Thanksgiving Day I was driving at dawn. Before sunrise I got to see some Christmas lights, although not many. I’ve been seeing some homes decorated with lights since Halloween. Maybe because it’s easier to climb a ladder and scramble over a roof when the weather is nicer. I’ve an appreciation for the people who make some serious effort to string lights. Done the right way it allows us to ponder how lovely it would be (I hesitate saying will be) in heaven. I’m not opposed to tinsel and trees and lights. If it brings joy then it’s a good tradition among a people sorely needing connections to the past.
Gaudy inflatables and plastics are another matter. I don’t know about you but I think there is an inverse corollary between the garish displays and the income behind the mess.
Can we be frank about this? I don’t believe the loud displays are the ideas of men. My guess is most guys are just keeping the peace and going along with the views of wives on what the yard should look like before the Christmas holiday.
I’ve sat through far too many Hallmark films to pacify a significant other. I know how every upcoming movie is scripted. Really good looking lonely people are in crisis. Good looking lonely people fall for each other but one or both can’t admit an attraction. One is about to go live on the Island of Elba in exile. Up steps Ed Asner urging the woman not to let the guy get away. She races to the airfield and just before takeoff the two look across a lonely terminal and make eye contact. They rush to each other and boldly hug and she explains his art talents are just what her Christmas shop needs. Thereby solving his employment dilemma and the two can live happily ever after. Throughout the picture there are some visits to a small white clapboard church but Jesus Christ is never mentioned. Hallmark films are the equivalent of inflatable Grinches, after his heart grew several sizes.
There’s a lot of talk about Christmas blotting out Thanksgiving but I think we miss a larger point. Both are about wonder and being thankful to the same presence. Unless you’re an atheist but even if you don’t believe, you can still enjoy the bonhomie of the extended season. Turkey, dressing and gravy taste great no matter what you believe. Giving gifts is giving of yourself and it feels great no matter what your faith or lack thereof.
While the Christmas tree isn’t biblical, it was adopted by the church because it was evergreen and a reflection of a promise. Or it should be for the duration of the season. When my daughter was little I once left a tree up through February to please the little princess. Luckily, it wasn’t real. I dropped $57 on it at a big box store and it mostly now stays in a smaller box.
When I was a boy my family switched to artificial trees because my sister was severely asthmatic. Real pine created serious breathing issues. This past weekend I did an informal Facebook poll on real or fake? Surprise came when several people told me they had already cut trees in the South Hills and had them up at home. Those could be very dry by Christmas.
Most respondents prefer boxed trees. One woman explains she covers her tree and puts it away for 11 months and then, voila, she uncovers it fully decorated after each Thanksgiving. Some people have several trees in their homes. My family would’ve considered it a luxury and unnecessary. I’m reminded of an old girlfriend who had four trees, spent every evening with Hallmark and had the Christmas music playing Nov. 1. It speaks to longing and how we never quite get the holiday perfect.
My dad had an idea in his head of how Christmas should unfold, and when family didn’t always cooperate he could become very angry. There were a lot of miserable Christmases when my wayward brother would work very hard to raise the old man’s blood pressure. Eventually Matt stopped coming home altogether and the mention of his name would also change my father’s color to red and the steam would pour from his ears and his mouth. They both died young with unrequited dreams of a seamless holiday.
I haven’t been back to my hometown for Christmas since 2005. My mother had died three months earlier and it was the last time I was together with all my siblings and all our children. I rented space in a hotel with an indoor pool and the girls got to go swimming each day for one week. Now they’re grown and building new traditions of their own. I’m looking at my third Christmas alone, however. Social media and telephones greatly shrink distance. Last Christmas Day I came home from church and I started calling family and friends. An uncle I hadn’t talked with in seven years was delighted to hear me on the line.
The tinsel and trees and lights are beautiful things, but for three years I’ve been granted another view. An appreciation of life and those lives lived by so many now gone. On Christmas Eve I’ve looked out of windows and stared at the sky, and realized life is a great gift and there is a greater promise.