The Christmas Season is upon us. Yes, the real Christmas Season not the after Labor Day, commercial Christmas Season that many of our large retail stores have turned it into. Personally, I refuse to talk about Christmas or consider anything Christmas until after Thanksgiving. That goes for Christmas shopping also, so no, I do not have any Christmas shopping done yet.
I love the Christmas Season and almost everything about it. I especially find meaning and love what Christmas really stands for. I am not ashamed to say that Christ’s birth is at the forefront and center of everything Christmas means to me. Without a celebration of Christ’s birth and an advent season with a deeper meaning, Christmas would become X-mas. Then it would become just a commercial holiday about material things and that would make it pretty hollow.
I really think my farm upbringing led me to this deeper appreciation of the meaning of Christmas. The Christmas Season was a truly special time in our house growing up. It began shortly after Thanksgiving with the cutting of a real, live cedar tree (OK so it involved the cutting of several cedar trees to find the right one). I can still remember the smell of evergreen all around our house and that along with freshly baked sugar cookies are the smells of Christmas.
Decorating the tree was a family affair. We each had our own ornaments that we put on the tree. My main ornament was an elf. I still revel in just sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree lights later in the evening and early in the morning during the Christmas Season. Often this quiet time, when I am the only one awake is when I do my best reflecting on the very things that give Christmas its meaning.
We also had certain Christmas TV shows we watched every year. Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Peanuts Christmas cartoons were annual visitors at our house. I still look forward to watching each of these shows every year. My favorite is Linus telling the Christmas story and it gives me goose bumps to this day. I am not a big fan of sappy movies with one big exception, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, is something we should all see every year.
Then came Christmas Eve, it was the best day of the year. Much of my childhood we milked cows. Christmas to the kids of a dairy farmer is a little different than the Christmas of other kids. Everything centered around milking those cows. I remember getting ready for Christmas Eve services and being told I needed to be ready and out of Dad’s way when he got in. We sat, anxiously awaiting church and what was to come afterward, while Dad got ready.
Then we would pile into the car and leave for Christmas Eve candlelight services. For some reason my Mom always forgot something and had to go back into the house and she took forever. Christmas Eve service is, without a doubt my favorite part of Christmas. Nothing is more meaningful to me than to sing Christmas Carols and end the service with a candlelight singing of “Silent Night”.
We would then pile back into the car and head home. The funny thing about being a dairy farmer’s kid is that Santa comes while you are gone to Christmas Eve service. You see he knows that we could not get up early enough to open presents with Dad in the morning and that he couldn’t sneak past Mom after Dad left to milk and he always knew when Christmas Eve services were. That meant we got to open presents on Christmas Eve.
Up until now you will notice that none of my memories have to do with presents. Growing up the son of farmers taught me to appreciate any and all gifts I was given. We learned to value the idea that our parents loved us enough to give us gifts. If it was a good farm year, maybe the gifts were a little bigger, but they were always something we cherished and appreciated. We never worried about whether someone else got more or better gifts, we were excited about what we were given.
I fear some of that is lost in this day of a more commercialized Christmas. It seems each year the expectations are bigger and the tugs at our time are greater. We do not seem to have the time to appreciate the build up to Christmas or to really value each gift and the thought behind that gift. More importantly, we don’t seem to have time to stop and think about what Christmas is all about.
My wish for you this Christmas Season is to have a Christmas more like the one I had as a child. Take time to enjoy each sight, sound, taste and smell of Christmas. Make sure to have some quiet time to reflect on the real meaning of the Season. Most of all take the time to spend as a family and just appreciate each other and take that time to pass an enjoyment of the simpler things on to your kids. Now pardon me as I plug in the tree and sit down in my easy chair.