I am just beginning to realize that Christmas is really coming … and is almost here! And my firm resolve to get my Christmas shopping done in September – well, at the latest in October – seems to have been misplaced and forgotten. So here I am again, as it seems I am every year, just beginning to make my lists, when almost everyone else has theirs completed.
I only began decorating our home this week. Perhaps it’s because I was brought up in Vermont, USA, where we only began decorating for Christmas after Thanksgiving, that is the 4th Thursday of November, and usually waited until two weeks before Dec 25th. Our Christmas tree was always a real, live one that we searched for in nearby woodlands. Since it would only last for about three weeks indoors, we would delay cutting it and decorating it until the week before Christmas Day.
Dad and I would put on multiple layers of warm winter clothing that included boots and mittens. Then in zero degree (that’s Fahrenheit or about minus 20 Celsius) weather we would trek into the snow-filled, wooded hills in the back lot of our farm to look for our Christmas tree. Finding just the right tree was usually not too easy, and we would arrive home late in the afternoon, cold down to the bones but happily dragging “the tree”.
Mom would begin early in the “ber” months lovingly making gifts for friends and relatives. Her sewing machine whirred busily. The kitchen deliciously smelled of fruit cakes, cookies, and home-made fudge candy. She and I would hike into the woods in October looking for bright red berries and sturdy moss to fashion terrariums, little miniature gardens in glass bowls. One year I spent hours in our attic looking through old dusty magazines for jokes and cartoons for a scrapbook that I made and gave to my dad. One gift I treasured for years was a two-foot high, 2-storey doll house complete with furniture, all handmade by my dad, with curtains and furnishings sewn by Mom.
Our family usually gave gifts that were handmade and homemade. Not only were these gifts from our hearts, but they were also very economical on the pocket. We didn’t have much money in those days. Our small dairy farm wasn’t a very profitable business but it did give us a lot of fresh air, a love for nature, and time to be family together, to work and play and enjoy being family.
It seems that Christmas nowadays is different … major, major commercial with its emphasis on gifts and parties, more focused on the material aspects of the holidays, on going places and doing things. We admonish our children and grandchildren to remember the reason for the season, even though we sometimes have difficulty remembering it ourselves when we’re caught up in the chaos, commotion and traffic of the holidays.
Christmas is coming. Advent has begun – a time of anticipation, preparation and reflecting on the meaning of the coming of the Christ Child into my life. I remind myself there is still time to savor the season, to slow down and enjoy the anticipation, the lights, the smells in the air, the happy smiles on children’s faces, and the energy that fills the December air as the count-off of days until Christmas marches on.