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My Favorite Christmas Memories

By Paula Deen

I absolutely adore the holiday season—I always have. There’s just something about gathering with loved ones around a sparkling Christmas tree or a crowded supper table with Aaron Neville’s “Bells will be Ringing” playing in the background that brings a smile to my face and a little extra warmth to my heart.

My favorite part of Christmas has always been and will always be spending time at home with my family, both immediate and extended. I think I get my love of hosting at my own home from my father—he always preferred we stay home on Christmas Day. And just like I did as a child, my family all opens gifts together on Christmas morning.

Having the family I did, food has always played a part of my holiday celebrations, and Christmas was no exception. Growing up, it just wasn’t Christmas without mama’s Christmas cake, which was an incredible Japanese fruitcake. I made it for many years after she passed away, but now, my children and grandchildren expect my coconut cake, and I think they feel about the same towards my cake that I did towards my mama’s.

While I so miss spending Christmas with my parents, I’m so blessed to have so many fond Christmas memories to look back on. In fact, even some of those Christmases that weren’t so great at the time have brought me laughter after all these years. I can remember the first Christmas without my daddy— I was absolutely miserable; I missed him so much. Luckily I had my Aunt Peggy and Uncle George to keep me company. That year they gave their boys Twister—you know the game. You spin, you put your hands and feet on the corresponding color, and you get all twisted up! My Uncle George and I decided to play a bit, and when he bent over to put his hand on a new spot, he passed a little gas. I’ll tell you what—it was the first time I had laughed since I lost my father, and, boy, did it feel good.

I’ve always enjoyed watching my boys’ excitement on Christmas morning as they open their gifts—from footballs and boards games to books and bicycles. Even though they’re now grown, I still get so excited to see them open their gifts. Everyone knows Jamie is the biggest Georgia Bulldogs fan, and when they were in the Rose Bowl last year, I knew exactly what I was getting Jamie, Brooke & the boys. I couldn’t wait to see their faces when they realized I was sending them to the game! Of course, the smiles on the faces of my grandchildren may even outshine those smiles of my own boys. And with three new grandchildren this year, including my first two grandgirls, I know this year my heart will be even more full. What is it about being a mama and a Guinny that makes Christmastime even more special?

Of course, I don’t mind receiving gifts myself. I still remember when I was the youngster excitedly opening gifts. One Christmas, I was fortunate to peel back that beautiful Christmas paper to find my very own Mary Hartline doll. She was so beautiful with those pretty curls and a gorgeous majorette dress. I just couldn’t believe my luck! Of course, even that wonderful gift pales compared to the Christmas that Michael proposed to me. I still say that was my most wonderful Christmas of all. What a gift to get to spend the rest of your life with your one true love.

There are just so many wonderful memories of Christmases past, and with so many grandchildren (that’s a total of nine with Bobby and Claudia’s new additions), I know there will be even more incredible Christmastime memories in the future, as well. I hope that this holiday season brings you your own precious memories too. Merry Christmas!

xoxo,

Paula

Paula Deen - As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream — married to her high school sweetheart and raising two adorable boys — when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started The Bag Lady, a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen's professional cooking career. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering lunch-and-love-in-a-bag, beginning in June 1989, Paula turned her life around by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking.

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