When I was a child, Christmas began when our tree went up – usually around the time of my mother’s birthday.
Our family would spend a Friday evening untangling lights, choosing our favorite baubles to hang, listening to Christmas carols and arranging things around the house in exactly the same place they were the year before.
And then the shopping and wrapping began in earnest. It was a fun time! We didn’t feel rushed or frenzied. As children we didn’t worry about money. After all, according to our father, it grew on trees, right?
It was an old-fashioned time, not so long ago. Our family wasn’t that huge or blended, so there was no drawing of straws because we didn’t have a gazillion relatives for whom to shop. There was no subliminal competition with ex-spouses, step-relatives or anyone else we considered when gift-giving. Our gifts were actually quite simple – clothes, a new bag, new boots, a book.
Today that statement leads some people to think we were “poor” but in fact, our father provided very well for us. Our parents taught us delayed gratification, so while we always had everything we needed during the year, we didn’t always get what we “wanted” until it was birthday or Christmas time. It was an old-fashioned time, not so long ago.
My mother and I did the shopping and we’d spend the following weekend nights wrapping and showing the rest of the family what we were giving. One of my favorite days was shopping for my father’s staff (Dad hated shopping…that suddenly changed when he became a granddad). Mum and I would test all kinds of perfume, and look at pretty gloves and powder compacts. It was an old-fashioned time, not so long ago.
The Salvation Army would be singing Christmas carols on the high street. It was so cold one could see their breath and yes, there really was a man roasting chestnuts on an open fire. The shops had Jesus manger scenes in some windows and high fashion in others – but they were all beautiful. London STILL has the best shop windows, I might add.
We’d spend Christmas Eve day delivering our gifts and the night playing with our cousins. On Christmas day there would be too much food, Christmas crackers, the Morecombe and Wise show on TV and the Queen’s speech at 3 o’clock where she gave thanks to Almighty God as she gave the annual review for Britain and the Royal family. It was an old-fashioned time, not so long ago.
Life has become much more complicated as our world has become more broken. We all have gift lists that are too expensive, take too much time to complete and a to-do list that leaves us exhausted and stressed. We find ourselves celebrating Christmas several times over several weeks not just because our families have beautifully grown but also because our families are fractured and we want to be with all of them, but not all of them can be in the same room at the same time for complicated reasons. This is just the world we have created for ourselves, you and me.
And yet, not so long ago, during simpler times, we celebrated Christmas. The earthly birth of Jesus. Wise men. The star. The manger. An innkeeper with no rooms left.
I”m all for that. An old-fashioned Christmas.
So around here, our tree went up. Amidst our tinsel and lights hung a couple or three baubles from my parent’s old-fashioned tree, complete with a bit of old-fashioned twine. It must be Mum’s birthday – time to celebrate Christmas… Anyone want an old-fashioned Christmas?