Sunday, December 17, 2006
Getting into the Spirit at CHRISTMAS
When I was a little girl, I anticipated Christmas with mixed feelings. For one, my tiny Christian school frowned on Christmas celebration, though we usually had a small gift exchange. Mostly, Christmas was ignored (definitely no Santas or Ho-ho-ho,)and really, just a little bit about the baby Jesus. I think I was in first grade when I learned about King Herod killing all those babies when Jesus was born. It was just a bit scary to think about. I didn't need Halloween to be scared out of my mind. It made a tenderheart like me cry.
My mother was usually depressed at Christmas. (She had plenty of reasons why.)I was a Nervous Nelly, and picked up on all the scary things going on in my own house, too. I tried to be extra good, because if I were "good enough" maybe nothing scary would happen around Christmas time.
We had a small aluminum silver tree and some glass ornaments and the best part was this color wheel that made different colors glow on the silver needles.(Wish we still HAD THAT. It's now worth quite a lot--ha.) We had a Chipmunk Christmas album, Bing Crosby and of course, watched all the holiday specials. Mom made a white Christmas tree cake and frosted it with green icing and Red Hot candies. It was beautiful. And she also made this fruit cocktail cake, which was yummy. She would make egg nog (the nonalcoholic kind) and I loved that. (Just the right amount of nutmeg.)We always had a school program and I always had a major role to memorize.
One year my teacher made me memorize a 2-page poem about a Raggedy Ann doll and recite before our play. I loved that Raggedy Ann doll, but had to give it back to the person who lent it to us for my part. Then,immediately afterwards I had the major part in presenting the Gospel about Jesus to "Grandpa" in a play called "Christmas Comes to Grandpa." It was a little funny because Robbie Foss, who played Grandpa, wasn't that much older than me and they had him all grayed up and with glasses on. But I didn't giggle once during the play, despite giggling quite a lot in practice.
My family didn't usually spend Christmas at "home." We would pack up almost as soon as we hit the door for Christmas vacation and head to Tennessee. Now, the group, Alabama, and Amy Grant both sing this song that always makes me cry called "Tennessee Christmas" because it reminds me of going to Tennessee to be with our family there.
We didn't really have "Christmas morning" but usually I didn't care. I wanted to go so much, that I would've given away any present I had just to go. I think my mom used to worry about going to Tennessee and us not really having a traditional Christmas morning, but frankly, it taught us to treasure the people more than the gifts, I think.
My dad, who was very poor growing up, always made sure we had an orange in our stockings. That was very important to him. He would tell us how he was so poor, but somehow, someone always made sure they had an orange for Christmas--a real treat. He would turn up his nose when talking about the candy, though. His grandmother, it seems, always thought the only kind of candy he should get was "horehound" candy. If you have never tried it, just imagine the worst tasting medicine, and that's it! He bought some one time so we could try it. I don't know why they even bothered to call it "candy."
So, I still love to have oranges at Christmas--and to include some orange goodies. My dad liked the soft peppermint sticks, so we always had that, too. But we would have all of these things before taking off to Tennessee. My parents married at
12 noon on December 22, so that was another thing--they had their anniversary just three days before Christmas. If for some reason we couldn't go to Tennessee, then Dad would always make sure he stopped his truck wherever he was so he could call my mother at exactly 12 noon. I get a little weepy thinking about that. While their marriage of nearly 50 years was extremely trying and sometimes tragic, he really did care about her. When she died in April of 1997, he had a "silent" heart attack. He died just two years later. I think he regretted all the trouble he gave her, and he tried to make it up to us until he died.
I still feel a bit "blue" at Christmas not going to Tennessee, and many times my husband is scheduled to work on Christmas. But my boys seem to love being "at home." So, we make our own traditions and my boys have grown up without the fears I had at Christmas time. They simply are joyous and peaceful. What a gift.
So, I put on a Christmas recording, think of my parents who are both dead now, and the many trips we made to Tennessee. I try to block out some of the bad memories at Christmas (there were many...) and just concentrate on the good times now. And I pick up a good book with warm, tender stories, watch how other people celebrate Christmas, as my husband and I recall our own Christmas celebrations with our boys, which usually makes us laugh. Like how Max (our youngest of four) always seemed to pull over the Christmas tree. Or how Jordan would tear Christmas presents open with a huge pile of ripped paper, while Jared meticulously opened his slowly, folding each paper neatly. And how Bryce always seemed to get the "deep" spiritual meanings in all of the stories. And us always participating in Angel Tree.
If you need some ideas for good, Christmas-themed books to read at Christmas time, try looking at this list at Faithfulreader.com
Or check out my friends' books, Lee Warren and Robin Lee Hatcher.
And eat an orange for my dad while you're reading.
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Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories with us, the good and the not so good. This is a difficult time of year for many people. Very few actually have the perfect, storybook fantasy of Christmas that we usually see portrayed.
If we focus on the blessings the Lord has put in our lives, whatever they are, rather than comparing what we have or don't have with someone else, I think we will be much better off.
We need to remember that the true reason we celebrate Christmas is because of Jesus, and he was born in a stable, not a palace. He certainly understands any loneliness, isolation, and pain that we feel.
I pray the memories you make this Christmas time are wonderful ones.
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