December 9, 2022

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Christmas memories look to past, carry on through generations

Kimberly PohoveyMy parents sang in our church choir, which meant they would attend both the midnight and Christmas morning Masses. Therefore, our family’s time to open presents was early Christmas Eve.

Immediately following dinner, Dad always had to make a trip to the bank for the night deposit from his store. From the time I could remember Christmas, it was only my brother David and I who had to go with Dad every year. Being the youngest of six in a 17-year-age gap, the older kids got to stay home.

Lo and behold, as soon as we returned from the bank, Santa had always already visited our home! I never understood why my older siblings were allowed to stay home, but I was told that small children frightened the elves, and we definitely didn’t want to risk not receiving any gifts.

Catching on to the charade one Christmas after being nestled in Dad’s car for the annual bank trip scam, I burst out of the car saying I needed to use the restroom and ran back into the house before my Dad could stop me, only to find my siblings placing gifts around the tree.

Memories ground us, they mark the passage of time, and they connect us to wonderful moments in our lives shared with loved ones. Every time I think about this memory, it brings a smile to my face and a longing in my heart for days past.

I am blessed with many fond memories from my childhood and those I’ve made with my husband and boys as well. While I love all things Christmas, one of my favorite memories is celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas—or St. Nick—each year on Dec. 6.

I grew up in a German Catholic family, and St. Nick day has been a long-standing tradition in our family, and indeed, in the families of all the kids I grew up with on the west side of Cincinnati.

I think what I have always appreciated about this feast day is its simplicity as well as the spirit of generosity it represented.

On the eve of St. Nick day, my siblings and I would hang our stockings above the fireplace. Unlike the fancy stockings that adorn most mantles these days, we literally used my dad’s old socks nailed into place.

When we awoke in the morning, St. Nick had always left us treats. As I recall, I normally received a small toy, chocolate gold coins, and oranges and walnuts fresh from my dad’s fruit and meat market. The oranges would stretch and weigh down Dad’s socks until they nearly reached the hearth. It was a hilarious sight.

I couldn’t have been more excited about that one toy, the most memorable being a tiny stuffed dog with a cord and a type of remote control. If you pushed one button, it barked; another and it would walk forward. It was a very simple toy by today’s standards, but I couldn’t have loved it more. And we were genuinely thrilled with the juicy first-of-the-season navel oranges and with cracking open whole walnuts.

The spirit of this feast is, of course, grounded in the generosity of the real St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop of Myra in Turkey. Traditions say he routinely sold his possessions to give money to the less fortunate—thus the gold coins. And legend says his likeness leant itself to the modern-day Santa Claus.

I love the very idea of celebrating this feast day in his tradition, and I have carried it forth to my boys. Even though they don’t live at home any longer, St. Nick still finds his way to their new locations. And it’s just a tiny way for me to carry forward our family’s meaningful Christmas memories.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

Local site Links: