Today, December 4, is officially three weeks from Christmas. So allow me to say Merry Christmas, Happy Saturnalia (to my friends who are students of ancient history), Happy Kawanza, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy Birthday Sir Issac Newton. Since we had several inches of snow and cold the last few days, I have more or less been house bound since the weekend. Not that it completely bothers me. Seeing the snow, listening to Christmas songs on youtube, and the much longer nights have put me in the holiday spirit. I guess I really have no wishes for Christmas gifts. At this point in my life I am happier spending time with family and friends during the holidays. I have three nephews and a niece ranging in ages from seven to fourteen. So all of them are at fun ages. I enjoy watching the kids run around with their gifts and play in the snow just as much now as when I was that age and running around with gifts myself.
While I don’t really specifically remember many of the individual gifts I got for Christmas as a kid, I remember the events and activities vividly. Every year, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, my family would go out and get a tree. We didn’t usually buy one. Instead, one of the local farmers who was a patient of my father’s would allow us to go onto his acreage and cut some cedar trees. Since these cedars had a strong scent of cedar and sometimes wild animal urine, we would have to leave the trees outdoors for a few days to knock some of the smell down. From age twelve until I went to college, I always had my own small scrub of a cedar tree in my bedroom. I usually hung Coca Cola cans and red, green, and silver Mardi Gras beads on the tree. One Christmas when I was a teenager, instead of turkey for Christmas dinner, we had fried pheasant that my uncle hunted at his farm. One year, the same uncle, instead of having a tree, decorated a tumble weed in Christmas lights. My father is a licensed pilot, and we had a few Christmases when I was in high school and college when we would get in a small four seat Cessna and fly around looking at the lights in towns as far a hundred miles away from our little village. I did see A Christmas Story shortly after it came out on the old VHS tapes. My parents asked one of my brother’s teachers if he could show that movie at his class’s Christmas party. The teacher said no because there was too much profanity to be showing to grade school kids. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher showed an older movie called “The Hobos’ Christmas.” It was a funny and poignant movie about drifters, hobos, and homeless people hopping freight trains and hitch hiking from all over America to a big Christmas party. When I was in college, my parents and I spent Christmas in San Antonio on the River Walk and went to the Alamo Bowl when the Huskers made it to that game. My brother graduated college in Oklahoma right before Christmas. It was also when they had their biggest ice storm in years down there. I swear, those Oklahomans don’t know how to drive on ice :). Of course, my friends from Minnesota and Montana say the same thing about me :).
And my nephews and niece have some of their own traditions now. They are big into the Elf on a Shelf. When they visited my apartment a couple years ago around St. Patrick’s Day, I had a Leprechaun doll sitting in a large St. Patrick’s Day stein on my bookshelf. I told the kids it was “Leprechaun on a Ledge, the Irish cousin to Elf on a Shelf.”
There are some Christmas things I haven’t done that are on my bucket list. As I didn’t grow up Catholic, I have never been to a Midnight Mass. My brother and his wife went to New York right before Christmas one year and did things like visit Macy’s, ice skate at Rockefeller Center, and attend some Christmas musicals. I would like to at least have the chance to do likewise someday. Every year, I try to watch some show that has Christmas or the holidays as a theme I have never seen before. This year, I plan on finding a documentary on the Christmas Cease Fire of World War I.
I have made some Christmas memories over the course of my life. Now I’m watching my brother’s kids make some of their own. Hopefully I can stay around a while longer to make some more memories.