At the time, we did not really get too excited, or moved by the gift.

As we got older, my grandparents gave us much nicer, more expensive, gifts.

Unfortunately, two years ago, we lost my grandmother.

The first Christmas without her was very hard and sad. As we gathered around the family table, and started talking about special Christmas memories, we all remembered the socks and LifeSaver books. No one remembered the expensive gifts she bought us, but everyone remembered the little, insignificant gifts. Now we see those LifeSaver books at Christmas, and it brings tears to our eyes.

It's funny how something so meaningless to some can hold such a wonderful memory for others. So cherish all the little things because you never know how great they can be. In loving memory of Lucy Garcia.

Anna Flores, Victoria


Florida Christmas

My most remarkable Christmas happened on Dec. 25, 2010. My mom and I surprised my grandmother with a trip Florida to see her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.

My grandma was so excited because this was the first time in 89 years she ever traveled out of Texas.

The whole drive, she loved the different scenery. When we were going through Louisiana, she was baffled at how long the longest bridge was. She could not believe it.

We also drove through New Orleans, and she was able to get a first-hand view of the devastation left behind from Hurricane Katrina. It was powerful to see the look on her face as we drove through all the different places.

When we finally arrived in Florida, she was so happy to see her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

While we were visiting them, my uncle and cousin took us to their workplace. They worked on a pipeline, and my grandma was so amazed by that.

Then one day, they took us to see the manatees at a wildlife park.

The most important thing she wanted to do while there was eat good shrimp. We made sure she got to do that.

It was so inspiring to be able to take my grandmother on a vacation at a wonderful age. The best thing I have for Christmas this year is that I still have my 90-year-old grandmother.

May everyone have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Nicole Stiles, Victoria


Poor, but thankful

Growing up on the farm, Christmas was a special celebration for us. We were poor, but didn't know it.

Our parents sold scrap cotton to buy a box of apples and oranges - the only time of year we got some.

With only the apple, orange, piece of candy and a small toy, we felt like we had the world. We were excited because it was the only toy we received all year.

On Christmas Eve, our dad bought a big red fish wrapped in newspaper, and our mom made the best fish soup ever. There was no meat on Christmas Eve, but for Christmas Day, we had home-raised baked goose for dinner with fresh vegetables. We were all thankful for everything.

If today's kids received what we got as children, they would say "Is that all?" But we never did.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were really celebrated back then. We grew up during the 30s and 40s, when times were hard. But we always had plenty to eat and wear, so as small children, we didn't know we were poor.

Now I'm almost 80 years old. I'm still poor, but thankful for everything we have: electricity, running water and not having to chop wood for heat. Merry Christmas everybody.

Granny Alice Laitkep, El Campo


German Christmas

It was Christmas in Germany, 1961. Our hostess invited us to her home for supper and midnight services at the protestant church.

The night was very cold, with clear skies and millions of stars.

As we walked, the snow crunched, and our breath steamed. The church was a very old stone building dim lighting and no heat.

I knew very little German, but I recognized the Lord's Prayer. Some young people presented a very simple Nativity scene, wearing their everyday clothes.

As we left the church, about 30 men formed a choir beside the tree in the village square. What happened next, was the magic of Christmas. They sang the most wonderful "Silent Night" a cappella.

On the walk back to the house, all the homes had lighted candles on windowsills and fences. I learned that this was to honor all the East Germans who were killed while trying to escape West Germany.

I can't remember the town's name, or the name of the family we visited, but I will never forget that special Christmas.

Florence Kirkland, Victoria


Children make their memories

Every year at Christmas, we stop by to see Santa and the Cuero Christmas lights in the park.

Things have been busy this year with a new baby, so my 10 year old has been patient. I surprised her one weekend by telling her we would see Santa and the Cuero lights, and her face lit up. She believes in Santa, and all of the miracles that come with the holiday, including the celebration of Jesus' birthday.

While my daughter can get excited about Santa and Christmas lights, my 5-month-old son is exploring his world around him.

On the way to see Santa, my daughter Kathleen asks, "Mom, how does Blake ask for what he wants for Christmas if he can't talk?"

My response was, "Well Kat, Santa knows what babies want."

We arrived at the mall, and eagerly walked up Santa. As Kathleen sat next to him, ready to say her wish list, I sat Blake down in his lap and said, "Well, Santa, I'm not sure what you have at your workshop for babies, but Blake will love anything that lights up."

