So the 2016 Holiday Season is here! Wait, Holiday? Yes, our society has now dubbed it the Holiday Season. In reality, this time of year is the holidays and it always has been. Some have removed Christmas from the equation and yes, that is upsetting, as Christ is the real reason for the Christmas Season. The Holiday Season for me starts the weekend before Thanksgiving and continues straight through New Year’s Day.
This year has been different, as each one is. For me, the holiday season is a joyous time filled with joy and excitement, plans for family and friend gatherings and so much more. As I have gotten older the holidays seem to be harder in so many ways. Many have lost loved ones at the holidays and they mourn their past and the loss of their dear one. Others have grown older and found that the Christmas Wish List carries less and less gift ideas for themselves and more for the children and grandchildren in their lives.
Our society has changed too! Christmas sales at Labor Day, Christmas Decorations and items for sale in the local stores are being displayed even before Halloween! What are we allowing ourselves to become? A sacred season of giving as God gave his son Jesus has lost its TRUE meaning and become more of a holiday that includes a monetary ticket tag, similar to a garment in a store. As we rush for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and we thrust ourselves full force into purchasing things that we have given no earthly thought to for someone, where have we lost the true meaning of what we are celebrating? It should be more about honoring the gift we have received by sharing a gift, our gift with others.
I shopped Black Friday once when I lived near Monroe, Michigan. I won’t forget this year! My oldest son Bradley wanted a special Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure that year and I was determined, 9 months pregnant that I would stand outside Target at 5:30 am for the doors to open at 6:00 am to get that item and several others that were on sale that year. Unlike the chaos of today and years past, I got in, got my item and got out. By that time, I had enough and went home. The hype just didn’t seem like such a real deal for me. Bradley was excited and pleased with his gift, less than pleased with his little brother that came just before the holidays, but all the same, he didn’t go crazy and it didn’t change his world. As I reflect back on that day many years later, I think how the time spent added to my holiday. It’s a memory I won’t forget, but not one that made the holiday extra special that year or for my young 6 year old son.
Today, the Sunday after this Thanksgiving I have worshipped and now begin the holiday creations that will make up the gifts given this season. I could go out and seek just that perfect gift for each person, however in years to come, will they remember? (Only if it is truly perfect and memorable!) I am choosing instead to continue the family tradition of giving of myself and ourselves as a family. The smell of multiple batches of Chex Mix permeate the atmosphere of our home as the Holiday Music and Movies play. These batches will be placed in Holiday Ziplock bags for distribution with other holiday goodies for family, friends, employees and vendors. The counter is dusted with hot chocolate mix ingredients that I have been shoveling into quart jars for gift giving. The little bags of Peppermint Marshmallows, bright and eager to please are dressed up to pair with their hot cocoa jars and the immuerable mountain of “family favorites” recipe cards line the counter.
To me and my family, it is about the time together, the gift of giving of one’s self. Creating special moments and special gifts from the heart that will mean so much more in years to come because of the traditions of the gifts we give (Cheese Spread and Crackers, Hot Chocolate, Chex Mix, Breads and Cookies). Several years ago my youngest son brought me a grapevine crown for Christmas. It proudly hangs on our wall, reminding us daily of the blood Jesus shed for us. On many days I will walk past that wall hanging and remember not only my God but the small young man who gave of himself to select those wild grapevines from our very own woods, take the time to wrap it together neat and tight and most of all the precious gift he is to me from God.
One of my favorite Christmas memories with my husband was the year before picking up our boys from a visit with their dad, we spent a few days at Oglebay in West Virginia. A charming mountain lodge complete with a lights tour and delicious food and the most wonderful wood fireplaces throughout the lodge. The time we spent at that lodge was time where in that moment in time we forgot everything else and instead focused on each other and the beauty that surrounded us. Time together celebrating the holiday and enjoying our surroundings. So special!
As I grow older and reflect back more often, my heart is warmed by the times, not the things of Christmas. I like decorating our home to be inviting and comfortable during the holidays, however the older I get the less excited I get about this huge task. I find myself praying for daughter-in-laws and grandchildren a little more often than I used to, as it is quieter these days and I have less help to celebrate the joy of decorating and preparing for the holidays. The boys have gotten older, one has enlisted in the Air Force and is a world away and the other is now invested in the Hunting Adventure and Right of Passage of all Hale Men! I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it makes me long for girls, something I never really thought of before while raise this wild crew of young men!
As my mom recovers from a recent stroke, I am reflecting back more on the times she gave us and the importance she placed on spending time together, as a family, with friends and keeping the Christmas celebration about the little things in life. Each year I grasp better the Holiday openhouses of old when she would open our home to family and friends, make mulled wine, stuff mushrooms, make extra fancy foods and cookies and have a gift ready to give everyone on their way back home that evening. I pray to have many more years with my mom, but I pray too that I can somehow impact this world to share pieces of themselves with others more often than they worry or concern themselves with the giving of the most expensive or flashy gifts. We appreciate the things we desire more when we work for them.
My mom instilled in me a need to share and give. Holiday Openhouses were times of sharing and giving that made everyone who attended take a moment to enjoy each other, spend a moment with friends and share the holiday season together, making memories to last a lifetime! I encourage all of us to open our homes once a year to family and friends for a gathering and memory making time. When you get invited, make an effort to attend those gatherings! Those traditions will mark a period in time and create memories you can never have taken away from you! We have friends who own a home that was used as a hospital during the Civil War. The first Saturday in December, they open their home to over 300 friends! What a time we have catching up, laughing, telling tales and just sharing some good old fashioned fun and making memories together! Our family looks forward to this event annually and will be seeing those friends this coming weekend!
This Christmas, make each gift purchased extra special in some way, whether through the manner given, the special way it is wrapped and visually presented, through the tale of the special trail to purchase the gift, or the underlying meaning of the gift, make it special this Christmas!
The Holiday Season to me is an expression of a period of time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day! It’s ok to wish someone a Happy Holidays, but be sure to wish them a Very Merry Christmas too! Take the time as you pass by to say a kind word! Make a pact to really say a prayer for one another when asked! Don’t just be like the Pharisees and say “praying for you” and walk away. Pray Big this Christmas and Make Memories that will last! Be a memorable parent by creating memories that your children will cherish well past their childhood days…