As a child Christmas was my favorite time of year. Seeing the houses in the neighborhood decorated, helping my parents decorate our house. Watching my father hang the lights on the outside of the house, my father always insisted on getting the largest tree he could find and singing carols as we added all the decorations to the tree. As a teen, when I got my first job at a Hallmark Store in Lenox Mall, I had a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Because going to work I had to deal with last minute shoppers who were pissed off we didn’t have the exact card they wanted, even though we had had the Christmas cards out for two months prior. It was then that I vowed to do my shopping early in the year, so that by the time December rolls around all I have to do is get stocking stuffers. After three years and six months in that particular environment and almost ten years in retail in general, I became very bitter about the over commercialization of the Holidays. This feels to me to be the ultimate example of American greed, overindulgence and unruly children that the rest of the world dislikes us for. But that is a topic for another day.
I remember when I was a child raised in a Pentecostal household; it was drilled into my head that Christmas is not about how many presents are under the tree, but about the birth of Jesus Christ. Although I could never understand what a pine tree had to do with the birth of a baby, but I didn’t really question it. I knew not to expect a mountain of gifts because it may not always be possible. (This was also the time of year I was taught the value of a dollar.) Of course my parents tried to spoil me whenever they could. So naturally when I would wake up Christmas morning I would find, what seemed my little eyes, a ton of presents and an overflowing stocking. As I got older and harder to shop for, the prizes (as my in-laws like to call them) were fewer but still pretty awesome, and I was happy to have gotten anything at all.
The last Christmas I spent with my parents before they split was in 2004. I was a sophomore in college and the economy was taking its turn south. The prosperity my father had experienced as a contractor in the previous years was dwindling fast. It had been a really rough year and at the time I didn’t know how hard my parents were struggling to make ends meet. I remember talking to my parents on the pay phone in the breezeway, and hearing the hesitation in my mother’s voice when she was telling me about the money situation. How they were having a hard time getting the rest of my tuition for the up-coming semester. I knew they felt terrible about it. So, I told them not to worry, the college had been there for 120 years and wasn’t going anywhere. I could always go back to school, and that Christmas was just another day. I don’t need a shower of gifts to know that they love me. There was a pause on the other line; I could hear the shock in my mother’s voice. She could not believe that I could have said that. To be perfectly honest, once I was old enough to understand the commercialization of Christmas I didn’t want to buy into it anymore. I would much rather hang out with The Krampus then with Santa Claus.
Since then, I have had the honor of spending Christmas with my friends, roommates and their families. This has really revived my holiday spirit, seeing how kind and willing they are to welcome me into their homes and family traditions is a truly heartwarming experience. I have been doing some searching over the years, trying to find where my spiritual heart lies. Yuletide / Winter Solstice is a time to fill the house with warming scents of cinnamon and ginger, as bake cookies, breads and pies, to share with family and friends. Of course there may still be a prize or two under the tree! whichever one you celebrate, I hope everyone has a fantastic Holiday Season!