Today I have been in a real funk about Christmas, the whole Hallmark Holiday thing, the consumerism, the almost anti-American thoughts I have about Not Shopping. While in a store recently the appearance of shoppers with loaded carts, the sheer crowds, the hurry up and get in line, all of it seemed like intense peer pressure. Come on, you should be doing this, too. It’s all about spending, getting those last minute gifts.
It would be hard to describe what it felt like this evening when it suddenly occurred to me that indeed it is not the gifts that I remember from all those Christmases of my past. When I realized this I had to ask myself what is important about those holidays? If the gifts are not what you recall then what is? Here is what came to mind.
There was Grandma and Grandpa. They brought us the best gifts, and seemed to be really delighted in giving them and seeing how we received them. Grandpa would arrive with camera in tow and take as many photos as he could. Grandma would cook, or at least help to clean up the turkey from the bone after the meal.
Our parents were the host and hostess, sometimes including dear friends and relatives around the table on Christmas Day. They had to keep all four of us in line, my older sister and my two younger brothers. I know now that they worked closely with Grandma and Grandpa to make sure we had a nice Christmas. (But I must confess to being 12 years old and looking out my bedroom window at midnight on Christmas Eve really hoping to see the sleigh and reindeer in the sky. I did NOT want to grow up.)
There was the dining room table and all the dishes, beautiful dishes with apples on them that were kept in the buffet except for special occasions. My sister and I learned how to properly set a table in 4-H, and we would help with this.
But there was excitement in the air about this meal. Special food. Cranberry relish, suet pudding, pumpkin pie, turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. The smells, the feast. Ah, the feast. (The Grinch would be amazed…)
The prayer at the meal would always be special. As a young child I did not correctly understand a phrase that my Grandpa used in his prayers. I thought he was saying a word like “in-tend-did-use”. Later I discovered he was asking for our food to be blessed “to our intended use”. Thank goodness I finally figured it out.
In more recent years when my Dad would pray his words would bring tears to my eyes. He still does, as I write these words. His prayers always seem to be so true, so deep, and so heartfelt.
Washing dishes and cleaning up (and trying to sneak out of it) came next. Then playing with new toys or trying on the new clothing. Or…the Nap. The long winter’s nap of poetic fame. Members of my family claim to be professional nappers now. This could be where that all began.
The perfect place for the nap? On the living room rug in front of the fire place. The smell of the wood smoke, the pop and crackle of the fire, the ambiance. Just being so full of food and getting sleepy. A little Christmas music playing on the stereo (LP’s, of course).
What was important was that this was a family day, a day off, a time to enjoy being together. Yes, my Dad would sometimes have to go out on a service call since he was an electrician/plumber by trade, but we were still family, still able to be together in our home.
This was all about family, friends, good food, a warm loving place to be.
This is that gingerbread feeling I referred to in my last post. This is what I miss. I would do it all again any day – without any gifts. In a heartbeat.