There was always snow, we always had a big tree, there were always lots of presents under the tree, Santa always came and brought just what I wanted, we ate turkey and stuffing and had lots of people over to spend the day with us, we sang Christmas carols at school and made red and green paper chains to decorate our classroom . . . .The above description is called revisionist history—looking back and seeing what we want to see.
I don’t quarrel with revisionists in general. But my looking back on Christmas wasn’t always the rose-colored picture I painted in the first paragraph.
Living in east central Illinois, we sometimes had snow for Christmas. When we did, it was beautiful, covering lawns and shrubs and getting caught on tree limbs. Evergreens held out sturdy branches to catch drifts of white stuff. But when we had a green Christmas, there was less chance of having to be pulled out of a ditch when the car skidded out of control.In later years our family often lived far from “home,” so we traveled back to Illinois for Christmas whenever possible. That meant there was no tree at all in the place we left. But I do remember receiving presents, wherever we happened to be on Christmas--just what I wanted or even better than I’d dreamed about.
The Christmas tree I remember most was when I was in fifth grade. My mom decided that year we’d have a blue tree—all the glass balls, all the light bulbs, were blue. After those were attached, we hung tinfoil “icicles” all over, and they turned blue in the reflected lights. I never had a blue tree after I got married; the multi-colored light bulbs always seemed more cheery.
I don’t recall turkey dinners. For just three of us, we had roast chicken or maybe ham. When we went to a relative’s house, we ate whatever they served. Later on, when I was the homemaker, we had turkey dinners for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. They just seemed the right thing to have. With stuffing, cranberry sauce or salad, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, daiquiri salad (a frozen thing, halfway between a sweet salad and a dessert), rolls, pies (pumpkin and apple at Thanksgiving, pumpkin and mincemeat at Christmas).Back in the day, we did indeed sing Christmas carols at school. My favorite year was fourth grade, when Miss Kincaid taught us simple two-part harmony. I fell totally in love with music that year. I learned to read notes, both bass and treble clefs, as well as the time and key signatures, and began to sound out the tunes to unfamiliar songs. Thanks to Miss Kincaid, I became an alto for the rest of my life.
I suppose we made paper chains—that seems a normal things for kids to do—but I seem to recall we cut out shapes from construction paper and fashioned other holiday decorations for our room. Best of all, we learned to draw simple shapes, like evergreens, to decorate notepaper.
|Last year's snow|
Christmas today is much different for me. I’m seldom downhearted if the snow doesn’t show up in time for December 25th, because I know anyone traveling needs good clear roads.If my Christmas tree is small, it’s still a symbol for me of this festive season. If I can’t have one for some reason, I enjoy the trees of my friends and in my children’s homes.
Presents? Sure, I love getting presents. But at my age and stage of life, receiving isn’t as important as giving. I love making things for my family—quilts, scarves, wall hangings, baked goods, even soup!—because I know they’ll be used, enjoyed, and appreciated. I know because they tell me so.Holiday dinners don’t have to be lavish or covering three tabletops. If they’re eaten with people I love and whose company I enjoy, then they’re great meals. Memorable meals.
Nowadays I decorate less, and seldom make the decorations that I do use. But I listen to Christmas carols on the CD player, watch movies on the DVD player, and do some shopping to feel the excited energy of people revving up for the holidays.
In the past ten or fifteen years, Christmas has taken on new meanings for me—deeper meanings. My church celebrates Advent, a time of waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ, the four Sundays prior to Christmas; we listen to Scripture readings that speak of the end-times and point us toward the reason for Christ’s coming in the first place—to die for us.We also have a Christmas Day service at 9:00 AM; I’m playing the organ for that service for the second year. Fewer people attend Christmas Day—many because they have large crowds at their homes, and they’ve probably come on Christmas Eve, a festive celebration indeed. But the size of the congregation doesn’t matter—I’m blessed to be able to play the carols that have come down to us through the centuries, as well as a few newer ones that have become familiar, and to worship in the beauty and holiness of the season.
-----Now I’ve come full circle. When I was young, my parents made Christmas for me. Then when I had my own family, their dad and I made Christmas for the kids. Now my children make Christmas for me.
I celebrate the joy of being connected again to my own childhood through my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The toys are different, the music may be different, the movies are new and goofy (just my opinion), but the excitement is still there.-----
God bless you all this Christmastide!