Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Morning

My family has never been religious. The whole business about “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” never really meant much to my parents in their families, and therefore it played a minor role in ours. Christmas, to us, has always been about sharing and being together to mark the end of the year. Like every family, we had traditions — the tree had to have the old family ornaments, tinsel was an annual debate, the wreaths on the double front doors stayed up until Easter, and the stockings were hung on the fireplace in the kitchen, not on the one in the front room. My father would read A Christmas Carol. Presents were never opened before Christmas morning, and we had to have breakfast first. Christmas dinner was a lavish affair with an elderly relative who lived around the corner, and there was always enough liquor to keep the adults happy. The scent of evergreens, wood smoke, and roast beef meant Christmas. And regardless of their connotation, I love Christmas music; not “Jingle Bells” (which has no mention whatsoever of Christmas in it), but the old traditional carols because it’s just good music.

When we grew up, went our separate ways, and started our own families, the traditions carried on. My brother and sister with kids kept the routines, and when I visit my parents over the holidays we still do the stockings with breakfast before going into the living room. And even in my singleness I keep the traditions in my own way; the old Christmas music boxes are on the piano, the Christmas cards in the basket by the door, and the presents stacked neatly in the sunroom waiting for me to finish breakfast before I open them. I’ll have a Christmas dinner with the friends who are my new family here, and we’ve developed our own little traditions, too.

So even though my favorite Christmas card is one of the nativity scene where someone announces “It’s a girl!”, Christmastide is something special to me, something sacred that has nothing to do with mythology and fable. It’s memories of family and times past and hope for next year. So whatever it means to you, I say Merry Christmas. If that means the birth of the son of God to you or if it just means family and togetherness; celebrate, reflect, and enjoy.