Christmas. As a child, the mere mention of its name spread a giddy smile across my face. To me, it was pure magic. When the cool winds of autumn transformed our hot summer scene to a beautiful fall, I knew my most favorite time of year would soon be with us.
I was lucky to grow up in a close-knit family, and Christmas with them was a time of great celebration. Every year on the evening before Christmas, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all poured into the house on which carefully strung twinkle lights sparkled against the winter sky. As they came, each one left pretty packages of all shapes and sizes under the beautiful tree, captivating wide little eyes. Filling the center of the room was, of course, the Christmas tree, all glorious in its holiday apparel. From every branch hung ornaments big and small, the children’s painted popsicle sticks right next to the delicate glass balls. When the time finally came for the little ones to open their presents, each one had his turn in ripping off the delicate paper- exclaiming in delight when they saw their Christmas wish had come true. Family was all together at this time of year, laughing and sharing stories, baking and eating, making still more hot apple cider, the scent saturating the entire place. The colors of ribbons, the reflections of twinkle lights, the smells and the food — for a child like me the beauty of this day was almost too much to bear! My heart was enthralled with all its wonder.
When Christmas Eve night arrived, the guests were gone and the house was still. My sisters and I were sent off to bed, but it was so hard to sleep! The magic of Christmas was just beginning! I still have the fondest memories of going to bed Christmas Eve, trying to close my excited little eyes, listening to jingle bells on the stereo and seeing the lights on the tree glitter in the darkness. Christmas was perfectly magical and in my young mind, it did not get any better than this.
As the years went on, the shiny new toys I loved as a child seemed to lose their luster. I grew, finished school, married and the holiday season seemed to grow full, not in merry making, but in hectic outings and stressful party planning. In a few months after the busyness of the season had finally subsided, I would hardly remember the anticipation I felt in waiting for Christmas Day. After it was over, I was left feeling a bit…disappointed. Had Christmas lost its magic? I knew a deeper meaning for this blessed day lay beyond the colored wrapping paper and bows, and that somewhere in our “got-to-have-it” culture we had lost a sense of what the holiday was really about.
There was a time, long ago, when one special gift for each child was made in secret for months, whittled out of wood, or hand sewn with great care, then assembled and hid until the sun rose on that great and glorious Christmas morn when finally their acts of love could be revealed and when the giver had just as much (perhaps more) delight in giving than the recipient had in receiving. Christmas day burst over, not with toys galore, but with love shown through acts of celebration.
For my daughter’s first Christmas and as she grows, I want her to remember why we celebrate. Behind all the festivities, we celebrate because we are alive and have been blessed with each other’s presence for yet one more day. We celebrate the food that nourishes our bellies and the fire that crackles and glows and warms us on cold nights. We celebrate the changing seasons and growing trees, and how we change and grow with them. We celebrate the goodness of God, His grace shown in the birth of Jesus. We celebrate just being together and bask in the sheer joy of it all.
This year I want to make something special that will remind us that Christmas is more than boxes lining toy store shelves. Every year we can carefully wrap it and pack it away and let it rest until the next year when we can pull it out again with great excitement and joy. Just recently I’ve found the perfect thing. Tucked away in my mother’s sewing box was fabric to create a cloth doll nativity scene. The dolls, carefully painted, had been patiently waiting to be cut, sewn and stuffed and to be displayed in a special place. With this nativity scene, and with my own recipes of sweet bread and hot cocoa, and traditional Christmas tales I plan on creating simple moments for us all to enjoy. Far outlasting any toy or trinket I know now that these acts of family celebration: traditions of love, food and family, are what make this holiday so special and why we have the joy of celebration.
Brittany McCardle is a happy wife and stay at home mom and still thinks Christmas is the most magical time of the year. She lives in Houston, Texas where she spends her days as a homemaker, learning how to live simply and gratefully. She loves writing, sewing, baking and photography. You can find Brittany’s stories of faith, family, and simple living on her blog.