Thinkin' Back

Thinkin' Back


What are some of the things that come to mind when you think of Christmas?

I posed that question to several folks that I come in contact with on a regular basis. Surprisingly, the majority of the answers that I got were “stress”, “not already”, “long lines”, “fighting over gifts”, “too expensive”, “ugh”, and then “family” which was said with a visible shudder.

I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What happened to the true spirit of Christmas? What happened to counting down the days with excitement? What happened to getting to share this special holiday with friends and family? What about putting thought and effort into that special gift, even if it was only a few dollars?

That’s when it hit me; once again folks are too busy to simply enjoy this holiday and all that it encompasses. They are worried about keeping up with the Jones’ when buying presents, about getting the latest and greatest technology to keep their kids out of their hair, errrr entertained, about rushing from one place to another, posting here and there on social media showing what great people they are, etc.

Then I started thinking about what all came to my mind when I thought of Christmas. Here’s just a sampling of what I was able to come up with.

Lights – Each year my family packs into a car, sometimes two cars, and drives through neighborhoods and light displays to ooh and ahh over the twinkle lights. While some are drawn to the light shows that are set to music, and I agree that they are fascinating, I’m partial to the regular lights…with my absolute favorite being the big bulb strings of lights. Those remind me of the houses I saw decorated as a kid. My parents would drive for what seemed like hours, through different towns, taking in the lights. It was my job to judge the favorites of each neighborhood, an honor I took very seriously within our family.

Smells – It didn’t seem like the Thanksgiving leftovers were fully gone when the Christmas baking began. There would be smells of vanilla, brown sugar, chocolate, peppermint, and my favorite, cinnamon. My mom was the head baker with me being her trusty sidekick and taste tester. She would be making goodies for work, for family and friends, for my school, and some for home. Then, when she wasn’t baking she would have a simmering pot of spices on the stove just to give the house that holiday smell. That’s not to mention the cold weather or snow smell that just happens to be in the air.

Stockings – Each member of my family had their own stocking and they hung proudly around a door frame since we didn’t have a fireplace. Just about each one was homemade and they still get hung each year. The memories that surround each one as special and irreplaceable as the stocking itself. That was the first thing we did on Christmas morning, open our stockings. Inside there would be a tangerine, an apple, a few different nuts still in their hard shells, and hard candy like peppermint. Sometimes there would be an additional little treat, but this was the standard stocking stuffers.

Get-togethers – Call them what you will; parties, dinners, get-togethers, gatherings, socials, etc. Ours were always full of people, both friends and family, and full of food. Kids stayed in the same room as the adults and we would all get to catch up before the food was ready. Then when you heard the magic words “Y’all come get it” you knew to get in line. The children got their plates first and were able to go eat with one another at the kids table. Then the adults sat around the big tables to have real conversations.

The tree – Always a family event that happened the first day of December. We would put on Christmas music in the background, pour a glass of boiled custard (dad & I) or eggnog (mom), and set to opening all of the boxes that contained the treasures that belonged on the tree. We never had a designer or theme tree. Our tree has always been a hodge podge of ornaments that were homemade, gifts that have been given, passed down for generations, etc. We didn’t even use a tree skirt, I know – banish the thought, we used a plain white sheet. I always thought it looked like snow.

Shopping – As I have gotten older I have discovered that I love shopping for presents for loved ones. Any other time of the year and you’re lucky to catch me shopping for anything that isn’t groceries or a necessity. There’s just something about bundling up in your favorite hoodie, hitting the stores, and getting to see everything decorated for the season. Seeing little ones line up to sit in Santa’s lap with their eyes so wide and bright makes me smile every time.

Family – I don’t need to shudder when I think about my family. I look forward to getting to spend time with them. Getting to sit down with them, face to face, and catch up with our lives. Again, getting to have real conversations with them. One favorite topic in our family is recipes and this can easily be weaved in and out throughout conversations for hours. No matter how easy social media makes it to keep in touch with folks, it will never replace getting to look someone in the eye when you talk to them.

Cards – There seems to be fewer and fewer Christmas cards being sent each year. This tradition is going away just like the lost art of writing a letter to someone. Sure, it’s easy to take a card, sign your name, and send it…but what about actually writing something in that card? Or better yet, why not buy blank cards with a pretty cover so you can write individual messages to each person? I remember my mom sitting down several nights back to back and writing out the family Christmas cards. I liked putting the stamps on the envelopes and admiring my mom’s handwriting while sipping on my hot chocolate.

I could honestly go on and on about Christmas and what all comes to mind, but I believe this will give you the idea.

With all of this in mind, I have a challenge for each of you. I’ll even double dog dare you if need be. Get back to the basics this Christmas. Spend time with your family, go look at the lights, volunteer at a shelter to help someone who has way less than what you’re blessed with, write at least one Christmas card, etc. Just do something to enjoy the time instead of rushing through it, and as a result rushing through life.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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