To which Santa replied, "Oh, I'm sure I can think of something special just for him."

They took pictures, and Kat was ready for our annual pilgrimage to Cuero.

In Cuero, Kat was mesmerized, while Blake sat up looking at the lights. While driving, I could hear Kat tell Blake "Look at all the pretty lights, baby boy."

After a few minutes she said, "Mom, you told Santa to bring him something that lights up, and he isn't even looking at the lights anymore. He looks bored."

I couldn't help but smile. I told her to wait and watch how he reacts next year.

She got quiet, probably configuring questions in her mind. She will most definitely pay attention next year to her baby brother's reaction to the lights, and hear his list to Santa.

I'm loving my kids and the memories they give me.

Christy Hernandez, Victoria


Teenagers decorate house

It was Christmas 1983, and my Dad fell ill while he was out of town, and placed in the hospital. My Mom was staying at the hospital with my Dad, and didn't have the time to get the house ready for Christmas.

I come from a large family, and we were all busy helping my parents. But it was my baby brother, Ronnie, and his then-girlfriend, Paula (now his wife and mother of their four kids) who made that Christmas special.

Even though they were only teenagers, they decorated the house and tree for my parents to come home to a festive, Christmas house.

I think of this Christmas often, and realize I probably never told Ronnie and Paula what they did meant so much to all of us.

Mark and Mary Vaclavik, Yoakum


The red glow of Christmas

I always wondered where they hid the red light bulb. I never saw it, only the glow of it. I never even gave it a thought, until I was waiting in that hallway.

All my siblings looked red-faced because of it. I would peek down the hall every year, and every year, there would be the glow of red.

The night before, my whole family gathered around the living room with the Christmas tree lit up, and the star twinkling faithfully on top. My dad read the second chapter of Luke from his leather-bound Bible, with a fish carved into the front.

Then we were tucked into bed. But we couldn't sleep.

My sister and I would try, and then give up for awhile. Finally, sleep overtook us.

In early morning, we woke with scratchy eyes and warm hearts. We crept downstairs, giggling with anticipation. Mom would beckon us to their room.

We climbed into their bed, and waited for the older kids.

I remember my dad wore an awful blue robe. My dad whisked down the hall, and mumbled that he had to help Santa, who was stuck in the chimney. I loved that moment.

We'd line up in the hallway in the glow of the red, and wait. I don't know what he was doing all those years, but it seemed like forever to wait on him. Finally, excited by the redness, they would give us the "Go!"

We burst into the gifts, and left Santa's glow behind.

Katie Sciba, Victoria


Christmas kisses

My favorite Christmas memories occurred between the ages of 6 and 9. I remember playing with all my cousins, hugging and kissing my aunts and uncles, and wiping my cheeks after all the kisses because I was certain the germs would eat away my face.

I remember laughing because I knew I was wiping in secret. I didn't want to hurt their feelings.

I hated the germs, but I loved my family. It is ironic how these are some of my favorite memories, but now I realize why these memories have stayed forever, locked in my heart. It is during these times that all my family members were alive, happy and together.

Now I'm much older, and all the little cousins have grown up. One special cousin, who was like my brother and lived a lifetime in 36 years, is now gone.

Another family member was an inspiration to many, both young and old.

And my uncle taught me the word lonely was not supposed to be a word.

There are many more whose memories will forever be locked away in my heart. Now I understand, the true meaning of Christmas was the time we shared as a family.

Melissa Curiel, Victoria


A Charlie Brown Christmas tree

In the third week of December 1971, our family bubbled with excitement. After living in a small Normandy town for a year and a half, we were going to spend Christmas at home in Texas.

We spent a hectic week living in a motel, visiting relatives, getting business done, and getting thoroughly poked and prodded by doctors and dentists. On Dec. 23, Doris said to me, "Why are we still here? Let's go back home in France."

By Christmas Eve, the tree merchant's stock at the French market had been picked bare. There remained only two bedraggled specimens - scrawny and scrawnier. "Nobody's going to take that poor tree," Doris lamented. It was a mere skeleton of a spruce. It was pulled up by its flimsy roots, boasting only a few tattered arms pointing haphazardly in all directions, and a top tilted askew.

