EVOLUTION OF CELEBRATION
By NANCY PATRICK
For many Americans, Christmas celebration has begun. Sometimes people begin their preparations well before Thanksgiving. Although I’ve never done that, I have always tried to get into the spirit immediately after Thanksgiving. Years ago, I found it easier than I do now.
At the age of five, my family moved to Texas from Arkansas. We began a tradition of two annual trips, one of which was Christmas, to visit relatives. My sister and I looked forward to visiting our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived in Arkansas near each other. Though far from wealthy, our grandparents always had a freshly cut tree from the fields near their houses. Ornaments, lights, and tinsel provided all the Christmas decorations. The fun came in spending time with cousins and trading Christmas gifts, making Christmas week very special.
When my husband and I married, we began our first collection of decorations. We started with a small cut tree and a few K-Mart ornaments. I remember our first tree skirt, one of those white felt sheets that littered our floor with glitter. Regardless of the sparse décor in the little rental house across the street from Hardin-Simmons where we studied, our first Christmas radiated with young love and magic.
Seven years later and pregnant with our only child, we moved to Princeton, Illinois, where my husband had his first full time pastorate. We lived near the church in a lovely parsonage with a bay window. We decided to invest in an artificial tree that year as I enjoyed my nesting phase. Being pregnant during Christmas season felt so special. I couldn’t help but feel connected to Mary, Jesus’ mother, during this season.
At seven months pregnant with only a little time left to wait, I planned for a special and perfect Christmas. I had spent a couple of months hooking a new Christmas skirt for our tree, weaving beauty and love into every thread! In addition, I had bought a large set of Disney wooden character ornaments that I had hand-painted.
For the next several years, Christmas season absorbed my time and attention as I wanted to make each year better than the last. We added ornaments each year, all with special significance. We doted on our son and spent a lot of time and money to ensure that he enjoyed each Christmas as a special time. As a teen, basketball became his favorite activity. A life-sized cardboard Michael Jordan greeted me each time I entered Jason’s room.
I found a store that carried blow-up basketballs (like balloons) and bought and aired up two dozen that I spread around the room to greet Jason when he awoke that Christmas morning. We had bought an expensive basketball trading card album for his main gift. His reaction that morning? Ecstasy!
While Jason attended college, Mike and I bought a rather large ranch house that offered ample space and ambience for decorations. I had multiple trees, Christmas throws, outdoor displays, and baked dozens of homemade cookies. I loved entertaining and getting to show off my work.
Jason married before he graduated from college and became a father at the age of twenty-two. He gave us a beautiful granddaughter on whom we also doted. I continued my enthusiasm for decorating and celebrating as my granddaughter grew up. Each year, I bought a special, individualized ornament for Hannah. I also bought her a new Christmas book, adding yearly to the collection.
Over the years as our son’s and granddaughter’s lives developed into their own individual circumstances, Christmas decorating lost its appeal for me. I went through the motions for several years, but when Mike and I eventually downsized to a home more manageable for the two of us, I donated many decorations and kept only enough to recognize the season. I packed Hannah’s ornaments and books in the attic to wait for her to have her own home and traditions
Although I still love Christmas with it carols, nativity stories, decorations, and light displays, I do not participate as I did once. Monetary gifts became more practical than wrapped gifts, so the surprise and planning disappeared. I sometimes watch neighbor families with children enjoying their preparation time and observe the children’s excitement as they prepare for Santa. I vicariously experience the joy they feel, but my own celebration has evolved into a calm, simple, and thoughtful reflection of why I celebrate Christmas.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.