I was delighted at the invitation to join Matt and Stacy, my son and his wife, on a vacation to Barbados between Christmas and New Year’s. When I arrived it was obvious that Santa had remembered the twins, Harry and Mae, as new toys were scattered everywhere–Legos , Play Doh, puzzles, CandyLand, and more. And just outside my guest house stood a real evergreen tree adorned with ornaments and lights, with a huge red bow at the top. Yes, it was Christmas in Barbados.
Mae explained to me that she and Harry celebrated Christmas lots of times this year! She described celebrating an early Christmas with her other grandparents in New Jersey, our O’Neil Christmas weekend the week before Christmas, and Christmas again in Barbados. Somehow at just 3 ½ years old, she knew that was unusual as she noted , “Isn’t that funny, gram? Three Christmasses for Harry and me!”
After many days at the beach and exploring the island, we adults reluctantly began talking about preparing for our departure. That conversation seemed to trigger in Mae’s mind something she could do to help and without any discussion at all, she began removing the Christmas tree ornaments one by one, placing them carefully in a large container. “It’s done.” She muttered out loud. “Christmas is done now. Right, Gram?”
“Christmas is done now.”
Wow, by all practical standards I guess Christmas was done and it was time to pack “it”up until next year. But what is Christmas, anyway? If we are thinking of the external things, such as the tree decorations, candles, and front door wreaths, yes, they can be stored or disposed of. The Nativity scenes outside churches will be dismantled and stored. Department store Santas will be dismissed and display windows will be changed to reflect the next holiday, perhaps Valentine’s Day. Neighbors will remove their exterior Christmas lights and we won’t be getting any more family photograph greeting cards until next year.
But the essence of Christmas is not done! Never!!! Christmas is so much more about what we can’t pack up and store in the attic. Christmas is in our hearts and soul; it is how we feel. Christmas is about family and friends and giving and sharing and celebrating and singing. Christmas is about baking and decorating and inviting others to enjoy moments with us. Christmas is other-centered. Christmas is happy.
I do not discount the religious significance of the holiday for me personally, yet I observe so many people who celebrate Christmas without its religious significance as well. They too get in to the fun, spending time with family and friends, giving and sharing. No, Mae, Christmas should not be done! Christmas should always be. People seem to be more generous at Christmas time, often literally searching for others in need. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the Christmas spirit is contagious and we should keep it going.
No, Mae, “Christmas is not done”. I will continue to live it and hope my children and their children do so as well.
And what about you? Care to join us? Or, would you rather wait until next December to feel the Christmas????