It was a tree Charlie Brown would be proud of. The limbs were too flimsy to support regular ornaments, so we made our own out of tinfoil.

We adored that cute little tree. And we were home again. We felt the Christmas spirit was with us again. I think this was our most remarkable Christmas.

Bob Zumwalt, Hallettsville


The smell of Christmas

Christmas wasn't a day, it was a season. Christmas started the night of Dec. 5. We placed our socks, not stockings, on our beds in anticipation of St. Nick, who always brought us apples, oranges and candy.

After Dec. 6, the baking began: cookies, strudels, fresh apple cake, and our favorite Christmas bread.

Each year, at Christmas, Mama made special braided bread filled with pecans, cherries and dried fruit.

The bread was sliced, toasted and eaten for breakfast the week before Christmas.

We always went to 6:30 a.m. Mass on Christmas Day. We would be all dressed and packed into the '53 Chevy, ready to leave, when Daddy couldn't find his keys. So he would go into the house to search for them, but of course, he was playing Santa.

When we returned from Mass, there was our beautiful cedar tree complete with multi-lights shining. Spanish moss was used as a tree skirt, which was graced by our old Nativity scene. And there were presents.

Family, friends and neighbors gathered at our home for Santa, food, fun, dominoes and bingo. Then, at nighttime, there were fireworks. Oh, the good memories of Christmases past.

Today, as I close my eyes and inhale, I can still smell Mama's Christmas bread.

Paula Sue (Berckenhoff) Pekar, Shiner


Makeing it all worthwhile

When I wake up Christmas morning to the smell of my mother's pancakes and coffee, it's the most heartwarming feeling in this world.

I think society has forgotten the meaning of Christmas, the birth of our savior. He was a gift given to us.

This shows all the material things don't matter - that we have the most amazing gift of all. Christmas helps us realize what we have is beyond extraordinary.

Every Christmas, I realize my biggest blessing is family. They got me where I am today. Sometimes I may be selfish, and ask for too much from my mother without remembering my roots. I came from nothing, lived with 12 members of my family in a tight apartment with two rooms.

My strong mother worked so hard to get me here, put me in a Catholic school, and live in the cleanest neighborhood. I admit, I have taken advantage.

Every time I see my friends with the newest styles, or when they ask me to go shopping, I get so angry at my mother because she says she has no money. But I didn't know she doesn't even have money for the train to go to work the next day.

Yes, I'm one of those children who grew up with barely anything at all.

My father doesn't know I exist, yet I cling to hope that one day he'll realize I've always loved him. I'll wait forever and a day until he shows me some sort of sincere affection.

Me and my sister have fought so much. If it wasn't for her child, we would never talk. He is the key to our relationship, and I guess God sent him to us to give us a reason to hold on to our relationship. I've been through so much grief and disappointment in my life, but I always have the greatest smile on my face.

I have developed so much strength from my mother, and after all I've been through, Christmas makes it all worth living for.

I am blessed to be God's child, blessed to have the most supportive family, and to have my feet planted on this Earth. As I grow, I'm more thankful every day.

Jeremy Prince, Bronx (NY)


Leaves the madhouse for God's house

My favorite memory is Christmas 2000. Working in the shoe industry in Houston for a number of years made this particular Christmas season especially brutal in its commercialism.

Working opening to closing hours at my store for the past 30 days, I was worn out. With every holiday season, I would often ask myself, "How do I do this every year without losing my sanity?"

At the end of this particular season, I drew a sigh of relief when I closed up shop on Christmas Eve. I was leaving to visit family out of town.

As I drove through Victoria, I decided to attend the candlelight service at my old home church. As I found my seat, I couldn't help but notice a lot of familiar faces with warm, welcoming smiles. How nice it is to be home among friends, I thought.

After a great time of fellowship, I finished the drive to Yoakum and attended the candlelight service at my mother's church. Again, I was with friends and family remembering and celebrating the true meaning of the season. It was a welcomed change from the madhouse of the last few weeks.

Phillip E. Schwab, Fort Worth


Second chance for Christmas

The most memorable Christmas I ever had was Christmas, 2010. I spent Christmas Eve with my husband and our children. First with my family, then with his.

As we celebrated, ate, drank, and opened gifts, all I could think about was how blessed I was to be a part of that Christmas.

The entire day, I constantly wondered in the back of my mind, if this would be my last Christmas. You see, at the time, I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of stomach cancer.

