Posted in Thoughts

What Christmas Means to Me

I am a child at Christmas. No matter how old I get, I am still excited by the Christmas lights adorning houses and stores, intricately woven onto boats and stylishly fashioned on business marquees. I stare in wonder and awe at displays of homemade ornaments and family heirlooms, delicate glass balls, wrought metal sculptures, paintings, and nature crafts.

I hum along with familiar songs, belting out the chorus and breaking into dance. I twirl around light poles like Fred Astaire and imagine myself kicking like a Rockette on Broadway. I watch classic Christmas movies and gorge on Hallmark and Lifetime’s sweet romances. I inhale the scent of pine, cinnamon and brown sugar, cocoa and warm apple spices, and I feel the years slip away until I’m a little girl waiting for Santa to arrive.

Christmas, to me, begins at Thanksgiving. It is a reminder of what is truly important, family and friends. Thanksgiving gives us a moment before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the holiday, to stop, thank God for all that he has given us and rejoice in our blessings. It is also a time to reflect on those who are no longer with us.

During the holiday, I find myself thinking of my Granny Berry and my Aunt Martha. These two women were the matriarchs who influenced my life. My dad’s mother, Grandma Anna died when I was six, Aunt Martha became my surrogate grandmother. From our church program on Christmas Eve to our family dinner on Christmas day, they taught me Christmas was more than presents. It was about Christ’s birth, death and the gift of life. It was about our duty to church and family, about community. Christmas was a celebration of love, a wish for peace, and a dream of hope. Some of that is missing from my Christmas this year. I have gotten so caught up in buying gifts and sending cards that I have forgotten to be thankful for God’s greatest gift, his son, Jesus, the reason we celebrate Christmas. I am also thankful for my own sons, my husband and family, my friends, my community, I know that I am blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas and remember the Christmases of my past. I am so thankful for all who have taught me the true meaning of Christmas.

As you swim through the chaos of last-minute shopping, wade through ribbons, wrappings and decorations, stop a minute and look around at the reason you are celebrating. Reach out to a friend or neighbor who doesn’t have family or the blessings you know. Share a little of the love and joy of the holiday with a card, a gift or a just a smile. Let this time of year reflect in how we treat others. That is what Christmas means to me.

Posted in Thoughts

Oh, Christmas Tree

We always had an artificial tree, although dad did insist it be green. His parents’ Christmas tree always looked as if it was made of tin foil. It could also double as an antennae for the television if you set it close enough. When I was able, I was determined to have a real tree. My first real tree was a Charlie Brown pine tree in a coffee can. I dug it up myself and put it in my bedroom. It was pitiful but I loved it. My husband and I often had real trees. He and the boys would go into the woods and chop down a tree or we’d buy one from the grocery store. I love decorating the Christmas tree but over the years I’ve had to do it alone, my husband isn’t interested. He’ll put the tree together, we’ve reverted to the manmade deal and he’ll string the lights. My dad always strung the lights, that was his one contribution to decorating for Christmas. Mom and I decorated until I was older and the whole thing became my job. My sons never got into the decorating the tree spirit. They’d help some but usually, I decorated on my own. This year, my oldest grandson helped me decorate and it was so much fun. We laughed and joked and made up a cool Christmas story. Usually I put on a Christmas movie and watch it while I decorate.
When I was a kid, we never had a set day to put up the tree. It was only after mom got tired of me begging that she’d allow me to pull everything out. It was never before December first and rarely the first week of December, usually it was about two weeks before Christmas that she’d finally relent and I was allowed to put up the tree. After my own kids came along, my oldest son begged me not to put the tree until after his birthday, so we waited until after the first week of December. Now, I put it up whenever I want.
I like to do themed holiday decorations. This is a tradition my mother-in-law started me doing. She has a different themed tree each year. She loves Christmas and decorating. One year I made native American ornaments. I researched many tribes and did Kachina dolls and fetishes for each of the larger tribes, with a native American angel I made for the top of the tree. I decorated with wildlife ornaments, pine cones and gumballs, and pewter charms I’d found with native drawings. I loved those ornaments, that was one of my favorite trees.