I remember pieces of Christmas past, many of them. The rarity of a white Christmas in Kansas, or even more rare, in Texas. A couple years ago, a winter storm stalled out right on top of DFW. We were supposed to only get 1-3" white fluffy, but in reality it was between 10-14". That, in the land of limited snow removal equipment! It was awesome!
It brought back fond memories of all the snows in Kansas as a kid--often more sleet and snow mix, but that just made for even better sledding, as the sleet would solidify into a hard sheet of ice. You could really FLY downhill on campus, there below the Campanile, and Potters Pond. I once broke a runner-sled, I caught so much air on the downhill run! Or of the crazy stupid stuff we did as kids, sledding through the trackless woods, I still don't know how we managed to always avoid serious injury crashing into the trees. But we did...oh the invincibility of youth!
I always loved putting the tree up, but my secret favorite is the outdoor Christmas lights. I suppose that's why those dumb Chevy Chase movies struck a chord with me...I must be a Griswold at heart! I wish I was more creative in putting out our lights. I wish they made better quality (durability) lights these days--even the LED lights don't last long.
I remember one year, as a young adult/late teen, still enamored of checking out the packages as they appeared under the tree. There appeared a larger box, fairly heavy and not noisy at all. It said on the label, to Mom, love Dad. I would've shrugged and ignored it from then on--it wasn't mine after all! Until, as I was handing out presents on Christmas morn, I handed that to Mom, and she laughed, telling me to read the label again! Those sneaky buggers! They had relabeled it with my name the night before! IIRC, it was a VHS player, and it was used for a great many years. In fact it may still be on our current TV stand, though not used any more, having been replaced by a more reliable DVR system.
As a child I was an inveterate package shaker, and probably could have gotten a job with a TLA as a Crate-ologist! I was good, back then, at deciphering box contents based on size, shape, weight, and noise levels. One year I recall cheating. I finally figured out how to lift the scotch tape without tearing the paper underneath, and just HAD to know what some of my gifts were.... You guessed it, that act ruined the surprise and joy of the day, and I don't even remember what the gifts were, that I had to sneak a peek at. It was one of those steps in life, where you finally do begin to learn it is better for the soul to give than to receive.
Setting out cookies and milk for
I'm trying to give our kids some traditions around Christmas. We are trying to make sure the kids know the true meaning of Christmas, not the retail-reality. Like me, one Monkey is an early Christmas Present (birthday just before Christmas) and it makes it a little harder when all your gifts come in one week, where the other two are summer children, and get half their stuff then. So with birthdays, each birthday-child gives the other two a small gift, so that they learn to give, not just receive, and also to make it a little easier on the December child.
One silly tradition we have is the Christmas Jayhawk. Yes, I am a Jayhawk by birth, Texan by the grace of God. I got from my mom years ago, a small Jayhawk cross stitch ornament. If you squeeze it just right, the mouth opens, and you can stick a note or a piece of candy in it. For the kids, if they behave, the Jayhawk will leave one child a piece of candy on their particular December days (every 3rd day here), and he also likes to hide on the tree, moving every night.
I can understand why some folks have a harder time emotionally at Christmas. Sometimes, death casts its pall over the holidays, making for a far more somber occasion than is the norm. Other times illness in a family causes strain. Sometimes it is even THE family that causes the strain for some folks. We have been blessed, in that it is only the first two, which have darkened our doorsteps here at the casa. You may think it strange for me to say we have been blessed, but I don't. Death brings family together, who are often far-flung these days. It brings remembrance, and introspection, and if you are fortunate, a willingness and desire to fix flaws in your own life, to honor and remember those now gone from our daily lives.
Illness, chronic or acute, grinds you down, daily wearing thin the social niceties one expects to see. The hard part is the struggle to get back to 'normal', but at least there is a chance to fight for normality. Remembering, that there are tests in life, and this will merely be one of them. Trusting in God's purposes in one's life helps, I find, especially when I cannot fix what is wrong, but can only offer support. I need to work on remembering that I choose how I feel each day, choose how I react to others actions, making a conscious effort to keep in mind the commandment given to us in John 13:34-35.
For Christmas is the remembrance of the greatest love. A birth in the season of winter-death. And hidden on the Christmas tree, is a reminder of that other tree, one on which the Son gave up his life, that we might gain ours.