Years ago, especially in the old west and during the depression years, travel wasn’t so easy, even from just one town over or across town, so quite often, holidays were mixed with weddings, just because of the convenience of it, and so that family gatherings could serve two purposes. I’m not sure if that was the reason why my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, chose Christmas Eve for their wedding day or not, but the fact that they did, made Christmas Eve just that much mor special for our family. It always seemed like that day had more sparkle and shine to me. I think it did to them too. Having the anniversary cake as part of the celebration…especially a celebration that more often included pie, was just extra.
I think of them more this time of year, even though they have been in Heaven now for 41 and 33 years, respectively. They were the only grandparents I really knew, since my dad’s dad passed before I was born, and his mom just 6 months after I was born. So, Grandma and Grandpa Byer were my only grandparents, and when they left us, it was a very sad day. Of course, we know that they are in our future now, and we will see them again, but on this their joyous wedding anniversary, we miss them even more than we normally do.
Grandma and Grandpa always made a big deal about Christmas. Even when the family got to be too big to get together on Christmas Day, they started a tradition that continues to this day…the Byer Family Christmas Party. By doing the party, and renting a hall, we could all be together at the same time. There was no way for the family, as big as it had become, to get together on Christmas Day in Grandma and Grandpa’s house, or anyone’s house, for that matter. Their nine children have grown to a family of well over 400, and the Byer Family Christmas Party continues on, in their honor. Grandpa once said to Grandma, “Mommy, look what we started.” Yes, they certainly did start something that has grown into a something big and beautiful…an amazing family. Yes, I do think about them a little more this time of year and miss them even more. Merry Christmas in Heaven Grandma and Grandpa, and all the family who has gone to Heaven before us. We can’t wait until we are all together again.
Maybe they were just wanting to be home for Christmas, and not knowing exactly how long it would take…while hiding out from the law, that is…the Texas Seven decided to get a jump start on the journey. No, probably not. It wasn’t Christmas with loved ones that was on their minds…it was freedom. On December 13, 2000, seven prisoners dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, broke out of maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The prisoners were Joseph Christopher Garcia, Randy Ethan Halprin, Larry James Harper, Patrick Henry Murphy Jr, Donald Keith Newbury, George Angel Rivas Jr, and Michael Anthony Rodriguez. The escapees overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and stole clothing, guns, and a vehicle. The men left a note saying: “You haven’t heard the last of us yet,” and they were right. These men were convicted of crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. They were set to be executed soon, so they had nothing to lose.
These were not the kind of people that anyone wanted to have running around the state…or anywhere outside of prison walls. Soon after escaping from the Connally Unit lockup in Kenedy, Texas, the fugitives picked up another getaway vehicle. This one provided by the father of one of the men. They robbed a Radio Shack store in Pearland, Texas, coming out with cash and police scanners. On Christmas Eve, the escapees struck a sporting-goods store in Irving, Texas, where they stole a large amount of cash and weapons. In the process, the men killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins, shooting him multiple times with multiple weapons and running him over. Now they really had nothing to lose. Now, they were cop killers on top of everything else. It looked like it was time to get out of Dodge…or in this case, Texas.
The Texas Seven headed to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and told people they were Christian missionaries. They rented a spot at a trailer park near Woodland Park, Colorado. They were there about a month before things started to fall apart. On January 22, 2001, after seeing the “Texas Seven” profiled on the TV program America’s Most Wanted, someone tipped off the police to the group of seven “missionaries” near Woodland Park. During the raid, ringleader George Rivas was captured along with three of the other men. Larry James Harper decided that he was not going back to prison, so he committed suicide after being surrounded by police. Two days later, law enforcement officials closed in on the two remaining escapees at a hotel in Colorado Springs. A standoff ensued, during which the fugitives conducted phone interviews with a TV news station and claimed their escape was a protest against Texas’ criminal justice system. Someone always has to add a bit of drama to justify their new crimes. There was no evidence indicating their claim was justified. The men then surrendered to authorities. Their crime spree was over. Of the six remaining, four have since been executed. Randy Ethan Halprin and Patrick Henry Murphy Jr are currently back at Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas on Death Row awaiting execution.
