The Herald asked its readers to share their most cherished Christmas memories. No surprise, most centered on family and the importance of things other than gifts. We hope these stories bring you and your family some warmth as you prepare for the big day.
A simpler time
I was born in 1939 in Frankfurt-Hoechst, Germany. One of my happiest Christmases was when I was 10. My grades allowed me to attend a progressive school and, to reward me, the entire family bought me a spring-powered little train set, which would run around an oval track twice.
In those days, there were no Walmarts or Targets and Christmas music blaring everywhere, but only small stores with nativity scenes and Christmas decorations. The toys for girls were dolls and play kitchens, and for boys trains and building sets.
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We kids would stop and look every time we passed by a store. Advent was a quiet time with anticipation, and each day we opened a window in an advent calendar. Christmas trees were only decorated on Christmas Eve, and we kids could hardly stand our excitement when we first saw the candlelit tree.
People hardly had any money, so the gifts were homemade cookies, an orange or banana, socks, shoes and maybe a hand-me-down jacket.
At 5 a.m. on Christmas Day, we would go to Christmas mass and look forward to some hot chocolate after church. Times were much simpler, but we were happy.
We still keep the tradition of lighting candles on the tree on Christmas Eve.
Hubert Emsermann, Rock Hill
'The Tree and the Star'
It was Christmas 1966. Our family gathered at Auntie Peg and Uncle Tate's cottage in Lake Saint Mary's, Ohio. Family gatherings were festive occasions. This was very memorable for me because my sisters and I put on our skit titled the "The Tree and the Star."
Mom and Dad wrote the play. Martha and I were the principal characters. I was the tree and Martha was the star. Monica, who is kneeling in the photo, was our "stage crew".
This was the first Christmas after Grandpa Drennan's death. The family wanted to make this a joy-filled Christmas for Grandma. We were very merry and bright!
Mary Eileen White, Fort Mill
Home, away from home
In July, my husband and I decided it was best for me to move to Rock Hill and help our youngest daughter finish her business degree. Recently divorced, she has been struggling with raising a 3-year-old, keeping up with her studies and working a part-time job.
It's been a challenge financially trying to help her due to the poor economy. As with many single mothers, by the time they pay for day care, there is little money left to cover rent and expenses. So, I took a leave from my job, threw all of my essentials in a laundry basket and headed south.
I had not been separated from my husband since we met in 1978. We kept reminding ourselves that our short-term sacrifice would make a long-term gain, in not only our daughter's life but the life of our grandson as well. I love being able to spend this time with them. Our days are filled with trips to the library, walks in the park and making memories out of the time that I am here.
As Christmas started approaching, I knew that it would be hard being away from my husband and family back in Michigan, and to me, Christmas is not Christmas without snow - and in Michigan, we get a lot of snow.
Little did I know that the snow would come. It was the first weekend of December during ChristmasVille in downtown Rock Hill. We attended the opening night ceremonies and I was taken back to that magical feeling of Christmas. The bell choir had just finished its beautiful production and Santa took the stage.
Santa spoke of all the soldiers that were far away from home with no family to celebrate the holidays with and what Christmas is really about, the birth of Jesus. My heart was suddenly filled with appreciation that I was able to be here in Rock Hill with my daughter and grandson.
All of a sudden the snow came falling down. It didn't matter that it was artificially produced. To me, it was a sign that no matter how far we are from home, we carry the Christmas spirit in our hearts.
This will be my first Christmas in Rock Hill. My prayer is that others will see the light of my Christmas candle shining brightly and - who knows? - maybe the light will shine all the way back to Michigan.
Barbara Butler, Rock Hill and Michigan
A lesson in compassion
When I was about 11, in 1965, our family of five visited my grandparents on Christmas Eve, a half-hour away in the West Virginia mountains. We kids played in the hayloft with kittens, ate a big feast, opened presents.
When it began to snow hard, Dad carefully drove us toward home. We were almost at our "hollow" when Mom spotted a hitchhiker, an Army man. She and Dad decided to take him home due to blizzard conditions.
He got in the back seat and told us he was on his way to Camp Creek, which was a half-hour away, to surprise his parents. We dropped him off, made it back to the hollow around midnight, and realized we had passed NO other traffic. The young man would have frozen to death.
