A friend of mine has me thinking about Christmas, vintage 1960, and the contrast to Christmas 2010. Forty years makes a big difference. 1960 era Christmas was about going to Church, visits with the relatives, sacred Christmas music and the joy of anticipation. 2010 Christmas seems so artificial in contrast. For me, personally, Christmas is still about the relatives, the music and the lights. It’s about the human warmth on cold days and connections among people. But it seems so much less than it was back then.
I do miss the Church part. Back in the day, Christmas at Church was magic. The music was haunting, the colors were rich, the words were poetic, and the connections with the holy were palatable. I haven’t been to church much in the last 25 years but when I have gone it feels like the music has lost its haunting beauty. The colors seem more neutral, the church less dark and solemn. The words are more accessible but they have lost some of their poetry. I miss that world.
Christmas was only slightly about getting presents back in the day. For several years I pined for the Angela Cartwright doll on page 412 of the Sears catalog but she never made it to my house, Truth was , presents were frosting on the cake of Christmas. My parents scrounged to secure Christmas gifts for all of us but beggars can’t be choosey. The thing is, it didn’t really matter. After Mass on Christmas morning, there would be the once a year, sit down breakfast. Eggs, sausage, toast, and homemade coffee cake - a rare breakfast feast! And finally, papa would say something along the lines of, “Shall we see if we caught Santa in the chimney?” and that was the cue to assemble in the living room. We didn’t do stockings but colorful packages would be arranged in piles around the room, one collection for each person. Thus would begin an hour or so of oohs and ahhs - each person attacking their own stack but all watching the others at the same time. The presents were not fancy. Typically, there was one “big” one for each person - maybe a fishing pole for one of the boys, one year a bicycle for several of us (used and refurbished by Uncle John), one year a bride doll for me, something that was impressive - and then six or seven smaller gifts. These would include a book, a piece of jewelry maybe for me, some new colored pencils or crayons, a board game or some small toy - all good. It was also important to open the gifts from siblings and to be effusive in your appreciation for the thoughtfulness of your brother or sister. The air in the small living room was electric and unforgettable.
There are still many wonderful moments associated with Christmas. These years I choose not to go to Mass but my four family goes out to the coast on Christmas Eve and acknowledges all for which we have to be grateful. I play the sacred and the fun Christmas music and I look for the Christmas vibrant colors everywhere. I fail to take time to find the poetry in Christmas but I can change that. I am disgusted with the commercial and plastic elements of Christmas 2010. I hate that the paper is full of ads starting in October and it seems to be only about getting stuff I hate that people go into debt trying somehow to buy love or comfort or forgiveness. That sucks.
December is such a dark, wet , and cold time. Christmas can bring warmth and light into the world and for that I am grateful. I don’t need nor want the big hoopla -- way too much energy and squandered resources for that. I just want to connect a bit, rest a bit, reflect a bit, and wait for spring’s return.