Each Christmas season I get giddy as I unpack my decorations and ornaments. I greet them like they are old and treasured friends. Some of my holiday treasures are Southern Living worthy and I have a fabulous collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art angels for my tree that my mother has gifted me with over the years, but there are two items in my collection that lack high style and would never be featured in a museum collection yet they are my most treasured. One is a photo of my mother cradling me in her arms on my first Christmas. Now I admit I do not remember the event, I was barely over a month old, but when I look at that picture I know I was and am loved and treasured. The second item is a plastic snow globe circa 1970? (I am guessing this, but I can not remember a Christmas without this snow globe) when I was very little I was in awe of the magical snow that swirled around inside. These two items are also the only Christmas items I have in my home from my childhood, the rest of the treasured items are thankfully still in my parent’s decorations and I get to see them on the years we gather at their house. So why am I waxing sentimental about holiday things? As I was decorating and reflecting on years past I came to the conclusion that women in general and southern women in particular are raised to treasure things passed down in families, things that have a story or stories attached to them. We treasure our grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s silver and linens. We display pieces of willowware, crystal and works of art and we can tell you the provenance that goes with each piece. I smile when I set the table with my grandmother’s silver and I think about her hands doing the same thing as mine, if I close my eyes I can imagine our hands are touching in that brief moment. Now I can not claim to be born in the south or raised from childhood. We were a military family that lived all over and my mother was raised in New England by a mother who was raised in Down East Maine, a special place on the upper coast of Maine, which when you take away winter, is very similar to the South Carolina Lowcountry where I call home. I have spent all of my teen years in the south, first in Virginia and then here in my beloved South Carolina and I think one of the reasons this place, Charleston, has felt like home since that hot and humid August 1986 is that similarity. I suspect this sentimentality to objects holiday or otherwise is born out of the practicality of using passed down items whether Down East on in the Lowcountry. That practicality has morphed into lovely traditions. My characters are primarily southern women and it is important for me that this sentimentality is evident in their personalities. I also find the stories behind items are a treasure trove for writing ideas. If you are ever stuck for an idea, take a stroll through an antique market and imagine the stories and lives from where all those objects come from and you will get what I mean.
So while I believe southern women are sentimental throughout all seasons, the Christmas season gives us license to be sentimental over plastic snow globes and faded photographs from 1968. No matter what holiday you might celebrate I hope you hold treasures that take you back in time and touch your heart.