Christmas memories

My earliest – and best – memories from the holiday season are from Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.

My mom’s side of the family comes from Poland, so every year we did a traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner called wiglia (va-LEE-ah). It meant lots of family and food and watching Christmas specials on the old-fashioned TV that didn’t have a remote.

My grandpa would make us Shirley Temples and let us eat maraschino cherries straight from the jar and my grandma would make my uncle have third helpings of everything. I always wanted to be the center of attention, so I always was showing off, singing along with Christmas carols and telling relatives how many books I was reading.

My sisters and I were allowed to open one gift each after dinner – “Just one, Santa’s watching,” my grandma would say – and if it was a new sweater or a set of pajamas, we begged to put it on immediately.

We almost always fell asleep in the car on the way home, snoring on each other’s parka-cushioned shoulders, barely waking up when my parents carried us into the house. It always felt magical, yet familiar, an event I looked forward to more than anything each year, and one I hope to recreate for my own kids someday.

Wallace is a religion and general news reporter at the Sun-Gazette. She can be reached at