a trail of Christmases
Wow! Christmas! What a long trail of Christmas memories you have after 65 years. When I was growing up, Christmas was never all about Santa and the reindeer and so forth. The birth of Jesus was always the leading observation in our house. The nativity scene was put in place and I remember looking at the figures. We had the same ones from my earliest memories. That same scene is sitting on Ma Dodge’s library table in Rachael and Michael’s living room right now. The account of Jesus’ birth in Luke was always part of our celebration. I remember my surprise when I discovered I had the entire account memorized from “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Ceasar Agustus..” all the way to ‘Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I never tried to memorize those scriptures, it was only years of repetition that burned them into my memory–a much better way to ‘memorize’ scripture than just settin out to remember a certain verse.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t talk about Santa and elves and white Christmases and candy canes and visions of sugar plums. I can remember Daddy reciting portions of the Night Before Christmas to us. ( I don’t think I ever believed in Santa Claus. He was like a fairy tale that we talked about for fun. I raised my kids the same way. Santa was a fun fantasy but he wasn’t real. ) We always had Christmas trees and presents. Today it is popular in some religious circles to condemn the observance of Christmas because it was established at the same time as a pagan festival. I know all that, but what better way to negate pagan rite than by celebrating the birth of the Savior! And even though many celebrate selfishly and greedily those who know the Lord have yet one more opportunity to tell the old story of Salvation. We should grab that chance and take advantage of it instead of grumping around like Scrooges. We give a very negative image of Christ when we act like that. Christmas is a joyous time. God sent the angels to sing for Jesus birth. I’m glad my mom and dad taught me to do that, too.
Probably the Christmas that stands out most clearly in my memory is the year we had been away from home the weekend before Christmas. I don’t remember where we had been or what we had been doing. I suppose Mom and Dad had planned to get home in time to get a tree and set it up, but as things sometimes go, we had been delayed and didn’t get home until well after dark. It seemed like midnight to me, but it probably was only about eight o’clock.
It was more or less a tradition in our family that the Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve after ‘the kids’ were in bed. Later, I guess we changed that, but when I was little I remember going to bed with an empty living room and waking up to a beautiful tree with piles of gifts under it. So I wasn’t too surprised that no tree was put up before we left. I think I about halfway expected to see the tree all shining and beautiful when we got home though… I knew Mom and Dad put the tree up, but you know… I still kind of thought it might have appeared magically. But it hadn’t.
Everyone was tired and my brother and I were hustled to bed. I was probably about seven or maybe eight at the oldest. I may have been even younger. Anyway while I was getting ready for bed, I remember hearing Mom and Dad talking about not having a Christmas tree this year. It was late and Dad hadn’t even bought the tree yet and the boxes of decorations were packed away somewhere. (lol I don’t even remember where. They just magically appeared at Christmas time. ) Mom and Dad were both tired; they already had the gifts and they talked about just putting them out and not doing the tree. I don’t remember what I said when I heard all of that, but I must have sounded very distressed because both of them comforted me with reassurances that even without a tree we could still have Christmas. I went on to bed but not very reassured and still sad that there would be no tree.
My mother and father must have had a very long night because the next morning there was a gorgeous tree with gifts heaped under it. The manger scene was on the buffet. There was even garland hung on the mantle and the little Christmas-y things Mom always sat along the points of the garland drape. It was Christmas after all!
Later, I learned that Dad had canvassed every Christmas tree lot in town. Most were closed! It was already Christmas Eve, after all. He finally found a guy who had Christmas trees at his gas station and Dad got one there. They talked about how it wasn’t the nicest tree, but Buster and I thought it was great. He didn’t know and I hadn’t expected one. I don’t remember any particular gift that year, but that tree was my biggest present.