As we near the end of this most trying year, we are faced with yet another sacrifice…whether or not to cancel Christmas! Why even to mention such a thing feels sacrilegious. Can we really even consider not making pounds of Aunt Betty’s famous chocolate fudge or not decorating our beloved though slightly lopsided 6-foot faux cedar tree while listening to Amy Grant CD’s? How can we miss playing “Mean Santa” at the office Christmas party or putting up lights after we debate (yet again!) with our spouse which looks more festive, white, or multi-colored? How can we not have Christmas? Why it’s like asking a 5-year-old not to believe in Santa Claus…unthinkable!
And yet that is exactly what we are faced with this year or at least that is what it feels like. Asking most of us to scale back Christmas or modify our holiday rituals and most of us suddenly become much like obstinate children being deprived of ALL of the items on our Santa wish list. No one said we can’t have some of the items on our list, but quite simply some of that stuff’s got to go! Perhaps because as we grow older and lose more with each passing year, we hold on so desperately to the other things.
When I was a child I am proud to say I had magical holidays. Some years I got more gifts than other years but I really didn’t mind so much because even then I loved the entire experience. I loved drawing names in school and I loved playing an angel then later Mary in the church plays. I loved Christmas eve at my rich Aunt Geraldine’s house, Christmas day dinner at 12 noon on the dot at my paternal grandparents’ house, and finally, to top it off, Christmas night at my maternal grandmother’s where it was bring a dish and a musical instrument and see how many people could fit into a two-bedroom trailer! We all sang and stuffed our faces until the wee hours.
As I grew older and began to be the architect of my own family’s holiday traditions, I was influenced by my own childhood favorites. My two must-haves were a grand Christmas tree and a glorious Christmas feast. Heavily influenced by my aforementioned aunt, I vowed when I grew up I would have a tree-like Aunt G’s with so many ornaments you could practically hear the poor tree groan from the weight! And the meal, well I come from a long line of southern cooks so the menu features either turkey or ham with all the trimmings as well as a dessert table loaded with cakes, pies, and custard; all lovingly homemade from recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Curiously, my beloved Memaw, who I still channel every time I cook during the holidays, did not like to put up a Christmas tree. As a matter of fact, I can only recall her having a Christmas tree once. Years later after she passed away did I find the reason for her reluctance to put up a tree. Her own father was of German heritage and he loved chopping an evergreen and the whole family would then decorate with popcorn garlands and she and her mother would crochet beautiful ornaments together to adore the tree. Though Memaw worked tirelessly and lovingly every year to give her family a wonderful Christmas, the tree was a reminder of those loved ones who were no longer there to share this most precious time.
I began to understand all too well as I began to lose those people who helped form everything I am. There have been years where I was either too distracted or too depressed and I didn’t really feel up to the task of celebrating. But ultimately, each and every year, sometimes at the last minute, I would realize how important it is to celebrate Christmas. Because it is never more obvious than at Christmastime: what you give to others and then to see the look of love and gratitude on their faces, there is no more precious gift on earth.
Yes, in a year filled with sacrifice, pain, and loss we are asked once more to give up something that means so much…celebrations with those we care about the most. Yet it is because we care that we will make the sacrifice. Remember during our country’s two and a half centuries, the holidays that we choose to celebrate have changed and evolved with the times. This is just another evolution. So commit to celebrating in a safe but sentimental way that incorporates what you can and remember that the greatest gift is the love shared by family and friends. Also, consider choosing an attitude of gratitude to end this year.
And with that I will close with this quote by William Arthur Ward: Gratitude can transform the most common of days into the grandest of holidays; Gratitude can turn routine jobs into thankful joys;& Gratitude can change the most ordinary opportunities into the most extraordinary blessings!
Be safe, well, and happy this holiday season!
Certified Substance abuse counselor in Florida and NC. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org