The Christmas season is always exciting, for old and young alike, and Christmas Eve is often a very hard day to settle down for. The reasons for the excitement vary. They are usually centered around the Christmas holiday, but not always. For my mother’s family, Christmas Eve holds an extra special significance because it was also their parents, wedding anniversary. Grandma Hattie and Grandpa George Byer were married on December 24, 1927. I always wondered why people would pick a holiday to get married on, but in times past, it was somewhat common. People could not easily get all their family members into town for a wedding, but people were often already getting together for a holiday. Of course, weddings weren’t often the great big affair that they can be these days either. Often the bride simply wore her Sunday dress, and carried a bouquet of wild flowers. I suppose it would be similar to the weddings held at the justice of the peace these days.
The reasons for the date and the simplicity of a wedding really didn’t make much difference, especially concerning my grandparents, because they were very much in love all of the years of their married lives together. I still remember all the times that Grandpa looked at Grandma with total love in his eyes. Grandma always knew that Grandpa loved her very much. Their marriage was blessed with nine children, four of whom are now in Heaven with them. They also have five sons-in-law and several grandchildren and great grandchildren in Heaven with them too. I would imagine that all of them are having a wonderful time there, because there are no tears and no sadness there. Of course, we here, who are left behind miss all of them terribly, and can’t wait to see them again.
Grandpa was a hard worker, who held many jobs in his lifetime. He was always a very respected worker. They knew he could be counted on to be there and to do his job well. Grandma was always a stay-at-home mom, who never learned to drive a car. It was just something she saw no need for. She worked in the home, and she cooked…man could she cook!! And there was always plenty of food on her table…no matter how many extras might show up. No one was turned away, and Grandma’s table was famous in this area. Today would have been my grandparents’ 91st anniversary. Happy anniversary in Heaven, Grandma and Grandpa. We love and miss you both very much.
Christmas Eve traditions can vary from family to family. My husband, Bob’s family always got together for a chili dinner on Christmas eve. Then they opened the presents, and the kids spent the rest of the evening playing with their new toys while all the parents sat around visiting. Sometimes Santa Clause would even show up, which was always a big hit among the little ones. Christmas morning was a day to relax and for the kids to play, while their parents prepared the huge Christmas dinner, and after dinner, all you could think of was how badly you wanted to lay down and sleep…especially when you had eaten two such dinners that day. Christmas dinner was just that way. It really should be followed with a nice long nap, stretched out on the couch to give the belly room.
As a little girl, Christmas eve was a time when we got to open one gift…always pajamas…which ensured good pictures on Christmas morning. We spent time singing Christmas carols. Our Christmas gifts were opened on Christmas morning. I think I always liked that way better, because the anticipation continued to build all night, and then we still had to wait for Mom and Dad to wake up and get things going in the morning. Of course, we really had no idea that they were awake before we were. I think they were just as excited as we were. When it came to Christmas, they were big kids too.
For my grandparents, Hattie and George Byer, as well as my niece, Raylynn Williams and her husband, Doug, Christmas Eve meant celebrating their wedding anniversary. For Grandma and Grandpa, a Christmas Eve wedding was probably more a matter of having family already gathered, and a wedding being held so people didn’t have to travel twice. For Raylynn, getting married on Christmas Eve was a way of honoring her grandparents…a way of sharing something special with them, even though they were both in Heaven by the time she married. It was like having them there at the wedding, and I’m sure that was exactly what Raylynn was thinking as she planned her special day.
