November 29, 2012
By Linda Robertson
The fourth of July had barely passed by. Streamers, stars, sparklers, and shimmers left their marks in the night sky, other remnants remaining on high school football fields. We’d barely turned the pages of our calendars when ghosts and goblins began to appear, hanging above our collective consumer heads. Before trick-or-treaters arrived at our doors, tissue paper turkeys made from tiny handprints began appearing in homes with school children. Thanksgiving came and went with little fanfare, usually a half-day long, and suddenly retailers decked the halls of shopping malls with Christmas ornaments, tinsel, popcorn strung as garlands on live pine trees gathered from the mountains of California and Oregon.
What has happened to our traditional holidays that we get so caught up in each one three or four months ahead of their due dates? We plunge right into the buying habits, fully appreciated by store-owners in big cities and little towns. No matter where we look, we can always find a bargain, and in today’s economy, we will sometimes travel to three or four different stores trying to save an additional $2.00. That may sound like a pittance to some but to others, that’s a good cup of coffee. Maybe not a national chain coffee, but a good cup anyway.
As you hop into your car on a blustery weekday morning, you start to notice that there are about twenty more cars on the road than usual. Pondering this, you realize that the holiday season is upon us. But here’s the rub: Halloween is just around the corner, yet we’re already seeing all the elements of Christmas right beside them on store shelves.
Francis Pharcellus Church must be turning over in his grave since he answered Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter to the New York Sun onSept. 21, 1897, in which she asked if there was a Santa Claus. He answered her with a serenity, faith, and belief that has remained a holiday truth for over a hundred years.
I remember hearing Virginia’s letter, and Mr. Church’s reply, when I was a child. I heard it all through school, and when I became a mother, I told the story to my children. There was a magic about Santa Claus back then, and an even more mysterious enchantment of Christmas itself. To wake up Christmas morning and have hot cocoa steaming on the stove, half-eaten cookies and a glass half-full of milk sitting on the side table right next to the Christmas tree revealed the untold joy of every child’s sugarplum dreams. In that moment, there isn’t a child anywhere who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. The child has proof – the cookies and milk are evidence that a jolly old man in a red suit with a white beard and a belly like jelly had secretly entered their house in the quietest moments of the night that only angels and fairies speak of.
I can’t deny, and I won’t lie about getting caught up in the spirit of Christmas. It is the most awesome holiday of the year, perpetually filled with the laughter of children, the long forgotten hymns of Jesus’ birth, and the chilly air that sometimes sprinkles snowflakes on our noses. But I do have to question why our holidays, all of them, have become so commercialized. I understand about our plummeting economy, and that shop owners need to make a living, but I wish just for once – maybe even Christmas of this year – we could get back to the real meaning of Christmas and spend our time given as gifts, instead of our money, buying presents. The best gifts I ever received were those of my grandmothers: Grandma would give me persimmon cookies wrapped up in cellophane and a big bow, and Nana would fill a quart jar with cracked walnuts that took hours to prepare, topped off with draping ribbons. Those gifts were more precious than anything they could have bought in a store because I knew they spent time thinking of me while creating my gifts.
I adopted their traditions as much as I could by making holiday gifts instead of buying them, and I raised my children that way – to appreciate someone’s thoughtful gift, as opposed to a Zip-n-Go bottle of toilet water because someone got caught having to pick up a last-minute present.
It is my hope that everyone reading my blog tonight takes with them my true meaning of the majestic Christmas Eve and the blessed Christmas morning we celebrate. Please take a moment to appreciate your loved ones and spend a little extra time with them, because time is what it’s all about. The jump from July to December is a rapid one, yet on these two extraordinary late-December days, let’s try to forget about commercialism and putting ourselves in debt for presents we can’t afford and our recipients may not need or want.
Appreciate those we think of every other day of the year…those people who fill our hearts with love. Make every moment count!