Christmas is such a magical time for little kids who love the idea of Santa Claus.
I went with my grandkids last weekend to have Breakfast with Santa. The youngest, who is 2-1/2, couldn’t wait to go sit on Santa’s lap. Kept waving at him all through breakfast.
I think I was six when I knew Santa wasn’t real. That was when my older brother and I searched through the house looking for where mom and dad hid our presents.
I found the new doll I was getting that year hidden in the blanket chest, and I kind of wished I hadn’t. It ruined the surprise. A good lesson for a kid!
I hope you have lots of good childhood Christmas memories and that it was a magical time for you when you were little. I’m lucky that I do. My mom, who was often absent due to illness, was always home at Christmas. And despite my Dad’s penchant for getting the most pathetic looking Christmas trees, our “Charlie Brown” trees were always fresh and filled the house with a wonderful pine smell.
Church was a big part of Christmas for us. On Christmas Eve the service included lots of participation by children. I loved to sing and was always in the children’s choir … usually the center kid in the front row because I was shorter than most of the other kids, and I wasn’t afraid to sing out.
After the service there was a social event downstairs with Santa, and each child got a small box of chocolates and an orange.
Then we went home and my grandparents came to our house. We’d have cookies and cocoa, and our grandparents would give us their gifts. My paternal grandparents usually gave me home made gifts. One year it was a beautiful wooden cradle for my dolls that my grandpa made. I still have it. Grandma would make new clothes for my dolls. They were always so beautiful; she was an excellent seamstress.
Each year my gift from my other grandma was always a new box of eight crayons and a Christmas coloring book. I loved to color and each year I looked forward to that new box of crayons and coloring book.
After the gifts we gathered round the piano where my brother played and we all sang Carols and Christmas songs. They are good Christmas memories, still fresh in my mind.
When I was nine my parents got divorced. Christmas changed.
My younger brother, still an infant, was with my mom. My older brother and I were with our dad. For a couple years we lived in an apartment instead of the house with the good memories. I guess we had a Christmas tree those years but I have no memories of them and there are no family pictures from those Christmases.
When I was 11 my dad remarried and I had a step mother and four step-siblings. I don’t have any memories of those Christmases either. Except for one Christmas when my Aunt Doris came with a couple bottles of wine and my tee-totaling dad wouldn’t let her bring it in. I remember that!
Those lack of memories for so many of my Christmases remind me that for many people Christmas is not a time of joy and celebration. It is a season that brings sadness, loneliness, and even bitterness.
For many it is a financial hardship. This year, especially, when the costs of food, shelter, fuel, and all kinds of goods has increased beyond many families’ ability to buy, there is disappointment in not being able to have, or do, all they want. Some people over-indulge beyond their means, and then spend months paying off their Christmas debts.
And then there’s the religious aspect. Christmas is rooted in the story of Christianity, yet only 63% of Americans identify as being part of the Christian faith. So for 37% of the population it’s not Christmas, it’s Hanukkah or Kwanzaa that is celebrated. Very different celebrations, but equally significant.
Despite the change from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays in greeting cards, commercials, and the marketplace in general, for many of us it’s hard to not refer to the season as Christmas.
Then there are all the family get-togethers that have to be accommodated. With 40% of households in America being blended families after divorces and re-marriages, there is a lot of juggling of when to see all the relatives in all the different households that branch out from the many parts of a blended family tree. Who gets to be with who during the season, and when? It can be exhausting.
And there are millions of households where a loved one has passed away, especially now after the millions of Covid deaths from the past two years, and thousands more where there have been deaths caused by violence. We feel that loss so much more during the holidays.
It may still be the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes trying to do it all can leave us questioning if we expect too much.
As I write this our gifts to our children and grandchildren are wrapped and will be put under the Christmas tree for either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning for them to open when they are here.
But the real joy of the season isn’t the gifts, it’s that we’re all still here and we’ll be together. And this year there’s a new granddaughter just 9 months old for her first Christmas. I look forward to the food and fun we’ll have … to the chaos and noise that will fill the house, and even the trash bags full of torn gift wrap and paper plates. And I know how lucky and blessed I am to have family around to celebrate the holiday.
May you also have a day of happiness, good memories, and a little magic from this holiday season.
“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than ourselves.”B.C. Forbes
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