Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Faith, family traditions key to Christmas joy

(Originally published 12/22/07)

I love Christmas.

I have fond memories of our family singing traditional Christmas carols at the candlelight services at our church when I was a kid. Afterward, my dad took us to check out the Christmas lights all over town. My mom used that time to wrap presents, stuff stockings and make all the final preparations for the big day.

After we went to bed, my dad made Santa footprints by sprinkling carpet cleaner (or soot itself, before my mom made him switch) out from the fireplace, munched the cookies we left and wrote us a note as a final touch. Looking at his letters, I would wonder whether all those cookies gave Santa a sugar high; Dad confessed later that he had scrawled with his left hand so we wouldn’t recognize his handwriting.

My mom makes egg and sausage casserole for Christmas brunch. I remember watching her make it many times on Christmas Eve after our town tour. As much as I love that casserole (and trust me, my portion disappears in a hurry), I will only eat it on Christmas morning. Although I take a lot of grief for that (you know who you are), it makes that meal a special part of Christmas for me.

I’ve had mixed results incorporating my childhood traditions into our family practices. For example, I get a bonus casserole since I make my own, but somehow, it’s not the same; in addition, I’ve learned that the soot trick leaves much to be desired if you have wood floors.

I have developed some traditions of my own, and they echo those candlelight services of my youth. Music is perhaps the most important part of Christmas for me, outside of celebrating Christ’s birth and being with my family. Music can reach a part of the human soul untouchable by words alone. It seems to have the ability to reach through time and space to unite those of us in the modern age with those of antiquity who experienced the first Christmas. I guess that’s not surprising; after all, the ability to express one’s self through song is one of the few things that we still have in common with our forebears.

I love to listen to Christmas music, especially from the 40s and 50s and new arrangements of classic carols. I’ll turn it on while I wrap gifts, which I do the way I used to study for mid-terms – all at once and always the night before. Christmas Eve is the procrastinator’s playground!

(By the way, is there a better hero for procrastinators than the Grinch? He had put up with the Who-Christmas Sing for 53 years, but he came up with his “wonderful, awful idea” only under the pressure of one more: “Tomorrow is Christmas; it’s practically here!”)

So on Christmas Eve, as I wrap presents and listen to music that has delighted people for 60 years or more, I’ll be thinking of my Christmas wishes, and I’ll share them here with you:

  • That every child throughout the world would be safe, happy and loved;
  • That every homeless person would find inviting shelter;
  • That every hungry man, woman and child would have a warm meal to warm their souls;
  • That everyone already blessed with these things would share them with a less fortunate brother or sister, not just on Christmas but throughout the year; and
  • That your home on Christmas morning will be filled with the music of the season: songs of faith, family and giving – and the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas!

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