TALES FROM CHRISTMASES PAST
And What Christmas Is Really All About
When I was very young, the Christmas season was always about getting the Christmas tree, decorating it, seeing the presents gather under the tree during the weeks leading up to Christmas morning, anticipating what Santa would bring, and trying so hard to be a good boy so I wouldn’t get switches and ashes in my stocking. One of my fondest memories of Christmas was when my dad’s younger brother, my uncle John, came for Christmas. He gave me and my brother cowboy boots. I must have been somewhere between 6–8 years old. That was the best gift ever. I grew up in an old farm house built in the early 20th century. It had a huge front porch that entered into the living roomwith maybe 10-foot ceilings. It had a real stone fireplace on the interior wall, where we would burn the coal my dad bought at the train depot in downtown Marietta. Straight across from the fireplace was a huge picture windowwhere the Christmas tree stood. With such high ceilings, we could always get a big tree. I have three sisters and a brother, and we all had our favorite ornaments to put on the tree. My mother let us put them on wherever we wanted. My dad always put on the lights first, though. After the tree was all decorated, my mom gave us all some tinsel and we threw it on the tree as a final garnish. When I was 8, we spent a year in Brussels, Belgium. Lockheed sent my dad over there for something, I’m not really sure what. But in all our travels, my mom got some candle holders made for Christmas trees. My dad would put them strategically on the tree, and they held tiny real candles and he lit them. He did this every year and the tree never caught fire. If someone tried that today, they’d get thrown in jail and their children hauled off by DFCS. My grandparents on my dad’s side lived in Atlanta, and they always came up and spent the evening of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us. My two older sisters alway orchestrated a play for us to perform on Christmas Eve. All us kids had a part to play and the adults were the audience. I remember one year, I guess I was maybe “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
9, we did “The Night Before Christmas,” and I had the part of Ole Saint Nick.
On Christmas morning, we were not allowed to enter the living room until everyone was all ready. My grandfather took the longest to get ready, and we had an interminable wait while he shaved. Then my dad had to take pictures of us kids on the upstairs steps waiting to come down. When the moment arrived, we scrambled down the stairs to the designated spots where Santa left our presents. After that excitement was over, my dad would judiciously hand out presents from under the tree. And, after all that
was done, we’d sit down at the kitchen table for a huge breakfast. After breakfast, we were pretty much on our own to play with toys until supper. Dianne and I carried on many of those same traditions with our children. Of course, we added on to them. One of our favorite traditions was to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on a video cassette. My favorite part is when Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about and quotes Luke 2:8-14. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
And that really is what Christmas is all about.
–Pa u l Little
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