It’s the middle of November and already I see Christmas ribbons and lights in the windows of businesses across town. Each store competes to sell the most decorations the soonest. Santa Clause and his helpers air in commercials on T.V., I and hear holiday cheer streaming through the radio before December even arrives. My nieces and nephews began their Christmas wish lists weeks ago, asking for anything from dinosaurs to Dora the Explorer life size dolls. As Thanksgiving approaches, lost somewhere between Halloween and Christmas, I wonder what happened to the small town Christmas I remember. Christmas shouldn’t be about the perfectly wrapped presents or out doing your neighbors lights. Christmas should be focused on the smaller things that make the holiday special.
In my home town ten years ago, the holiday season didn’t begin until the first week or two of December. All the citizens of Oakley would gather at the Town Hall on the 13th of December, and watch as the lights on the old pine tree outside was illuminated with bright red and green lights. The tree was planted at the founding of Oakley in the mid 1800’s and had become the symbol of our town. After the lighting of the tree, there were always sleigh rides and caroling, followed by hot chocolate and visiting Mr. and Mrs. Claus who gave the children red, peppermint candy canes and large, sweet oranges.
My favorite Christmas, however, wasn’t spent in Oakley. I had just turned eight when my sister Katie and I flew to Idaho to spend Christmas break with our grandparents. They lived on a small ranch just outside Cambridge, a town even smaller than my home town. During those two weeks I would wake up at six in the morning, even on Christmas day, to help Grandpa feed the cows the rich smelling alfalfa hay bales. We would repeat the same drill later each day just before dinner. In the afternoons, Grandma would take me out to feed the calves, who were left without mothers to care for them, giant bottles filled with warm milk. The chores didn’t get to be passed over just because it was Christmas break. I learned that life still went on as normal for many people.
Christmas morning, after all the chores were finished, Katie and I got to open our presents. We each got a stuffed animal. Mine was a big black bear with a red bow tied around his neck. I named him Blackie (very clever I know). We also each got a box full of Grandma’s home made candies. Although I didn’t get as many gifts as I was used to, that Christmas meant the most to me. I learned what Christmas was really about. It was not about the gifts, the big malls full of fun things to buy, or paid Santa imitators. Christmas was about the time spent with loved ones and friends, celebrating the birth of Christ. I believe that we should cut back on the shopping, decorating, and busyness of the holiday season and cherish the true meaning of Christmas; the Christmas that small towns haven’t forgotten.
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