Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Christmas


Last year, as I was driving down a busy highway after dark around this time of year, I looked over and could see through the trees what looked like the most beautiful homes all decorated with Christmas lights. You could tell that these weren't just your average bejeweled bungalows, the kind that dot every night landscape in December. These were full-on, all-out professionally done illuminated spectaculars, the kind that only exist in movies and the mythical land of everything Hallmark. I got off at the next exit and went to search for the houses, and I found them. A small neighborhood consisting of only three streets in which every single home was picture-perfectly decorated with miles of tastefully done lights, wreaths, and maybe a few other high-end decorations. And here I thought Thomas Kinkade just imagined this stuff. It was all right here in this little Christmas village and it was real.

"You won't believe this," I told the Mister, as I drove him there one night to share my object of awe. At 15 miles per hour we perused the immaculate winter wonderland, and while my husband thought it was nice enough, it did not grab him like it did me.

This year, when I saw those lights go up, I went back. It was just as picture perfect as it was the year before. It made me wonder if someone from Hollywood came out and decorated these homes just for the fun of it. I cruised the neighborhood and basked in the beauty of the season. It was a flashback to when I was a child and my family would drive through local streets looking at Christmas lights. For although our own decorations were simple and there were no strings of lights on our house, the children in our family certainly appreciated the brilliant displays of color that others created along roofs and around windows and doors. Oh yes, we loved to look at Christmas lights.

This Christmas, I experienced a longing for the ghost of Christmas past. And yet I know that the days of the Christmas that I knew so well, when my grandparent's house was packed with extended family, simple decorations, and reverence for the season are long gone as the times have changed. Maybe that is what I am really looking for as we drive through the brightly lit neighborhood that I will dub Hallmark Hollow. Perhaps I was searching in the windows not for a glimpse of an immaculately decked out tree, but for a memory of the child-like wonder that Christmas used to evoke in my heart in younger years.

I should have known it was just around the corner.


This was a Christmas full of little surprises. First, I won a subscription to the
Pinecraft Pauper. Christmas greetings came from a few people I had not heard from in years, while some tried and true regulars were no-shows. Christmas packages sent to family and friends either arrived slower than a snail's pace, or didn't arrive in time at all. Nothing, good nor bad, could be counted on. And then on Christmas day, as we set foot in my mother's house carrying my red skinned mashed potatoes and bag of gifts, I got my first glimpse of that comfortable Christmas feeling for which I had been longing. The music softly playing, the mistletoe-scented candle, the branches of fresh holly placed along the mantle, and the manger display all sent waves of familiarity through me. As we sat around talking and reading aloud letters we had received from family afar, I began to get the signal that said "You are home and this is Christmas." The reverent, warm feeling of togetherness and holiness washed over me, and it felt like that child-like wonder had never wandered away in the first place, it was all still right here. And then my grandmother turned to me and said:

"Christmas today is nothing like it was years ago when I was growing up. It was so holy then."


Well.


At least I'm not the only one who thinks so!

7 comments:

  1. Monica, this is beautiful... the visual images, the sentiments, and the feeling of home. I think the feeling I love most in this post is that of gratitude and joy -- to me they are one and the same.

    Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas cheer. May you experience many more beautiful Christmases!

    In Friendship,
    Saloma

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  2. This story in itself is a beatiful memory. Thank you for sharing. I, too, remember how Christmas used to be so revered; and I miss it.

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  3. Good job! I was too busy to bake cookies and not well enough to shop at the mall this year ... I was sad at first, but realized I had oodles of time to work on my part of a play we were doing at church and time to make Christmas cards, then got to go caroling (riding in a van to visit shut-ins and the elderly from our church) and realized that the things I was doing meant more to "Christmas" than baking and shopping!

    Now, I did online shop and happily everything came in on time; managed to walk out to our tree farm with my husband to get our tree; enjoyed my littlest granddaughter who "helped" me trim it (the bottom branches had MANY ornaments on it) and had a wonderful Christmas Eve service at church where my oldest granddaughter played the bells and as a member of the Children's Choir, sang along with me and the rest of the adult choir. It was absolutely JOYOUS!

    I recovered well enough to enjoy a trip with my husband and oldest granddaughter to Sight and Sound Theatres in PA .. and am trying desperately to catch up with my blogging friends from our hotel in Ronks! :-) A belated Merry Christmas (but I celebrate it all year!) and a Happy New Year to all!

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  4. That was a GREAT post! It's funny when the feelings hit us - sometimes in small ways and in doing small things and other times in bigger ways. I'll see a certain ornament and the feelings come over me. One blogger talked about how every year they put their PJs on, get a thermos of hot chocolate and drive around to look at the lights and I thought that sounded like so much fun (unless you get a flat tire of course! LOL). Even when things get rushed and hectic, I love the memories and feelings of Christmas and I see the changes in people this time of year and if I could bottle it, I would. ♥

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  5. I really do not celebrate Christmas but I do enjoy seeing all the lights. I enjoy the paintings and books of Thomas Kinkaid. The Christmas scenes are my favorites.

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  6. Peggy- It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas! I only made it to my first Sight & Sound show ever about two years ago, although I've heard about the famous theater my entire life. It was very interesting!

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