Holidailies provides prompts for its participants to keep the entries on a Christmas theme. I haven't used them for several reasons, but having participated in Holidailies since it began in 2003, I have written on most of them, I think. But I think this one was new for me: "What is your favorite holiday story or book?"
I don't know how old I was the year that my mother decided to read "A Christmas Carol" to Karen and me. When I hear Laurel talk about reading "chapter books" with Brianna, it takes me back to that year, because she read one chapter a night. She sat on the couch in the living room. The tree lights were on, there were packages under the tree and the air was filled with the smell of the that tree, which I just can't seem to find these days. Do trees still smell?
Anyway, Karen and I each sat at my mother's side while she read the night's chapter. It is perhaps one of my favorite Christmas memories of my childhood. I hoped she would read the book again the next year, but she did not.
I never did read the story to our kids, but Walt read "The Night Before Christmas" to the kids every Christmas Eve as they got ready for bed. They would all dress in their matching pajamas and crowd around him, the youngest ones in his lap, the dogs at his feet. When we were hosting foreign students and had someone from another country living with us, they joined in the group too, while Walt read the story. The tradition continued into their adulthood with whichever of the kids was living at home at Christmas time.
That was one of the family traditions I loved that died when David and then Paul died.
There are lots and lots of Christmas movies out there, but most of them are a variation on A Christmas Carol. There is a curmudgeon who hates Christmas. It may be a man or a woman...or a Grinch, young or old, disgruntled about the approaching holiday and how everyone else is celebrating. Some kind of a being enters the person's life, whether a ghost or a little child, a little dog, or a romantic interest, and in the end the curmudgeon's heart, like Dr. Seuss' Grinch's grows three sizes and we see everyone smiling and celebrating the holiday.
If you watch The Hallmark Channel, you can see a different Christmas movie, back to back, pretty much 24/7 through the month of December. I don't watch them because they are often not well made and, as I said, they are all variations of the same story.
I prefer the classics, with Miracle on 34th Street my all time favorite. I've already seen the movie twice and the musical version once this year. I loved Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and 9 year old Natalie Wood as the little girl who doesn't believe in Santa. By the end of that movie, the first time I saw it, I truly believed there was a Santa Claus and that Gwenn was he...and he left behind a cane to prove it.
In all the talk of the "war on Christmas" these days (which seems to be fading this year, thank goodness...many more important things to worry about!), when we come to discussing Christmas stories, we forget the original one, the meaning of the holiday to begin with.
But as my friend Jim Brochu says "I was Catholic--I knew nothing about reading the Bible" so Bible reading was not big in my house, but we did have a manger scene that we set up under the Christmas tree each year. It was a rough hewn building that my father made with a hole in the back, so we could stick a Christmas light in it to light up the holy family.
On the top we had a ceramic angel holding a sign that said "gloria in excelsis deo" that was attached to a nail that you could stick into the roof of the barn. When Jeri got old enough to read and we were setting up that same manger scene here in our own home, she decided that the sign meant that the angel's name was Gloria, so we have called her Gloria ever since.
But we don't do Christmas any more. When you have no church affiliation, you aren't part of the ceremonials that accompany the holiday season, and when you have no children to be with you and two nosy dogs who get into everything, here doesn't seem to be a good reason to set up either a tree or the manger....and a lot of good reasons not to get a tree!
I keep thinking that I should do "something" for Christmas, but the heart just went out of me when David and Paul died...and the others lived far away. This year, with my mother thinking it's April, despite the holiday decorations my cousin put up for her and with Ned & Jeri headed off to Jamaica on Christmas Eve, there is even less reason to make the house look festive.
I've decorated by putting a carton of egg nog in the refrigerator and figure that's about the extent of my Christmas decorations this year....but I have watched not only Miracle on 34th St. but also White Christmas (another oldie I like) and am stealing my holiday spirit from them.