Yeah, traditionally, or as the song goes, there are only twelve days of Christmas, but seeing as this is now the first of December I am declaring this as the first day of Christmas.
When I was a kid, we had this calendar with little pockets on it and a little mouse that fit inside to indicate what day of December it was. Naturally, it went from the 1st to Christmas Day, and the art nodded to the ever popular poem/book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, hence the mouse. It was always fun counting down the days.
In addition to that, my mom would help me make rings out of construction paper stapled together to form a paper link chain that hung on my doorknob. Each day I would tear a ring off until there was only one left, which meant it was Christmas morning.
Christmas was always a big deal in our family. My mom, aunts and Nana would go out of their way to have tons of presents under the tree, even if they were cheap little dollar store items or what have you. It was about the presentation and the appearance of Santa coming through the night and leaving our house full of presents.
But it wasn't just about the gifts, but the atmosphere and the togetherness. We would all decorate and make candy and play games. We'd sit around the tree in the heavily decorated living room on Christmas Eve drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies or programs, and just be together.
Then on Christmas we would wake up early, have breakfast and then open presents. Later in the day the whole family would get together and we had draw name gifts to exchange. See, each year we would each draw a name out of a hat or whatever and whoever we drew we'd buy that person a gift under a set amount (usually $15-20). Then we'd exchange those on Christmas Day, then eat lunch or dinner together. It was always just a magical time, and I always feel like a kid at this time of year.
When my brother was little I got to get in on the excitement of making the presence of presents the spectacle I always enjoyed. I remember the first year he was old enough to play with action figures and stuff I just went overboard. I had so many presents under that tree, and most of them were for Zach, you wouldn't believe it. And it's something I've tried to keep up ever since, following in the tradition of my family, even if they're small, inexpensive things.
The most important thing, though, is being together and enjoying that time together. I start listening to Christmas music well before Thanksgiving and keep it going until after New Years typically. We have the house decorated up real nice and cozy, and Christmas movies are a must! Break out the egg nog and hot chocolate and it's a done deal!
This year, for the first time in many, we are planning on getting together and making candy and stuff like in times of old. It should be a lot of fun getting together. We're also going to go look at the lights and all that kind of fun stuff, stuff we used to do years ago but haven't in quite some time.
This will be the first year without my Papaw, as it was our first Thanksgiving without him. He never really got involved on Thanksgiving anyway, but with Christmas he was a big hit. He used to put on the Santa hat and pass out gifts when I was younger, and in later years he still very much enjoyed the holiday in his own way. My Papaw could sing just like Bing Crosby, so when we'd play White Christmas he would sing right along as beautifully as he could. And he used to also play the organ and we'd join in singing along with him.
It'll be hard listening to those songs without him there, but with all of us being together it should be a time to reflect on those good times and enjoy each others' company all that much more knowing that we're not promised tomorrow.
As for gifts, I've not bought the first one this year yet, which has me a little nervous. But we'll manage all right. I think my mom's bought a few small things, but nothing major. I just keep plugging away at work to make it happen. We certainly won't be going overboard this year, but it's going to be special no matter what happens. For the first time in a few years now it really feels like Christmas to me this year, and I can't wait for the festivities to begin!
My family doesn't always get along, and that's my immediate and extended family I'm referring to. Many times myself, my brother and my mother are at odds, and we all three come from drastically different perspectives, yet are all a lot alike, so we're constantly butting heads and have a hard time seeing things from each others' points of view. But in this season, when it comes down to it, we come together as well as anyone could.
See, this holiday for me means so many things. It means that magic I experienced as a child that I refuse to ever let go of. It means a togetherness and closeness with loved ones in spite of differences and circumstances. And it also means a reflection on why we celebrate the holiday to begin with, which is in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our savior. Whether you follow that belief or not, for me it's the most meaningful reason to celebrate Christmas, and probably why I feel that closeness and joy so deep within this time of year.
So to all of you out there, whatever beliefs you may or may not hold, from me to you I wish you a very blessed and wonderful holiday season this year. May this countdown to Christmas bring you all together with loved ones, putting aside differences and grievances if even only for a day. I hope that it brings you great joy and peach despite the wading through the angry mobs to get the items on your wish lists. I pray it brings you happiness and love in these hard times that we face. And most of all, I just hope you all find a piece of time to spend with your families and enjoy each others' company.