What’s a girl to do? This girl who was born and raised in the U.P. Of Michigan, and now living in the south. What’s she gonna do to create Christmas when the temps are 81 degrees in December? I grew up in the very snowy, very northern region of the United States where snow on Christmas was a given, and not just a little snow. Most Decembers displayed a vast blanket of snow wrapping the grounds and homes and trees in a white shimmering coat of winter wonderland. We loved it. The outdoor Christmas lights glimmered in the frosty evenings casting a colorful glow on the snow all around. From inside our home we could peer out at the icy winterscape all the while snug in the warm confines of our homes. Winters in that part of the country were long and drawn out affairs, but at Christmas it was a welcomed part of our tradition.
Even for Central Texas, 81 degree temps is much warmer than our usual December temps. I find myself missing the white falling snow during our holiday. We decorated as best we could despite the green landscape, flowing fountains and cacti surrounding us.
Not one to let a little thing like weather defeat my holiday spirit, I purchased musical winter scene DVDs to play when I want the mood in our house to feel festive and snowy. As I insert the DVD, up pops a scene right out of my youth so I sit down with a cup of hot chocolate to view the changing snowy landscapes as I listen to the Christmas music in its background. Life is good!
Suddenly, as I am enjoying these wintry scenes, in my minds eye, I am back home in the U.P. Of Michigan at the age of 9 or 10 looking out our picture window at the snow and I feel happy! That was a good descriptive word for that window! A PICTURE window it really was! Now, as I sit and watch the snow fall, it brings me back to the days when our Christmases really did resemble a Norman Rockwell portrait, complete with Grandpa and Grandma and other extended family. The following pictures are very accurate to the atmosphere we enjoyed as children. Christmases are for family aren’t they? Well, at least that is the tradition we grew up with and which now creates a plethora of mixed feelings when our modern Christmases don’t quite live up to the old days.
As I sit here, still sipping my hot chocolate, my thoughts set sail on an ocean of memories, sailing on and on, ever backward, and as I begin to recall past Christmases, I feel a sense of loss mixed with a sense of nostalgia because things are not that way for us anymore. This isn’t to say that our Christmases are not nice….they just do not resemble the Christmases of our youth and sometimes we find ourselves feeling a little melancholy about it.
Our children are all in careers where it makes it difficult for our nuclear family to gather all in one place for the holidays. Our only grandchildren live in the north country so we live on opposite ends of the country. We have only had our Grandchildren in our home over the holidays just once in all the years we have lived here. Because a couple of our children married and added other families to their lives, we have to share our children with others.
Our family is close and we have no doubt about our love for one another. I have learned that the holidays are NOT a barometer for how strong the family unit is. By way of mass media, the holidays have become marketed as “the perfect family gathering where we go to church together, eat around a table together, sing together, and exchange a bounty of gifts within our extended family unit. The key word is “together” and the key phrase is “all together”. But many of us are not together and that is our reality.
One year when I was working the desk at our local skilled nursing facility right around Christmas, a manager by the name of Dennis came walking by. Dennis was single but had a significant other and no family in the area. I really liked Dennis. He was such an upbeat, warm human being, and it always just felt SO good to be around him.
As he rounded the desk, I said to him,
“Well, hello there Dennis, how are you today?”
He said, “Oh good! GOOD! How are YOU?”
I said, “Oh, I am just fine Dennis. So, how was your Christmas this year? Was it a good one for you?
He said, “Oh YES! It was SO much fun! Don’t you just LOVE the Christmas holiday? All those presents, that beautiful music, and the FOOD….OMG! Gotta love that, right?????” I agreed with him.
Then he said, “So, enough about me, how was YOUR Christmas?”
(We had just spent a very quiet Christmas alone that year with the kids either working or at their spouses family’s home.)
I smiled at him and said, “Well, Dennis, it was marginal…just marginal!”
He gave me a long look as he paused to contemplate what I had just said and then he replied, “Mine was marginal too!”
I threw my head back and laughed out loud! We can all be such liars right?
It is my bet that there are a lot of people out there who have these marginal Christmases every now and again, and if they don’t….if they always have the Norman Rockwell picture perfect Christmas, then they are missing out on something. Those with perfect Christmases are missing out on coming to know first hand that the holiday is NOT all about us, our family, our celebration and our presents.
The original birthday did not take place in a snowy climate. The original birthday was not spent in a familiar place surrounded by familiar faces. There was not a table in that stable that was filled with a bounty of food. That first Christmas was spent in a distant place surrounded by animals and strangers.
There was no Christmas tree surrounded by a pile of gifts. The original Christmas was where Jesus WAS the gift. A living and breathing promise of salvation and grace extended to every single one of us, without which we would not have eternal life.
Once again, for the two of us, this years Christmas holidays will NOT be of the traditional sort. Hmmmm! a funny thought just occurred to me. Maybe our new “tradition” is NOT having a traditional Christmas? This year we will be spending our holidays with each adult child and our grandchildren individually by traveling to their home in their town, with the exception of our son who lives here. As they say, if Mohammed can’t make it to the mountain, then the mountain will come to Mohammed! And so we do!
I have a choice about how I celebrate Christmas in our home. My choice is to count the blessings or the lacks, and I have decided that counting the blessings is much more likely to lead to peaceful feelings. Right now our best blessing is to still be walking this earth, knowing that when we die the best GIFT ever received by us was the gift that conquered death.
Perfection? NO, it doesn’t exist! At least not in any of the earthly things we experience. The only perfect person who ever existed was born and laid in a manger in the most imperfect of reception rooms. If God was o.k. with that, then we should be o.k. with having an imperfect Christmas gathering celebrating the most perfect human birth. I am grateful to feel the imperfect love of my family and friends and most importantly, to experience the perfect love of God who came to us to save us from ourselves.
Merry Christmas everyone! My prayer for you this Christmas is that you find peace and joy in either your most perfect or imperfect holiday celebration!