I grew up with the tradition of celebrating Christmas to its fullest. All the baking and cooking of delightful dishes we don’t have on regular basis kept my grandmother extra busy days before the actual holiday. For the men in the family, Christmas Tree Hunting was an actual event and taken seriously.
Making a trip to the woods and finding that perfect tree was a task they planned for. Several of the neighbors would gather, stare at the map, circle some spots, make list of things to pack to take with them was the alternative to their participation in summer vacation planning., which they never wanted to be a part of.
After deciding whose truck they will take, tightening the cap on that hot cocoa filled thermos’, ( I really think they had moonshine in those, but I wasn’t suppose to now) and dressing in their snow suits they only wear for this event, they would kiss their loved ones “see you later” ( because goodbyes are too dramatic) and take off for hours in pursuit of the “Mighty Tall”.
The house was always very festive. Handmade wreaths and strings of pine cones decorated walls and doorways releasing wonderful scent of fresh pine. The candles sitting on the mental all year would finally be used and provide nice, warm, flickering light that I always loved. The tree itself would not be set up until Christmas Eve. It was very rare we would have it decorated few days before. Everyone participated that day and while tidying up the house, setting table for Christmas Eve dinner, the tree would get ‘all dressed up” in pretty, colorful and shiny ornaments. The lights were the final touch and an indication of ” everything is ready, let’s eat!”.
We put a lot of work into what mattered to us inside of our homes, and our hearts. We had food, we had each other and we had our holiday ambiance. Giving was truly that. We would give; home-made pastries and meals to those who we have come across in our daily routine. The mailman, the next door neighbors, the lady at the market that always saved best of her produce for us, and of course, the family.
The outside decorating was not something we did. Making a snowman was pretty much enough of indication it was winter. With winter came Christmas. No one paid attention or seen us as some kind of different species just because we didn’t wrap our house in miles of flickering lights. We weren’t the talk of the town for not putting decorations on every tree and shrub, windows and doors. No one judged us because it wasn’t a “tradition” back then. Our Christmas had a meaning to us that the new generation seems to have some misconception about. It was about giving, forgiving, and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Once a year we all gathered at the big table in grandma’s dining room, and shared all the moments and stories. It was the best time of the year as I remember. I miss those times.
Many years later, and I no longer feel the same about Christmas. It will never be the same without my parents and grandparents, and the whole way of how we celebrate has changed. I used to decorate my house inside and out when the kids were young. We spent way too much money on lights and decorations every year just to look later at the stack of marked boxes in the garage fort he rest of the year.
Modern day cooking and baking became easier with pre-ordering from a local store. We put very little effort into preparing perfect dinner. With working long hours, there isn’t enough time for all that anymore. Today, there isn’t enough hands to help and put hard work and effort put into all the delicious meals. . The long hours of hard kitchen labor for a few minutes at the table before meal is inhaled by the hungry isn’t worth it anymore. Not without a family around.
Lately, I evaluated all that we do to get ready for this annual tradition, and I realized that I don’t have a desire of decorating outside of my house anymore. Sure, I still love the decorations and lights, but they do not fulfill my needs or make me happy. It is quite the opposite.
I still have my traditional Christmas Tree and I like to string the lights here and there through the house, but I stopped caring about what others think and competing with my neighbors. Their lights are just enough to be seen from space. I can see them with my eyes closed. That is pretty much enough for me.
The whole meaning of Christmas hasn’t changed for me, but it sure has changed how I present it and I go about my own celebration. After all, it is not for others to judge how I decide to celebrate. So here I am, sitting with my hot cocoa by the fireplace, and reflect on the good old times that are no more but a memory of what once was.