The Christmas Holiday season is a very special time of the year. More than any other holiday, traditions are a big influence on many of the things we do in the month of December. Some traditions have been passed down as a part of all holiday celebrations. While others are passed down from one family generation to the next.
The holiday begins each year with the biggest shopping day of the season, Black Friday. As we all know that designation becomes a little less true each year. Retail businesses are stretching that Friday to include the day before and several days afterwards. As I write this story, I am receiving email from businesses advising me I have only 48 more hours to get Black Friday deals. Black Friday came and went four days ago.
Nevertheless, the shopping has become a tradition for many of us. Families bundle up and set out to crowded stores to get the greatest deals ever. Many of the items that people shop for have been or will be on sale for as good a price as they hope to get in the crowded rush. But, the traditions of shopping with family and friends have become billions of dollars in sales each year. Many businesses determine the year’s success during the holiday season. That 30-day period between Thanksgiving and Christmas tops all the rest of the year’s total sales in many cases.
Another holiday tradition many families share is setting up the Christmas tree. Years ago, before artificial trees that come with pre-installed lights and decorations, families went to tree lots and picked out a tree. Some liked the long needles of a Virginia Pine; others liked the short needles of the Blue Spruce. Whatever your choice, the house smelled of pine after the tree took its place in the living room.
Do you remember when aluminum Christmas trees were the most popular kind of tree to have? Some rotated as a colored light lit the shiny reflective metal branches. I somehow never believed those trees had the full Christmas spirit in them. Pretty and shiny, but lacked the warmth of a true Christmas tree.
I’ll bet somewhere on your tree is an ornament that was made by someone in school. Perhaps somewhere on your tree is a homemade decoration you made a long time ago. Popsicles sticks, construction paper, and some glitter have been used to make special decorations many times in the history of Christmas. Before fancy decorations, popcorn was strung on string to use as a garland on the tree. Colored construction paper was cut and glued in small rings that are made into chains to hang on the tree.
Did your tree have a special top decoration? Perhaps an angel with glittering wings or a star that twinkles? Many special tree toppers are packed away in boxes so they do not get broken from year to year? Over time the angel’s wings may not sparkle as they once did. And the twinkle may not be what it used to be on the shiny star. But, they still remind us of the tradition we once had together as a family.
In a shoe box lined with yellowed cotton from age and attic heat are glass ornaments that have been passed down for longer than anyone can remember. They are the last to go on the tree-another tradition passed down over generations. They may be scratched and chipped around where the hanger attaches. What was once a dozen gleaming balls of color are now five faded bulbs. As each ornament is placed on the tree, grandpa or grandma tells of a Christmas a long time ago. Perhaps that story took place during the hard times of the depression. Someone else tells of the Christmas when grandpa was in the Philippines during the war. They are stories that help us to hold onto our traditions during the season.
On TV, we can watch reruns of Frosty the Snow Man, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Many of these shows have been part of the season’s traditions for many years. Do you realize that 50 years ago on Dec. 6, 1964, Burl Ives, a.k.a. Sam the Snowman, introduced us to Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius? And who can forget when Rudolph was saved from the Abominable Snow Monster, The Bumble? Ohhhh, still makes me shiver just thinking about how close we came to losing Rudolph. I still smile when I think about those long ago days.
With the smell of gingerbread cookies and the sound of Christmas bells surrounding us at this time of year, there is one more tradition that we have never forgotten-giving to others. It is at Christmas time we are the most generous toward those who may be in need. The bell ringers of the Salvation Army stand in the cold reminding us to share a small gift with others. Angel Trees hold names of children who need a warm coat or some gift to brighten their day. Local churches work to bring a warm holiday meal to those who may be down on their luck. It is perhaps the greatest gift any of us can give-the gift of sharing.
As we enter this final holiday of 2014, let us all remember what makes us feel this is a special time of year when it comes to traditions. It is not contained in the brightly colored gift boxes hidden in the closet; nor is it the 10-foot twinkling tree in the corner of the living room. It is also not the festive music playing in the stores.
Christmas is a time when we should believe in something bigger than each of us. In a couple of weeks, we will join with family and friends to celebrate our traditions of giving gifts and singing songs. It is a time to remember what is really important when we think of Christmas.
Enjoy the next couple of weeks of crowds and merriment. Remember to smile at someone you don’t know and wish them a happy holiday, even as they take the last shopping cart. Give a big “Ho, Ho, Ho” to that person who cuts you off in traffic, and tell yourself maybe someone will tell them about their taillight that is burned out, even if he has a badge. Enjoy the Christmas season as we look toward the holiday Through the Lens.