Don’t you just love old-fashioned Christmas traditions? When I was growing up, we had a plethora of traditions in our family. Many of them were based on our Eastern European heritage, including our rich religious practices. Others were based on Santa Claus, decorations, cookies, presents, and Christmas trees. And of course, there was always an endless parade of company coming over to visit.
The visits were always planned, and my mother would prepare well in advance. She would set out extravagant trays of her home-baked cookies (which were legendary) along with appetizers, finger food, coffee and adult beverages. Visitors never popped over unexpectedly. Well almost never. Until one Christmas Eve.
My mother had already had me and my 2 older sisters bathed and ready for bed, which included putting our hair up in curlers for church on Christmas morning. Yes, we did things like that back then, and yes, it was uncomfortable. Just as she finished, she realized that she didn’t have enough hairnets, so she improvised. She opened a dresser drawer, pulled out 3 pairs of freshly laundered panties, and put them on our heads.
My sisters and I were skeptical, but my mother seemed to think it was a great idea. She also thought it was hilarious. Besides, she assured us, no one would ever know. At that precise moment, the doorbell rang. My dad answered the door, and standing there was one of his closest friends with his wife and 3 kids. So, instead of going to bed, we had to entertain the kids, in our pajamas with curlers in our hair and panties on our heads. It was humiliating.
After a good long visit, the family finally left. As they said their good-byes and headed out the door, the oldest child said, “Mom! The Ilov’s celebrate Christmas with panties on their heads!” Our humiliation was complete.
But, from that moment on, we made it a holiday tradition. Every Christmas Eve we put panties on our heads to cover our curlers. The tradition continued after our younger sister was born, but gradually petered out by the time our youngest sister came along. By that time the 3 of us older girls were teenagers, eschewing sponge curlers for the modern day hot rollers. But the memory of panties on our heads for Christmas still lives on to this day.