Christmas will always be my favorite time of year, a season to which I look forward all year ’round and anticipate with childlike glee. My wife and I take the holidays seriously, decorating our home the day after Thanksgiving and spending hours walking through the neighborhood, marveling at the lights.
Christmas, to me, is all about childhood. I know that I am now an adult, but December brings with it a hint of youth, and everything seems to remind me of that time, many years ago, when something spiritual or funny or exciting happened around Christmas. My family observes the same traditions I remember from childhood, and although I experience them through the eyes of a man, part of me wishes I was still a boy at this time of year.
Christmas was always a big deal for me as a kid, and not because of the presents I received or because of the candy I found in my stocking. Even back then, I felt a sense of belonging during Christmas that didn’t necessarily exist during the rest of the year. Regardless of what my parents and I had fought about during the previous twelve months-the disagreements we’d had or the discord that had accumulated-Christmas gave us reasons to mend the wounds and move on from the past.
I remember staying up all night on Christmas Eve with my sister, determined to hear Santa Claus as he came down the chimney. When we were older, we held fast to those beliefs with which we’d been raised, and we continued to leave cookies out for St. Nick well into our teens. It wasn’t the idea of gifts that Santa Claus might bring, but the air of mysticism that had always surrounded Christmas for us.
Of course, presents were always an integral part of Christmas as a kid, and I have to admit that my family was far more extravagant than those of most of my friends. I was raised by conservative spenders-my parents and grandparents spent every Sunday morning combing through the newspaper for coupons, and my grandfather was known to visit five or six different grocery stores every week just to find the best deals. At Christmas, however, those conservative values went right out the window.
Because our parents were so generous at Christmas time, my sister and I bent over backwards to return the favor. We invariably waited until just a few days before Christmas to hit the stores for our family members, and we would spend hours at the mall and at big-box stores searching for the perfect gifts.
The one Christmas that was different from all the others as a kid was my third-grade year, when I came down with Chicken Pox on December 23. My grandmother suffered from a particularly severe case of Shingles, which meant that my being in close proximity to her could be life-threatening. Consequently, I was forced to spend most of that Christmas by myself.
I’ll never forget that evening, however, when my grandfather made a special trip to our house to visit me. He brought me a brand new fishing pole, one I’d coveted for months at the store, and he took me fishing on that momentous Christmas. Only in Texas would that be possible in December, but it is still the most wonderful fishing trip I’ve ever taken.
Now, as the much older version of myself, my wife and I hope our children feel the same way about Christmas as we did when we were kids. We have blended traditions, compromised on various rituals, but my son and I go fishing every Christmas night.