Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and soon we’ll be saying the same about Christmas. Everyone I know bemoans the fact that it all comes and goes so fast. Why do we care?
While sitting around after our Thanksgiving feast, trying to fight off the effects of the natural sedative some believe turkey contains, my grown children began talking about their growing up years – in this very house. One of them said, “We loved Thanksgiving, but the best part was – it meant that Christmas was not far away. Still, it seemed to take forever! We thought it would never come.”
“And there were all those threats,” said another. “Mother would say, ‘Don’t forget; Santa is watching you.’ We were afraid to do anything!”
“We were blackmailed into going to bed early, eating all the food on our plate and not fighting with each other. If one of us even thought about misbehaving, all Mother or Daddy had to say was, ‘Remember, Santa is watching.’ We were model children during the weeks between the two major holidays.”
“With all the shopping and baking and decorating, our excitement was hard to contain! It was great fun hanging ornaments on the tree and helping with the dozens of cookies Mother always made. We loved spending a whole day in the kitchen shaking red and green sugar on some and placing chocolate pieces on others. And getting to eat a few along the way was nice, too.”
“When Christmas Eve finally came, it was like a long-awaited dream. We were almost overcome with excitement,” the eldest daughter remarked. "Soon after breakfast, we’d get all dressed up and go visit relatives,” she said. “Yeah,” her sister chimed, “we visited both grandparents; we saw aunts and uncles and cousins that we didn’t see the rest of the year, then we’d visit some old neighbors that were special to us. Everywhere we went, people gave us goodies and Mother and Daddy were sure we’d be sick on Christmas morning.”
“When we got home, the neighborhood was glowing!"
“Everyone participated in the lighting of luminary candles. Remember how awesome it was? It was magical – every home on every street was aglow! And it was even more beautiful if it happened to snow!”
“Then at midnight, we’d all pile back into the car and go to our church for a candlelight service! None of us will ever forget the final few minutes of that service. We were each given a small white candle. One candle was lit by the pastor and the rest were lit, one by one, from the candle of the person who sat next to you. When all of the candles were burning, the lights were turned off, and, with dozens of candles flickering in the darkness, we sang Silent Night. It was the most beautiful sight ever! I still get chills just thinking about it."
“When we got home, we were so tired; we had to go right in and get ready for bed, but not before hearing the threat one last time: ‘Santa is watching; he won’t come until you’re all asleep,’ we were warned.”
“After leaving milk and cookies for Santa, Mother planted kisses firmly on our foreheads and tucked us in – to fall asleep and dream of the treasures we’d find under the tree when we awoke.”
“What happened to those great years?” said one. “Why is Christmas not that exciting anymore?”
“We grew up!” Another answered. “Christmas is never the same after you’re grown.”
Nodding in agreement, everyone laughed and decided it was time for dessert.
So why do we care about the rapid passing of time? I suspect the child in us longs to be set free at Christmastime, but as adults, our lives are different. We have responsibilities – jobs or careers, or are homemakers. We have many things to think about. There is no time for child-like expectancy. Therefore... instead of savoring every minute of this beautiful season like we did as children, we find ourselves rushing to get everything done and looking forward to getting it behind us. And Christmas is never the same again!
But why do we continue to yearn for that long-ago enthusiasm?
Simple. Because anticipation is the soul of enjoyment! Without it, Christmas is just another day.
~Published in the Charleston Gazette's, Write Your Own Column, December 25, 2011~