When I was little, Christmastime was a wondrous and fascinating time. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of waking up Christmas morning to a new blanket, gingerbread men decorations, twinkling lights, Santa’s footprints on the carpet and jingling bells outside the window.
Vision of sugar plums at our house meant homemade fudge, divinity, caramel and taffy and the house would be decorated with garland, lights and oranges that had been pierced with whole cloves in fancy designs, so as they dried the house smelled of citrus. It was as if “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” had come alive.
It was not until I had children of my own that I realized the effort, time and serious cash that my parents put into pulling off these feats of magic.
The first few holidays after getting married were easy as our first boy was too young to know any better, and we were too broke to do anything about it.
The year our oldest turned 3, (I refer to it as the Christmas reckoning) is when daycare, peer pressure, TV advertising and unreasonable expectations came crashing down on our household. The worst part was, it was me crying, wishing and wanting everything the way I remembered it.
Ever the voice of reason was my husband, who hates all holidays and anything that might smack of stress.
“You know this is crazy, Nan. What you had was insane and something we will never be able to afford, and if we get lucky and can, I hope we won’t do it to our kids.”
He was right, and not because it was a way for him to get out of holiday stress or spending money on the family, but because it had to be the most single-minded way to raise a spoiled and selfish child.
In order to stay married and sane we had to come up with a compromise.
The wrangling that ensued would have made a lawyer proud.
“You can do this, if I don’t have to do that.”
“Santa is great, but lets keep it real.”
“Two presents each, but stockings are separate.”
What we ended up with is my husband not having to participate in anything except putting lights on the tree, but in the exact manner and in the amount I want them; he never, ever has to step foot in a store to go shopping, but will drive me there even if it is at 5 a.m. to get 30 pairs of socks for $5 the day after Thanksgiving; lights don’t go up before Nov. 26 and must come down by Jan. 11; and at the first hint of stress we step back and remember that the season is not about us and what we can get.
And lastly, the Secret Santa Society. This began when I realized that teaching the kids to believe in something that is not real was bad, but that I wanted them to enjoy the reason he was made up, learn about giving selflessly and keep the fun that comes with the spirit of the old guy alive.
The day after Thanksgiving (after I have gotten my 30 pairs of socks), the boys and I would don our Santa hats and begin making our lists and checking them twice.
The lists included things like who would be in charge of finding the Christmas candy for the stockings, picking wrapping paper, planning the meal and counting the kids tithing they had saved up all year to buy angel tree gifts with.
There are many things society has done in the name of Christmas miracles and Santa Claus, midnight food runs, power bill payoffs, money envelopes and letters and gifts to someone who has no one. And there is nothing like the feeling of helping someone else, not even the feeling I use to have as a little kid seeing the tree piled with things just for me.
The best part is, Christmas is still a wondrous and fascinating time.
Nancianna Misner is the newsroom assistant for the Clarion.
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