Currently, My husband is an associate pastor at a church in San Diego, California, and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. When I’m not working on a new novel, I enjoy teaching workshops on writing, spending time with my family, playing keyboard in worship teams, reading great books, and traveling. For information go to http://www.susansmeissner.com/.
Tell us about your first Christmas memory?
My guess is I was about five or six and the memory begins like this. . . I woke up in my bed in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, in the bedroom I shared with my two sisters. I heard the distinct sound of boots on the living room floor, it was an uncarpeted floor and the sound was very distinctly boots. Omigosh! Santa! Santa was in my living room at that very moment, puttering about my tree, leaving me presents! I was scared to death. I wanted to get up and peek at him. I wanted to get a glimpse of the legendary icon. I wanted to be able to tell all my friends I’d seen the real Santa Claus; not the department store fake. The Real Guy. But I was certain if I snuck out of my bed and peeked in the living room, he would see me and it would be like seeing God and I’d probably collapse dead on the floor. So I lay in my bed shivering with dread and desire until the boot sounds stopped. I was totally bummed that I couldn’t summon the courage to get a glimpse of the real Santa. And I totally forgot that my Dad wears boots. Only boots.
Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.
My parents always threw a big open house at Christmas time. All their friends would come over and they’d play their Johnny Mathis Christmas album and my Dad would make gallons of spiced cider. It would simmer all afternoon on the stove and the next day, every surface near the stove, including the floor, was sticky and sweet-smelling. We make the same cider at my house now and sip it while we decorate our tree. I bought the Johnny Mathis album as soon as it was made into a CD.
When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up when my kids’ begging is louder than my procrastination (around December 1). My husband works assembles my prelighted tree. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.
For the better part of my children’s growing up years we lived in Minnesota, where winter arrives very early and it feels like Christmas even before Thanksgiving. Most of us on our street put up our outdoor decorations the day after Thanksgiving because it would be too cold to wait any longer than that. And once those are up, well, why wait to put up the rest? So we’ve decorated our house and put up our tree on the day after Thanksgiving for the last 15 years. We still do, even though we live in a warmer climate now.
What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I recently bough Unexpected Gifts and I love it! They are old favorites sung in a new way. Includes “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Bethany Dillon); “Do You Hear What I Hear” (Nichole Nordeman); “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Steven Curtis Chapman); and “Silent Night” (Sanctus Real).
I love the choral arrangement of Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. Stay with me here. I sang it an ensemble in high school (we’re talking more 25 years ago!) and I loved it so much I actually kept the sheet music . My very bad. The words and the tune are so beautiful.
Lo’ how a rose e’er blooming, from tender stem hath sprung/Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung/It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter /When half-spent was the night. (verse 2) Isaiah ‘twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind/ With Mary, we behold it, the virgin mother kind/To show God’s love aright/She bore to men a Savior/When half-spent was the night.
It’s the gospel set to music, like so many Christmas hymns are. Here’s a group of college guys singing it on YouTube:
Christmas morning, my parents brother and I would head over to my grandparents’ house and open all our presents there. Or they’d come to our house … so we didn’t open them until we were up, dressed, showered and fed. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.
Up at dawn, drag parents out of bed, tear open the presents, play with them until it was time to go Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Our favorite dessert, and Grandma made it often, was Broken Glass Cake. Mmmmm. Here’s the recipe.
Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, and in Montana that’s almost a given! Tell us about your Christmas setting?
Last year we were in MinneSNOWta. There wasn’t always snow on the ground in the Midwest on Dec. 25. But there FOR SURE won’t be any here in southern California. I like the snow, but I’m okay with that. There wasn’t any snow in Bethlehem in 0 AD, either. . .
It’s Christmas Eve… Describe your day and evening.
When the kids were little, we had a birthday party for Jesus. Cake, party hats, balloons, the works. Then the kids gave Jesus “presents.” Each one would write a prayer of something they wanted to do for Jesus for the next year, like take better care of their things, be kind to the kid at school who’s hard to be friends with, complain less, that kind of thing. Then we’d wrap them up and put them under the tree and sing Happy Birthday. The following year at the next birthday party, we’d unwrap the presents to see how we did. Sometimes we had to re-wrap the same present over again!! We don’t do the hats and balloons anymore, but we still do the birthday presents. . .
Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?
Wherever I want, GOSH!
Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?
Christmas is God meeting me at the center of my need. I am the manger. I am that cold, lonely place in need of the Light of the World. I needed it. And I got it!
It’s Christmas day… what’s for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?
Italian food, of course!! It’s red and green. We make cookies a couple of days before Christmas so that they are still around on Christmas Day. Candy Cane cookies and Christmas wreaths made of cornflakes, green food coloring, melted marshmallows and red cinnamon hots are yearly favorites.
Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.
Waking up Christmas morning 1991 in our little village in Germany. We were stationed there (Bob was in the Air Force) and the bells in the village church began pealing at dawn. It was incredible. . .
What are you plans for this season?
Home for the holidays, that’s us. We haven’t been home for Christmas in 14 years. It’s going to be grand.
Enjoy it Susan! Thanks for sharing with us. Merry Christmas!