Remember when you were little. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Oh, the incredible smells.
The smell of a freshly cut fir tree and the cool crispness of the December outdoors … creamy hot chocolate and nutty, rich fudge … a roaring fire and fresh popcorn … freshly baked cookies and cakes. These are the smells of Christmas.
The sounds … carols sung from the back of a truck on a hayride on Christmas Eve … the oohs and aahs when the tree is finally decorated just so … the delighted squeal of a child early Christmas morning … church plays and programs … handbell choirs and “O Holy Night.”
The sights … houses decorated with sparkling lights … candles in the windows … manger scenes … parades with Santa Claus bringing up the rear … the Salvation Army lady and her little red bucket … the red and white stripes of candy canes.
Remember waking up on Christmas Day, almost bursting with excitement and anticipation; and you just knew Santa had brought you just what you asked for … ripping open packages helter-skelter with an abandon reserved only for the very young.
What was it about Christmas that caused such excitement? Was it the presents? Was it the food or the smells or the sights or the sounds?
Christmas in 2023 doesn’t hold a lot of anticipation for very many people. Christmas has come to mean spending a lot of money you don’t have on people you don’t really like for reasons you can’t remember. It’s about obligation and trying to outdo the in-laws and the out-laws and the extended, blended nuclear family members that only come around at Christmas. It’s about trying to fulfill the dreams of a child on a budget that doesn’t include the outrageous expectations of Christmas. It’s the feeling of dread when you realize you can’t afford to keep up with what the neighbors’ kids are getting.
When I think back on Christmas as a child, I usually don’t recall the presents I received. The best Christmases at home didn’t have anything to do with what I got. I remember the year all of us strung popcorn and cranberries to hang on the tree. Who would have thought such a small thing would create a lasting memory? That was also the year we first got lights. The tree was so beautiful that Christmas. It was also the last year I was home before I got married. I remember the warmth, the togetherness of family and the creation of continuing family traditions. I remember the joy of Christmas.
When did we lose the joy? Did we lose it when we started seeing Christmas decorations on the same aisle as Halloween favors? Was it the advent of credit cards when you could charge the moon and pay for it till it was time to do it again? Or was it when our expectations became so lofty they were unattainable?
Christmas is about family. And, it’s about love and togetherness. To create a lasting tradition for a child is to create a memory to pass down to his/her children. It’s also about giving. Are your children getting more than they are giving? Chances are, if they are like most American children, giving wasn’t on their Christmas list.
It’s not too late to start new traditions. Choose a family to bless this Christmas. Take your family and visit someone who is homebound. Take a meal or cookies or a cake or a pie to a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. Find an old fashioned Christmas Eve service and revisit what this season really means. And then plan to do it again next year.
This world needs the Spirit of Christmas.
Do your kids and your family a favor. Put the joy back in Christmas. Make it about giving and celebrating, less about obligation and getting. Make it about tradition and spiritual renewal, peace and good will. Make it a Christmas to remember.
Recapture the joy.