I remember when we were kids (I know, remembering back that far is a stretch) that Christmas presents were opened on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. It was suspicious in-as-much as the parents and visiting relatives seemed to be very annoyed when we would wake them playing with our presents early Christmas Day – perhaps too much toddy the night before? The rule was that we must go outside to play with the toys, but sometimes, even in southern California, it would be raining. What was a kid to do?
Every Christmas I pictured a big, decorated tree with tons of presents underneath showing signs of tampering from excited little hands shaking and listening for any clue as to what was inside. I can hear Mom scolding us for being little snoops and a stern warning that Santa would not be happy and could make the presents disappear. We knew Santa wasn’t real simply because parents would not put presents under the tree late at night for a Christmas morning surprise like in many houses. There was nowhere they could be hidden that we would not be able to find them – thus another reason to open them Christmas Eve.
I do not recall ever looking at a picture of Santa Claus without smiling. Just because we didn’t believe did not mean we didn’t love him. When we were very young, Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were real, but alas, as we got older we sensed the tomfoolery. No matter, it was the joy and happiness that was important during the holidays. The smells, sights, laughter and love still live in my memories and warm my soul.
Today, my wife and I enjoy a small lighted tree on a round table by the front door. It doesn’t need to be big anymore. There are no little children running to and fro with innocent laughter that sound like bells to our ears. The presents have not been tampered with as they await their journey to one of our grown children’s house for a Christmas Eve celebration. We look forward to the visit because we will, for a short time, relive scenes from our own childhood and we will be filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas once again.
While Christmas also celebrates the birth of Jesus, we were not particularly religious because my parents truly believed that it was a personal thing between each individual. Indeed, as youngster we were compelled to go to church, but when we asked not to go anymore, our wishes were respected. All the children gravitated to their own belief systems because of this and I now know my parents were wise in their decision. We became individual thinkers and even today, I do not intrude on anyone’s religious beliefs.
Christmas Day, while children and adults play with their new-found toys, my wife, her mother and two of our adult children will get together for a Christmas dinner and later open a few gifts. We will also be giving thanks for all our blessings and most of all the love of family will resound in our hearts, thus renewing the bonds that keep us looking forward to each moment of a wonderful life. We will also be thinking of family who live in different parts of our wonderful country who are celebrating, in their own way, the joys of Christmas, and those who are no longer with us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all….