Our daughter Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin, and their kids like the tradition we have of opening one gift, and then the rest on Christmas morning, and they have the added excitement of going to Kevin’s mom’s after our house. It really keeps them hopping. Our daughter, Amy Royce, her husband, Travis, and their kids like to watch a movie while eating cheese and sausage with crackers after the gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. For Bob and me…after the rush of Christmas Eve chili with the Schulenberg family, and of everyone coming for the traditional Christmas Eve gift opening session, it’s time to sit down and relax a while before everything starts in the morning, because Christmas dinner is held at our house now. Since my sisters, our families, and I have a party a week or so early, like the Byer family, we all spend Christmas with our own families now. With my parents in Heaven, the big day shifted to us. We love having everyone share it with us. Traditions change as families change, and it will continue to change in the future. The main thing is to enjoy the tradition, while remembering the reason for the season, the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Christmas Eve is a day full of tradition. Maybe not as much tradition as Christmas Day, but tradition nevertheless. For some people, the Christmas gifts are opened on that day, and for others, maybe just one gift is opened. It is the start of the Christmas holiday. When we think of the birth of Christ, we also think of nighttime. Maybe that is why Christmas eve is more special to us…whether we realize it or not. For Christians, Christmas is one of the special days, because it represents the day that hope arrived on the Earth again. Before that, there was no hope, whether the people knew it or not.
For my grandparents, George and Harriet Byer, and my cousins, Raylynn and Doug Williams, it is a day to remember their wedding day, in addition to our Lord’s birth of course. In years gone by, people got married at times when the family could easily get together. I’m sure that is why Grandma and Grandpa chose that day. For Raylynn and Doug, it seemed the perfect day, because of Grandma and Grandpa. I know that any day that a wedding takes place is special, but in our family, the Christmas Eve wedding is a very special one. It was what started the family.
Christmas Eve at my house, when I was growing up, meant singing Christmas carols and eating goodies, listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. We got to open a gift too, and it was always pajamas. We knew it would be, but that was ok. We knew there would be pictures in the morning opening the gifts, and wearing those pajamas, all crisp and new, just made is Christmas somehow. In fact, I don’t think it would have been Christmas in my mind, without those new pajamas. I really miss my parents, Collene and Al Spencer at Christmastime.
For most of us, there is some celebration on Christmas Eve. For my husband, Bob’s family, Christmas Eve meant Chili, and later the addition of Lasagna, and his mom, Joann Schulenberg’s homemade cinnamon rolls. Then they opened the gifts, and the kids had a great evening. Since my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s passing, we have tried to continue that tradition, but we hadn’t had the cinnamon rolls, but my sister-in-law, Brenda wanted that tradition back. So, while they will not be like her mom’s cinnamon rolls, we will have them. Merry Christmas Eve everyone.
Every year, as Christmas approaches, people head out in search of the perfect gift for those they love. Sometimes the hunt can be brutal. You have asked for a list, but they can’t come up with anything, or you don’t ask for a list, and simply hope you know them well enough to know what they would like. Either way, there are times that you just can’t find something you are satisfied with. Other years you are a shopping guru. You fly through your list with ease, and before you know it you are done.
That is kind of how things were for my grandparents, when they were courting. They seriously found the best Christmas gift for each other…a honeymoon. Now, I don’t know if they got to got on any kind of a trip, but getting married on Christmas Eve meant that they got to start their life together for Christmas. Their first full day as husband and wife was Christmas Day. Not everyone would consider Christmas Eve to be the best day for a wedding, and I can understand that, with everything else that is going on during the Christmas season. My grandparents were of a different mind on that. For them, as for many people in those days, weddings tended to take place when the family was all gathered together. Christmas was a perfect time for that. So, since they wanted to get married anyway, they set it for Christmas Eve, so it didn’t interfere with Christmas Day.
It all seemed very practical I’m sure, but for my grandparents, I’m sure it felt quite different. Excitement over starting their new life together must have completely overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations. Waking up next to each other on that first Christmas morning, must have been like being a little kid rushing downstairs to see what Santa Clause brought them for Christmas…except you already knew. They gave each other a honeymoon for Christmas, as well as a whole new life. in that way, I can understand their decision to marry on Christmas Eve. And they aren’t alone in that choice either. My cousin Raylynn Richards Williams and her husband Doug felt the same way about a Christmas Eve wedding as our grandparents did so many years ago.
