Christmas season begins in our house the day after Thanksgiving. Every year my stress level escalates to the point that December 26th, the least favorite day of my childhood, is now my favorite.
This year I will be doing things differently. It started last week when I decided to put our ample number of Christmas decoration out. I gave myself the chance to do it over a few days, and to really examine each piece for its meaning. Each child has his or her own tree, filled with personal decorations received each year. I put Danielle’s tree up on Thursday morning, and through my tears, I looked at the year on each of the ornaments and it took me on a journey of her life and her interests.
On Friday we left for Syracuse to spend a few days with my sister-in-law and her family. This was planned as a distraction from the fact that Danielle will not be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States for a few years. Upon arrival, my four-year old nephew threw himself into my arms as if we hadn’t seen each other in ages. Two weeks is a long time when you’re four! His three siblings immediately started to tell me all about their Thanksgiving and how excited they are about Christmas. We rode a mountain coaster together and most of us went on these crazy fast zip lines. That night three generations attended a showing of “The Muppet Movie.” We all loved it. The next day some of us went Christmas shopping in a town where Dickens characters milled the streets, a holiday tradition. Others attended a college football game and that night, fifteen of us played a not-so-friendly game of Trivial Pursuit and had a blast.
Sure, the presents under the tree are exciting, but the children in our family made it clear this week-end that their joy is found in being with each other, doing the simple things that form the strongest bonds of family. They chatted excitedly about the Christmas menus that have been the same for about 100 years, making s’mores in the wood burning stove, sipping hot chocolate, seeing their cousins from Ohio and finally seeing Danielle! Not one mention of new video games or Legos was heard.
For our family, the wonder of house is built on the foundation that we are indeed celebrating the birth of the one we view as our Savior. Your family may celebrate the miracle of a scant amount of oil burning in a lamp for eight days or a myriad of other traditions.
My goal is simple. My actions this holiday season, when seen through the eyes of a child, will be ones that celebrate their innocence and show them love. What greater gift is there?