By now, I am sure that your family members have hung their stockings above the fireplace. There is probably tinsel covering every inch of your home and beautifully-wrapped presents fill the space beneath the Christmas tree. Most likely, your favorite Christmas ornament is front and center on your heavily-decorated tree and the smell of gingerbread cookies has become your home’s new signature scent. A melody from Bing Crosby may be the welcome greeting guests receive when they walk through your wreath-adorned front door. Is there any time better than this? If there is one thing we can count on, year after year, it is the love that is shared among family, friends and community members during this special season.I am sure a great number of your childhood memories involve the holidays. As time goes on, some of the traditions we grew to love fade away, but others become staples in celebrating the season. For example, it does not feel like Christmas without the wassail my mom makes, that her mom always made, the tamales we devour every Christmas Eve at my Memaw’s house or the church service we attend, complete with all the children dressed up as those who stood witness to the miracle that took place in that manger so many years ago.
When I was a little kid, every Christmas Eve, Big Bob, my grandfather, would pull me aside, away from the chaos and celebration of the family. We would sneak outside into the front yard, beneath the big, bright Texas stars. We would look to the sky from beneath the large trees that lined the driveway and scan the horizon for any glimpse of Santa. I loved this small, annual tradition we had. There was always a chill in the air, visible only by the glow of twinkling Christmas lights that lined the edges of houses throughout the neighborhood. To this day, I can almost smell firewood burning in the fireplaces of surrounding homes, blowing through the air with the aid of a gust of winter wind. I remember wanting so badly to be the one to spot that sleigh and the red tint of Rudolph’s nose flying his team of reindeer to the next rooftop.
Over the years, there was never a Christmas that we did not scout for Santa’s sleigh. One year, we all had the flu, but I managed to walk myself outside, into the freezing air, just to have this special moment with him. As I grew up, became a teenager, then an adult, we never gave up on our simple, yet impactful tradition. My grandfather passed away several years ago, but every Christmas Eve, just after dark, you can find me in the driveway of my Memaw’s house, just reminiscing about all the Christmases I have gotten to spend with my family. I do not know what I did to receive such blessings.
We may cringe to even admit it, but, over time, the things about Christmas that were important to us as kids, begin to evolve. The season can easily become more about having the perfect outfit or gift to take to the next party than it is about staying up all night trying to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus and his crew of reindeer. But, no matter how different a holiday season becomes, there are some things that will never change — like how comforting having your extended family together can be, the joy of giving a gift that someone truly loves or making time to give back to those in our community who could really use an extra hand.
As adults, our lives look very different than they did during the days of leaving homemade cookies and a handwritten letter on the fireplace for Santa, but it does not make the magic of Christmas any less prominent. Who does not love to decorate a good gingerbread house now and then? Or, ride around, hot coffee in hand, listening to Christmas carols, gazing through the car window at a spectacular outdoor display of Christmas lights?
Families and the people who make them up change, move far away and grow in their own ways, but Christmas seems to be the time of year that everything becomes a little simpler. Complicated relationships magically un-complicate, time moves a little slower and God’s love for us is so incredibly evident. We find ourselves thankful for the jobs, opportunities and experiences we get to have. We remember to count our blessings, relax and really soak in the little things that make the hustle and bustle of the rest of the year all worth while.