Diagnosed in August 2010, I was undergoing an aggressive treatment regimen to prepare me for a life-altering surgery, as the doctors described it. I recall being so tired and exhausted from the treatments.

Christmas that year had a different meaning. It wasn't about giving and receiving presents. It was about having a different outlook on life, how precious it is, and how you just never know what tomorrow will bring.

But through my faith in God, and never-ending prayers, it's a year later and I'm ever so grateful to be celebrating another Christmas and the chance to celebrate my second wedding anniversary on New Years Day.

Lisa Saenz Flores, Victoria


Christmas is family, faith

This Christmas, I have a new perspective. The greatest thing I could ever have is my family.

Knowing we are all together, and healthy, is better than anything you could wrap in a box. It is better than anything you could place in a gift bag.

Knowing I get to spend my Christmas with the people who love me unconditionally, and who I love with my whole heart, surpasses anything you can buy online, or fist-fight over on black Friday.

Christmas is a holiday about the birth of Christ, our savior. It is not about commercial decorations and gifts.

Having my family and close friends come over the afternoon of Christmas, is a reminder of how lucky I am. It is something I couldn't take for granted. As time has gone on, my wish list gets shorter every Christmas. This year, there wasn't anything I could think of that would mean more to me than the people I am going to wake up to on Christmas morning.

Faith, love, and family are at the forefront of my mind, and I believe in my heart that for the first time, I will enjoy Christmas as a celebration, rather than a holiday.

Caroline Sinclair, Victoria


Christmas surprise

My favorite Christmas memory was last year, when my parents sat us down on the couch and said they had a surprise for us.

It was Christmas Eve, and we weren't sure what was going on.

All they told us, was it was going to be a big surprise and wanted us to guess what it was.

Isabella's first guess was a horse, because she is obsessed with horses. And Emmitt was yelling that he was finally getting a GLOCK pistol.

But I had a thought the night before, about my mom being pregnant. That was the only thought now running through my head, so I just gave it a try. I asked my mom if I was going to be a big sister and her eyes welled up with tears. That was it! I knew that life was going to change, and only get better.

Emily Reinke, Victoria


My mother is my gift

I have always been an artistic individual. My mother worked at my elementary school, and would often bring home colored paper the teachers no longer used. With this, we did projects together all the time.

When Christmas came around, she gave me the privilege of creating some ornaments by using paper, crayons, scissors, glue and yarn. This became our tradition because my mother knew it made me happy. We came from a lower-income home. We had a two-bedroom apartment. Our trees never stood higher than 5 feet tall, but my mother made sure it was the best if could be for me.

When I was 4, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My father and I were terrified that we were losing her.

The second to last Christmas I spent with her, I remember attempting to keep a smile on my face. But as a child, I could not fully comprehend what was happening. All I knew was that something was wrong, and that I did not want my mother to leave.

My father was unaccounted for on Christmas. It was just me and my mother. I climbed up on her lap, and she held me in her arms. We gazed at the tree before us, holding onto the moment. Being near her for those few minutes that night, is my most special Christmas moment. Even as a child, I did not care for presents. My mother was my gift.

A year and a month later, she passed away. I did not have the chance to hold onto her for a long time, but I am thankful I had such a loving mother for those few years. She was my gift, and I will never forget the memories she gave me.

Clarissa Cadengo, Victoria


Corpus Christi snowfall

My favorite Christmas memory was when I lived in Corpus Christi in 2007. It was my first time experiencing snow.

It was so much fun. My whole family was having a snowball fight, and just having a good time.

We made a really big snow man, and when it was time, we opened presents and made hot chocolate.

Overall, it was the best Christmas I've had.

Jacob Nunez, Victoria


The true spirit of Christmas

Christmastime is the absolute happiest time of the year. It has been sung in carols, acted in plays, and felt at nativity scenes for generations.

Who can forget the excitement we feel at 6 years old - awakening to sweets, and trinkets waiting under the Christmas tree?

But the true Christmas spirit cannot be felt until years after we grow and mature. It's when we finally begin to realize the love and care that went into the tree and presents. It's when we realize the unconditional and incredible love of Jesus, whose birth our celebrations commemorate.

The real Christmas spirit is the love and joy of God and men, manifested in personal sacrifice and the gift giving. The spirit is discovered in Christmas Eve services at church, and around the table at Grandma's house on Christmas Day.