Maybe Raylynn and Doug chose Christmas Eve because Grandma and Grandpa did, or maybe they chose Christmas Eve because they liked that time of year. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that no matter the reason, if you choose to marry on Christmas Eve, you will have, as part of your honeymoon, the Christmas Day celebration, and that has to be special. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, who found each other, and started this wonderful family, of which I am a part. And for Raylynn and Doug, Happy Anniversary, and Merry Christmas, both Eve and Day.
Most people think of Christmas Eve as just a precurser to Christmas Day, and it is, but for some people it is a little bit more than that. My Grandma and Grandpa Byer have made that an extra special kind of day for the Byer family. Christmas Eve was their wedding day…in 1927. To our family that day marks the day when most of us began the long road to our very existence. My grandparents became the parents of nine children over the years, thereby bringing about thirty one grandchildren, and countless great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, and great great great grandchildren. My grandfather used to remark, “Mommy, look what we started.” Did they ever!! They were married 53 years before Grandpa went home to be with the Lord. Grandma would follow him just 8 short years later, but their love has never passed away. This year, as I contemplate the love they had for each other, and the massive family they created, it occurs to me that this would have been their 86th wedding anniversary. No, they did not live to see that day…not many people do, but if they were still alive…they would have still been together…of that there is no doubt.
Many people might not think Christmas Eve is such a great day for a wedding, what with the holiday and all, but many years ago, that was considered a good time for a wedding, because the family was already gathered for the holiday, and famiy from far away usually couldn’t make it such a log distance for a wedding anyway, so that didn’t matter. Weddings were much less elaborate then too, so they didn’t take as much planning. The couple usually wore their Sunday best clothes, and then went right back to wearing them for Sunday again. Nevertheless, the love was there, and that was what matters. Grandma and Grandpa were made for each other, and they were happy all the days of their lives. I’m sure Grandma never expected to be here without him, and I’m sure there were many lonely days after Grandpa’s passing, but she held his memory in her heart and carried on for another eight years.
Being married on Christmas Eve is probably why Grandma and Grandpa Byer always considered Christmas Eve to be such a special holiday. They loved the family Christmas parties. They got to celebrate their Anniversary and Christmas with all, or at least most, of their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. Many of the great great grandkids and great great great grandkids either don’t remember or never met Grandma and Grandpa Byer, and that thought makes me sad, because they have missed out on so much. While Christmas Eve is not a common day for a wedding, one couple in our family thought Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding date was so special, that they decided to marry that day too, so Happy 86th Anniversary to Grandma and Grandpa Byer, and Happy 19th Anniversary to Raylynn and Doug Williams too.
Christmas Eve in 1927 was a special Christmas Eve…at least to my mom’s soon to be large family. That was the day her parents were married. What started with two young people is love, has grown in those 85 years to a family of more than 300 people. There are new babies being born all the time. I know that if Grandma and Grandpa could see their family now, they would be very pleased, but I don’t suppose they would necessarily be surprised. They were surprised at one time, however…or at least in awe.
I recall their 50th wedding anniversary in 1977. By that time I was married and had two daughters, so I was one of those who were growing the family. It was a wonderful party. Our family has a family Christmas party every year, but this one was very special. We were celebrating the patriarchs of the family…the ones who, at least in our remembrance, started it all. Grandma and Grandpa looked great. They were so happy, but then that was nothing new. They had been happy all their lives together. They celebrated life and the joy of living every day of their lives together. Singing could often be heard in their home, as well as the continuing laughter of the little children and grandchildren that loved to spend time in their home.
At that special party in 1977, I recall Grandpa and Grandma’s glowing faces, as they looked at each other. You could tell that theirs was an everlasting love…a love that grew bigger with each passing year, and each additional member. They were so happy and they felt so blessed. Their marriage had been such a happy one, and their family had grown to such an amazing size, seemingly overnight. The conversation turned to the size of the family, and Grandpa looked at Grandma and said, “Mommy, look what we started!” He was amazed on that day at the bigness of the family, because when you think about it, who really expects or thinks about how big their family will be, when they are a young couple just starting out. Yes, Grandpa was right. They had started something great on that special Christmas Eve 85 years ago today.