Deborah Birchfield Goodwin, Rock Hill
Holding on to loved ones
My family has long accused me of having the unique ability to remember special occasions by what we ate. Christmas is certainly no exception.
My grandfather, Murray White Sr., was not a cook by any means; however, he insisted on cooking the country ham and sausage at his house every Christmas morning.
Each time I smell this being cooked, I immediately picture him in his borrowed apron greeting everyone with a loud "Christmas present!" greeting as we entered the house.
Later on Christmas day, we would go to my grandmother's house. Ruth Hipp was always an excellent cook, but on Dec. 25, her star shone a little brighter. Her cornbread dressing was the best in the land, and thankfully my mom learned how to make it almost as good.
We continue to remember our loved ones through the smells and tastes of Christmas.
Patrick White, Fort Mill
Snow brings us together
In 1962, my husband, Chuck, was in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk, Va. We were expecting our first child, Lisa B. Thomas. Chuck was home for Christmas leave.
On Christmas morning, we were on the way to visit friends when it started snowing so hard it covered everything. This, as I remember, was my first white Christmas.
I fell in love with snow. We now have three grown children and eight grandchildren and they all love snow. If we hear there is even a snow flurry in the area, we all get together at Cracker Barrel.
Last week, when Rock Hill had flurries at 9 p.m., my son, Chris Beard, called to let me know it was snowing. I was in the bathtub, but I hurriedly got dressed, picked up my grandchildren next door, and we rode around the neighborhood, watching it snow.
Glynis Beard, Rock Hill
Dad home from hospital
My favorite Christmas memory has been when I was in third grade, my dad had surgery for kidney cancer, which he did not know he had.
All my mom and I wished for was for him to be home for Christmas. He was released from the hospital on Dec. 23.
Family is the best memory that I hold near and dear to my heart. I am very lucky to have Linda Thomas as my aunt who made Christmas special for many years.
She is the best cook, and we looked forward to spending Christmas Eve with our family at her house. She is a wonderful Christmas angel who did this for many, many years.
Merry Christmas, my Aunt Linda. We love you very much and are lucky that we got to have our Christmas angel all those years. You are a very special person to me and I hope you have a very blessed Christmas.
Leslie Campbell, Rock Hill
Handing down a memory
My favorite Christmas memory has always been the years I spent growing up with my grandparents, Barron and Jessie Wallace, in York. My grandparents always made sure all the grandchildren had a big Christmas and lots of special food was made for all the family.
One of the most cherished gifts I received was a red table and chairs, which was bought in 1955 for me by my grandmother. The date was carefully written underneath and has remained on it until this day.
I will be giving the table and chairs to my granddaughter, Zoey, for Christmas this year.
'Our special angel baby'
Hidden in the center of all of our Christmas presents in 1998 was our greatest gift from God, which we had prayed for for a very long time. Our special angel baby, Samantha DelPozo, 4 months old, has brought so much love to us all. We have been so blessed.
Angela DelPozo, Rock Hill
It's all about the tree
It was Christmas Eve, 1976. My brother was home on leave from the Navy. Mom and I were putting up the Christmas tree. My brother, Burt, walked in and said, "What is that?"
If anyone had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it was us. Burt said, "No way! Stop! Don't do no more!" Burt and I went out on that Christmas Eve late and bought our very first live Christmas tree.
Back in 1976, live trees were cheap, like maybe $25, give or take a few dollars. In the corner of this lot stood a tree all by itself. It seemed like there was a light shining down from this tree like it was saying, "Take me please!" We got that beautiful tree, if I remember, for under $10.
Every Christmas Eve, when I talk to my brother, I will say, "You remember?" He just says back, "I sure do; I sure DO!!" This is one thing he and I will always cherish, Christmas Eve 1976.
Veronica Erwin, Rock Hill
Shoebox full of goodies
My daddy would save shoeboxes for us four kids. When we would awake on Christmas morning that shoebox would have fruit and nuts and candy in it. We went to that shoebox before we went to our toys.
Even when we became adults and we were home for Christmas, Daddy would fix us a shoebox of goodies.
I am 60 years old now, and I have passed that tradition down to my children and grandchildren. Daddy's with the Lord now, but that memory is still fresh in my heart.
Frances Moore, Rock Hill