One hears it in "My Deliverer" and "This Baby" on Christian radio.

And a few years later, when we begin to learn how to give, the Lord uncovers the truth in saying, "It is better to give than to receive."

We can't wait for Christmas Day to see the looks on our brothers' and sisters' faces when we tear back the wrapping paper. That's the Christmas spirit; the true Christmas spirit. It is a holy, giving spirit.

On Christmas, we find out why God loves us so much, why he loves to give, and why he would give his only begotten son. We're his children, and the one thing he wants more than anything is for us to have eternal life. He gave so selflessly, and so beautifully.

The giving spirit of God is contagious this time of year. It touches us, fills us, fulfills us, and brings us peace. Merry Christmas, Texas.

And God bless the New Year.

Christopher Clemons (Age 15), Victoria


Piano keyboard is perfect gift

The best Christmas in my 89 years was a Christmas in the early 1980s. Our dogs, Bones and Tagget, helped my husband find a gift that was hidden in the woods.

Then, Tagget spent the rest of the day growling at my new teddy bear.

Our three cats concentrated on tearing down the Christmas tree.

But the really beautiful part of that Christmas started several days earlier. My dear husband came in with a big box, and had a big, big grin on his face. He said, "I found the perfect gift for your mother, its a piano."

I knew a piano would not fit in that box, but to my surprise, it was a piano keyboard.

My 87-year-old mother had moved here to spend her last 10 years with us. She spent more than 60 years playing piano for Baptist churches in Corpus Christi, but she didn't bring her piano when she moved in with us.

The little keyboard was the perfect gift, and we all cried happy tears when she received it. I will remember that Christmas as long as I live.

Jean Frankenburger, Victoria


Coach makes Christmas special

My favorite memory is of my youngest son, Cody, who attended St. Joseph High School. It is a tradition that the senior football players have an opportunity to purchase their football jersey or helmet.

Being a single mom, working two jobs, it wasn't in my budget to spend the money on the jersey.

When Coach John Mares asked the players which one they wanted to purchase, Cody said he wasn't able to purchase either one. Coach Mares could see the sadness on his face.

Well, a few days before Christmas, I got a call from the coach telling me he had something for Cody.

Upon arriving at the gym, I saw him smiling, holding Cody's No. 82 jersey. He knew my financial situation, and saw the agonizing look on Cody's face. Coach simply said a special angel took care of the cost.

On Christmas morning, when Cody opened the gift, he was smiling, tears welling up his eyes. Thanks, Coach Mares, for that special gift.

Wanda McNeley, Victoria


A heavenly snow

When I woke up on that cold Christmas morning, the last thing I expected when I peeked through the window blinds was snow. I started yelling with delight, "Snow, snow! Everybody, wake up. It's snowing!"

We all got dressed, and trudged out of the house with bread bags taped over our shoes to keep our feet dry.

After a few minutes of throwing snowballs at each other and making snow angels, we started to build snowmen. I rolled a snowman's body into the center of our grandparents' yard.

When we were finished, there were five snowmen, each with a carrot nose, two coal eyes, and buttons for a mouth.

When we finished, I heard my mother yell, "Hot chocolate!"

So I went inside the warm, cozy house, to have my delicious hot chocolate.

This day meant so much to me because we were visiting our grandparents for Christmas in Victoria.

At the time, we lived in New Braunfels, which was the place where it was supposed to snow. I felt so blessed that God could give us such a heavenly present.

Alexander Bonorden, Victoria


Christmas puppy surprise

Four years ago I received a gift that would stay with me, and affect my life forever. It is also my most special Christmas memory.

A week before Christmas my dad took my brothers and me to eat lunch, while my mom went to get a surprise for all of us. As we ate, we tried to speculate what it might be, but couldn't come up with any ideas.

After we got home, my mom came out of her room carrying a large box with two holes in it. I asked my mom, "Why are there holes in the box?" She said that she had been peeking at the present. My mom set the box next to the Christmas tree and my brother opened it.

"It's a puppy!" I exclaimed. The small brown dachshund puppy climbed out of the box, and timidly walked toward me. My mom said her name was Dasher, and she quickly became an inseparable part of our family.

Now I can't imagine not having her as a pet and friend. And it all started with a surprise gift four years ago.



