“I’ll be home for Christmas.” As the song played softly on the radio, stirring up memories of my childhood and of days when our own children were home, I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. That song has been responsible for many tears over the years. It made me cry when I was away at college and longing for home. It made me cry the first year after I was married when we lived too far from my parents and siblings to visit, and now I cry because I miss both my childhood Christmases as well as the days when my own sweet children were at home.
The words ring true for me, I will always be home for Christmas, even if it is in my dreams and I know I am not alone in feeling that way. While I now create new memories with family, life is perpetually changing and I will always cherish the memories of past Christmas.
While Christmas traditions have varied greatly over the years, one theme seems to always be consistent and that is that Christmas has always been a time to gather with family and friends. For that reason, the Christmas of 1886 must have been particularly difficult for my great great grandparents, John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus. Having left their native Georgia on the 16th of November, John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, spent December 1886 on the cold wind swept plains of southern Colorado. Nearly 1500 miles from “home,” they were far from their extended family and lifelong friends.
|View looking across San Luis Valley, Colorado,
Taken August 2013
By Trena Ganus
They were totally new to the wide open spaces of the west and, while I personally love the valley where they settled, not much about Southern Colorado would have reminded them of “home.” The seemingly unending fields of grassland stand in stark contrast to the Haralson County area of Georgia with its hills and pine forests. While Georgia’s low temperatures can dip as low as the mid 30’s during December,
temperatures in the 30’s are frequently the high for Southern Colorado with temperature sometimes dropping as low as 40 below zero. Were John and Olivia prepared for the harsh winters of their new home? Did they have adequate clothing and bedding?
Many of the foods of Southern Colorado reflect the heritage of the Mexican people who originally settled the area, in addition to foods typical of the Scandinavian and English people who settled the area prior to the arrival of the Southerners. These foods were vastly different from the foods most often enjoyed by the southern people. I can only assume that the Christmas traditions also reflected the cultural heritage of the earlier settlers and were also somewhat foreign to John and Olivia.
Having left all extended family behind, there would have been no family near by that December to drop by John and Olivia’s home for a visit or to drop off even a simple gift or homemade goodie, nor would there have been invitations to extended family gatherings. On Christmas day, long before the days when home phones were common place, there would not have been calls made to brothers and sisters back home to help ease the homesickness. I wonder, how did the Ganus family feel that Christmas season? Did they reflect on past Christmases? Did they long for family and friends left behind?
Over the years, the Christmas Season has become exponentially bigger, louder and brighter. Despite the aggressive sales campaigns, Christmas music blasting in the stores way before I want to hear it and the traditional colors of red and green now sharing the stage with hot pink, purple and lime, one thing seems to remain the same and that is the desire to be with family. I suspect that at Christmas time I will always reflect over the memories of past years with parents, siblings and our children and that just as the song says, ” I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
May your Christmas be filled with the love of family and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate.
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013
Top left: “Farmyard in Winter” by George Henry Durrie, 1858 PD Art, courtesy of Wikimedia; in public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farmyard_in_Winter_by_George_Henry_Durrie,_1858.jpg