Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas in Dixie: Treasured keepsakes, cherished Southern memories

My love and excitement for the holidays was etched in me early on by my mother. Mother adored Christmas!! She would painstakingly select each and every gift. Our Christmas was very Southern, and by her generous example, all about the giving.

Still, this is the same lady who would sneak downstairs and unwrap her presents ahead of time because she couldn’t stand the wait. Then she’d rewrap them to perfection, and with just as much poise, feign total surprise Christmas morning!! It does make me ever-so-childlike that I, like her, can hardly wait to open my gifts, but so far I haven’t resorted to the unwrap-and-rewrap scheme…..yet.

All the delights of the holidays – the wonderful sounds and smells – are a comfort to me. The song “Christmas in Dixie,” by the group Alabama, stirs my nostalgia for childhood Christmases. The scents of lingering holiday spices remind me of putting cloves into oranges with my Grandmother, something she did as a child with her Mother. And to this day, I still put cloves into oranges.

The joys of my childhood are many, and well preserved for me. Every year my mother would drive my brother and me to Pizitz Department Store in downtown Birmingham to see Santa. What a thrill it was that Father Christmas himself would come all this way to hear our Christmas wishes! I'll always cherish this photo of my brother and me, sitting in the comfort of red velour and St. Nick's lap.

Likewise, I still keep the felt Santa I made in the first grade. My first Christmas mug was a stocking that held hot chocolate – I would only drink from this mug on Christmas Day. Even now it rests in the sturdy protection of my Grandmother’s china cabinet. I still keep the notes and cards my Mother and Grandmother sent me through the years. Holiday cards to me are treasures that I pull out from time to time, read and reflect on all the wonderful Christmas memories they hold. I’m so glad I saved them.

Keepsakes are different for all of us – but the memories and love they reflect are universal. So I’ll continue to send – and keep – my special holiday cards for all the Christmases to come.


  1. Princess, I can relate to your sweet memories, Love your pictures and you get more beautiful each year. (Santa has some pretty eyes-LOL).
    Keep making memories!

  2. Love this! Strikes a chord for all of us...glad to know that there is someone else who holds on to treasures from the past that can evoke such special memories of childhood Christmases ~ the BEST kind!
    Happy Holidays, Saralyn and thanks for giving me a smile this afternoon :)


  3. Love Christmas in the South. Your family got it right; it's all about being together and sharing love! Happy Birthday Jesus!!

  4. Oh how I loved going downtown Birmingham and going to Pizitz. There was also a sleigh ride with Santa when I was small.. Then the lighting of the Christmas tree. Wonderful memories!

  5. Pizitz! Thanks for bringing back a long forgotten memory. precious, precious picture of you and John . . . cloves and oranges (the good ole days before incense and candles). beautifully written piece, Saralynn - thanks, c.baker

  6. Wow! Thank you for sharing these memories. I had almost forgotten about Santa downtown at Pizitz. And especially walking down the street with my parents and trying to climb into every magical wintery scene in all of the department store windows. One of my favorites was the garland-wrapped clock on the corner of Loveman's and all of the animated animals in the window. And yes, mothers do make Christmases special...even today..."if only in our dreams"!
    Thanks Saralyn and have another Blessed Christmas!

  7. Great memories and a good picture of you guys………..