Samuel Bonorden, Victoria


Blessed in time of need

My best Christmas memory was last year. My husband and I were married in September.

The day before our wedding, my husband lost his job. We were barely making ends meet. As Christmas grew near, we grew more in need. I missed all the sign-up days for where I could have gotten help with Christmas gifts for our four kids.

My husband got a job, but he only worked part-time. We were barely going to be able to pay our bills. A very dear friend surprised me and my kids with a trip to Magic Bounce, and a dinner with the Texas Star Dance team.

At the dinner, I saw the kids bring out a lot of toys. I thought they were going to do their gift giving. To my surprise, they announced they decided to sponsor my family for Christmas, and all those gifts were for us. All I could do was cry.

They made a lasting impression with my family because of their thoughtfulness. I don't think I will ever have a more fond memory of Christmas. I was blessed abundantly in my time of need.

Jessica Gauna,


Pigs fly, angels sing

On Christmas Eve 2004, my family attended our midnight church service. To say I didn't want to go, would be an understatement. As we cautiously drove to the church on snow-covered streets, I grumbled about how I'd rather be home, snuggled in my warm bed.

Once inside the sanctuary, however, I settled in to participate in a rerun of the service we'd attended that afternoon.

I noticed there was one minor change - Pastor Steve began his sermon with "Somewhere, pigs are flying."

As the worship service ended, we stepped outside. The snow was falling silently, adding to the soft, white blanket that covered everything in sight.

Immediately, I was struck with just how incredibly special this moment was. I felt truly blessed to be standing in the warm glow of our church, in the wee hour of Christmas Day, enjoying that rare South Texas snowfall on the celebration of Christ's birthday.

If we would have stayed home and gone to bed as I wished, we would have missed this Christmas morning miracle.

In my heart, I felt sure that not only were pigs flying, but somewhere, angels were singing.

Jennifer Hudgeons, Cuero


Lightning strikes Granny's hair

When I was a child, we didn't get to spend Christmas at home. We always drove about 50 miles to my grandparents' home for Christmas with my mother's family.

There were about 20 to 25 adults and children. Most lived nearby, and we exchanged gifts, and had a big meal about 1 p.m.

I didn't get to open any presents at home. We had to leave early to arrive in time to help with the meal preparation.

The Christmas I remember was about 1939 or 1940. It was raining some on the trip, and the clouds were getting heavy. There was a long L-shaped porch at the front of the house with chairs and a swing.

Grandma walked outside to look at the clouds and the storm that was building.

A sudden lightning strike produced a small fireball that ran along the metal gutter of the porch roof, before jumping on the yard fence.

The fireball hissed and screeched, as it flashed along. Granny ran back in the house, saying "That was close!"

Granny had long black and white hair, with shades of gray, that was braided and rolled into a knot on the top of her head. The knot was smoking.

Someone grabbed a shawl, put it over Granny's head and poured a glass of iced tea over the knot. She wasn't hurt, but was very much frightened, as were we all.

And that is the Christmas I remember. I don't recall the dinner or gifts.

Mrs. F.M. Lucke, Victoria


Christmas anticipation

One Christmas Eve, we all got ready for Christmas. There were lots of Christmas gifts under the tree.

We got to go ice skating. When we got there, it was very fun. I slipped a lot, but it was still fun.

When we got home, it was already dark so we got ready to go to bed, but I stayed awake. I was trying to listen for the bells of Santa's sleigh.

Then my grandma woke up, and said for me to go to bed because Santa is not going to come unless you go to bed. I went to bed.

Then on Christmas day, my mom woke up early and separated the gifts so when we woke up, we could find them easier. She woke us, and then we tore open all the gifts and drank some hot chocolate.

Seth Stuart, Victoria


Surprise bike for Christmas

It was Christmas Eve. I was 5 years old.

I love Christmas Eve. It was a cool day for the whole family being together and getting presents, but Christmas is not about the presents. It is about togetherness and eating together.

When I got done opening my presents, my grandfather said I had missed a present, and that it was hiding in his car. He pulled it out of his car and showed it to me.

It was my new bike with stickers on it. It was pink and blue. After Christmas was over, I went home with my bike and rode it at home.

Hailee Brown, Victoria


Christmas gifts and family

When I was 5, my house was the gathering place on Christmas Eve for my two great-grandmothers, grandparents, and many great-aunts and uncles.

