“Tis the season—“, you know the rest. But “jolly” isn’t a word that describes the average person this time of the year. Let’s face it, most people are so stressed out by Christmas that they are miserable rather than merry. Wow–how times have changed! We actually enjoyed Christmas when I was a kid.
Christmas was my dad’s favorite time of the year. I think that was due in part to the fact that he had a rough childhood. When grandpa died, dad had to drop out of school in the 8th grade and go work on a farm for room and board. So when he had his own family, Christmas seemed to transform him into a kid again–something very much out of character for him. Normally he had an all work and no play attitude– fishing and hunting excluded of course. His joy regarding Christmas didn’t stem from anything religious, nor was it based on receiving or giving expensive gifts. If I could describe Christmas at my childhood home it would be the appreciation for and joy of simple things. Dad and I would always get the tree while on a hunting trip, and he was very picky about it looking just right. He would bring the tree home like it was a trophy and present it to mom, as though there was nothing else for him to do, and it was all up to her. Dad wasn’t lazy, but he wasn’t of any help when it came to doing things related to what he deemed to be the woman’s duties.
So,sis and I would help mom decorate the tree. She, however, was unquestionably the director of the production. Decorating the tree was really quiet simple. Mom would pop a batch of popcorn which sis and I would string on fishing line and wrap around the tree. Mom also made popcorn balls that were hung on the tree with a few ornaments that were used year after year. The finishing touch was a big white star trimmed in red that perched on the top branch of the tree. I can almost see it now. Then of course there were the stockings that would be stuffed with nuts, fruit, and a little candy. Although I knew what to expect from year to year I couldn’t wait to examine the contents of my stocking, as though something wonderful would magically appear.
Well I could ramble on and on describing the simple gifts and the super food associated with Christmas. In my mind, mom was the best cook in the world (did you ever eat real homemade mince meat pie? I’m talking about with real meat!), so this was no small part of Christmas. As for the gifts, we pretty much knew what to expect. For me it was always a new pair of jeans, a shirt, underwear, and one toy. And dad had a rule, no one was allowed to open their gifts until Christmas morning. That was like torture for us kids. We would beg and plead to open just one gift, but to no avail. I was probably 15 before we finally convinced dad that opening one gift on Christmas eve wouldn’t ruin everything. But, I’ve bored you long enough, so I’ll get to the point.
If you want to enjoy this wonderful time of the year, keep it simple! Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the rush that you ruin the joy. We already have enough stress with the normal things of life without going head-over-heels in debt trying to please everybody and trying to do everything you can think of. Keep it simple. Focus less on material things and more on the true meaning of Christmas. If we keep our mind on the greatness of God’s gift to us we can’t help but have a wonderful Christmas. I suspect that’s what God would want. Be merry not miserable! We have a plaque at home with these words by Kipling on it– “Teach us to delight in simple things.” That my friend is still good advice! Merry Christmas!