Somehow in the midst of all the commercialism that has become the norm this season, the recession that has been on everyone’s mind, and the not always so subtle push to do away with the Christ in Christmas, this remains my favorite time of the year. I love Christmas. I always have and I always will.
Driving along in the car the other day I was reflecting on why I love the season so much and I couldn't help but smile. I would love to have a spiritual reason because Jesus is the reason for the season in spite of the controversies that surround the date and the traditions we associate with Christmas. And He is indeed the reason for the season.
My reason for loving Christmas, however, has a lot to do with Christmases remembered. Funny, as a child, you can’t imagine ever forgetting the presents. There are some that I remember: the coveted easy bake oven, the boom box, the best doll ever. Over time, those things fade and what remain are memories of being together with the ones you love and who love you.
I will never forget those Christmases where we doubled up to make room for everyone; where a midnight trip to the bathroom meant navigating the obstacle course of sleeping bodies all around. I remember the smell of cookies baking, and turkey roasting. I remember decorating the tree together, staying up until midnight on Christmas Eve playing never ending games of monopoly (my family is a ruthless bunch!) or cards or just talking and laughing.
I remember the excited anticipation of my older brothers and sisters* coming home from college, sometimes with friends. I remember the time my older sister*, who spoke very little English when she first came, did not want to ask for help, so she ended up making cookies with pepper instead of cinnamon. Blech! I remember the turkey my older brother* forgot to stuff. It was tasty even if it was… concave. I remember jealously watching all the older kids getting all dolled and duded up to go out to a Christmas party only to be told at the last minute that they could not go. Woo! You talk about some angry folk! (Gotta love my dad - he would pull the plug on your plans in a minute!).
I remember finally willing myself to sleep so Christmas morning would come faster only to have to ‘endure’ the family Christmas traditions. While the presents beckoned me from under the tree, I was forced to eat breakfast first and remain seated until everyone was finished. Some years it was harder than others to get the pancakes past the lump in my throat. Oh but wait! There was more. Breakfast cleanup then back to the table for dad to read the Christmas story to us - the LONG version from Luke 2 - in King James no less!!! My seat at the table gave me prime view of the tree, but I could not afford to be distracted because sometimes there were questions at the end and you had to be ready.
FINALLY it would be time to open gifts. Us younger kids would read the names and hand everyone their gifts and THEN the opening frenzy could begin - provided we had managed not to not spontaneously combust during the preliminaries. (You have NO idea how close I came!)
Christmases are different now. Everyone is out in the world with families of their own; doing their own thing. The traditions we grew up with have quietly faded into the background. The new generation may never know what it was like. Those times will always be special to me. They are the reason Christmas is my favorite time of year. The bottom line is that the greatest gifts we have are our families and friends. It’s all about giving and receiving love starting with the love of God. This Christmas remember to cherish the ones around you, savor the moments, and enjoy the season. Merry Christmas to you all!
*Clarification - Angolan culture does not recognize your parents’ siblings and their children as aunts, uncles and cousins. There is no word for extended family in my parents’ native languages. Instead they are also your parents, your brothers and your sisters. We had several “cousins” come to live with us growing up and we refer to one another as brothers and sisters, much to confusion of our American friends!