Since Santa delivers at midnight, my parents had to call the North Pole to arrange a special delivery for Christmas Eve.

My dad took me out to look for Santa's reindeer and sleigh, as they made the special trip to my house. Not seeing them, we went back home. On the way there, I discovered that Santa had indeed visited, and delivered a mountain of toys.

The picture my mom took as we walked in the door shows my shocked face, as I saw the brand new red bike, and a baby doll bed I really wanted Santa to bring.

At the time, the bike with its white basket, and the baby doll bed, were the best presents I ever got.

But now, having so many relatives, sharing a memorable evening is my favorite part of Christmas. The gifts are gone, as are all of the older generation as well, but their love and dear memories are still with me.

Lori Beth Mullenix, Victoria


Snow trumps gifts

It was Christmas morning, and I woke to the sound of my mother yelling, "It snowed last night!"

I hurriedly got out of bed, ran through the living room ignoring my presents, and looked out the dining room window.

To my amazement, the backyard was blanketed in snow. The world outside the window had been entirely covered with a fluffy layer of white powder, the mere presence of which, transformed the scene from an ordinary backyard to a glimpse of heaven - at least in the eyes of a Texan.

After breakfast, we went outside and played, creating deep footprints in the snow with every step. After awhile, we ventured outside the backyard, and took a walk around the block in a winter wonderland.

After awhile, we went inside to warm up, and I finally had a chance to open my presents.

Later, we went to my grandparents' house, where I even watched some of the adults make a three-tiered snowman, using carrot sticks for the mouth, red potatoes for the eyes, and a straw hat that made the snowman look like a farmer.

These are my memories of that wonderful, snowy Christmas.

Reid Polasek, Victoria


Traditions of old

Christmas Eve always started very early in the morning. It was still dark outside when my dad would load the trunk with all the gifts for Christmas day.

We would make the 115-mile trip to our grandparents' house in Bishop. Of course, we all fell asleep until we arrived.

When we got there, we always stopped to greet our grandfather, who most of the time was in his shoe shop next to the house.

Then we went in the back door to greet our grandmother, aunts and uncle.

Next we would go out the front door to go to our great-grandmother Maria's house. Everybody always called it the big house.

As a child, I never understood that because my grandmother's house was twice as large. Our great-grandmother was a small and slim woman who demanded respect, as she was the matriarch of the family. As far as I can remember, she didn't walk.

To the children, she seemed to have been at least 100 years old.

Back at my grandmother's house, there was always the wonderful aroma from all the cookies and candy my grandmother made. There was always a big tree with lots of presents. Then the rest of the family would start to arrive. The ladies would be in the kitchen visiting and making tamales.

The men would be outside smoking and discussing whatever men talk about.

All day long, more aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive.

At supper, all the children would sit on the kitchen staircase. My oldest sister always sat on the highest step because she is the oldest grandchild.

At 10 p.m. we all went to church for the midnight Mass. Since the church was small, the priest would make all the children sit around the altar. Needless to say, most of us fell asleep until the Mass would end.

After that, we went back to Grandma's to eat tamales. Everybody would be in the kitchen, and the door to the living room was closed.

As kids, we never suspected the reason the door was closed. Then we would hear the sound of bells outside, and we knew Santa had been there.

Someone would open the door and all the toys and gifts were around the tree. It was magical: trains, drums, dolls and dishes. There were so many toys and presents.

Then we opened the gifts and ate cookies and candy to our heart's content.

Grownups drank spiked eggnog.

One year, when my little 4-year-old brother was bumping into walls, and everybody realized he had been drinking the leftover grownup eggnog.

We continued to go to Grandma's house until we became teenagers, and my mom decided we should start our own traditions.

I am now 63 years old, and my sisters and our children, grandkids and great-grandkids, still gather at mom's house every Christmas Eve.

I even got engaged on Christmas Eve in 1964. The kitchen is filled with the aroma of cookies, candy, ham and tamales.

The kids sing Christmas carols and ring bells until Santa arrives to hand out the gifts.

Now my sisters, brother and I are the grandparents and great-grandparents. It has been 49 years since our first Christmas Eve at Mom's house, and it's still magical. It seems like we have wall-to-wall kids.

As our kids out grow the Santa thing, there is always a couple of new babies that come every year.

Irene Martinez, Victoria

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