Here we are already in the New Year of 2020! A new decade filled with anticipation and hope. I wish you the very best in your new year and much happiness and love and success in whatever your heart desires.
But before Christmas gets too far behind us, would you mind rewinding for a moment to reminisce about Christmases past?
For the Larsens, this Christmas was different than any other. Between us and our two sons, we’re now spread out all over the US. My husband and I drove twelve hundred miles in a rented minivan loaded with boxes of wrapped presents and our dog Weezer in a crate to spend Christmas with our son Jeff and his wife Becca. It was their first Christmas as a married couple, so they began the exciting practice of blending traditions from his family and hers, to form their own.
We’ve had a wonderful time! We attended an inspiring Christmas Eve service at their church. On Christmas morning we opened presents in their cozy decorated living room, then made phone calls to many family members who were spending their Christmas Day elsewhere. Jeff made us all a delicious breakfast, French toast made with a sweet brioche bread. Later, we all partnered to make chocolate-covered pretzels, a long-standing activity for my kids and I over more Christmases than I can count.
For a mid-afternoon dinner, Jeff grilled luscious ribeye steaks on the grill outside while Becca and I made the side dishes. It truly was a delicious meal and a memorable Christmas Day. Our older son Norm was in a faraway town and not with us, which was difficult, but I was comforted knowing that he was spending his holiday with my brother and his family, and they were treating him well.
Last Christmas was unusual too. My husband and I had sold our Illinois house on December 21, so we were “homeless” for the week of Christmas. We were staying in a hotel, Jeff and Becca had driven in and were staying at her parents’ and Norm, our family’s last Illinois resident, stayed in his cute little house. We gathered for Christmas morning at Norm’s, bringing boxes of donuts and a breakfast pizza, watching the doggie cousins play together and exchanging presents.
While we were raising our children, we were very lucky to have many family members close by, and we always gathered together for Christmas dinner, often at my house. Nineteen seemed to be the magic number around the table for at least a dozen years – my own family, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins – all came together to share stories of their own Christmas mornings and to share a big delicious meal together. We took the annual picture of all the cousins standing in front of the lit Christmas tree, and when held side-by-side it’s easy to see how much they all grew and matured over the years.
Christmas always makes my memory run free with key moments of previous years:
- The year, when I was a child, that my parents succumbed to my brother’s and my excited pressure to get up extra early. We awoke in the dark of night, opened all our presents, finished, and looked outside. There wasn’t a single light on the street … all our neighbors were still sleeping!
- The rule we set for our own boys … no going downstairs before Mom and Dad. And no one goes down before six am! The excited whispers outside our bedroom door as our boys sat on the top step of the stairway with their dog, Grace. The door flinging open and little voices chanting, “It’s six o’clock! Can we go down?” Our groans, pulling on slippers and robes and dragging ourselves out of the warm bed that felt so good after late-night activity of toy assembly and wrapping.
- The company I worked for set up a stage on the last workday before Christmas and scheduled musical performances by talented employees. Families were welcome to come and share holiday greetings, the employee choir sang “O Holy Night” accompanied by a band. Then, a festive message delivered by our company president, thanking us for our good work and sending us off to have a wonderful holiday surrounded by family.
Christmas days are loaded with memories, and there’s comfort in following the same traditions year after year. It can be sad to face a completely different type of holiday. Or it can be welcomed. Doing different things, and not having all the same people around your table is an inevitable part of life.
Regardless of what we do or who we’re with, the true meaning of Christmas never changes. It’s one of the most significant days in our Christian faith. Jesus’ birth was a divine promise made by our Heavenly Father letting us know that He loves us and forgives us for the sins that are inherent in our nature. Through the sacrifice made by His son, God welcomes us into the radiance of His love and forgiveness.
How was your Christmas? Did you spend it with family or friends? Big crowd or small crowd? Did you miss someone who wasn’t there? Did you follow long-standing holiday traditions, or did you shake it up a little and try something new?