Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Christmas then and now | TSLN.com

Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Christmas then and now

Christmas. What does the word mean to you? Is it equated with a hectic time of shopping and preparing for the holiday, sometimes with financial woes on the mind? Is it about music, wintry scenes on cards that arrive, and the gathering of family? Maybe it's a time of sadness and aloneness, missing someone who is gone or who was never there. It can be parts of all of this put together into a complicated mix of emotion, energy, and busy-ness that both wears down and builds up the person.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus, hence the name Christ in the word. Not everyone celebrates the holiday because of a belief in Christ and retailers reap the reward of a holiday out of control in so many ways. But, it shouldn't be about the buying of gifts or the exhausting preparations.

To me, when I think of Christmas, I think of the big family I've been blessed to be a part of. I think of church and Sunday school programs, candlelight services, Christmas letters and cards with photos of people I care about, and time spent with family and friends. I think of those who are no longer there to celebrate with and miss their presence.

I also think of Christmas as a child. Being the youngest of six kids, I now understand the trials that my folks must have gone through to provide Christmas for all of us. As a child it never occurred to me that it might be a hardship to be both parent and Santa Claus. They never let on that it was, but I now know for certain that it was difficult. I remember getting many hand made gifts, from knitted slippers, mittens and hats, to clothes. Of course, my Mom was a very talented seamstress and a skilled knitter of all things, but what puzzles me is how she created all those items in secret.

One of the most memorable gifts we ever got as a family was the year that "Santa" brought a tiny Border Collie puppy we named Mandy. She was so darned cute and cuddly and we all held her and played with her by the hour. I also remember the thousand or so fleas that came with her and how horrified my poor, stressed out Mom was about that! Many baths later, we were all flea free, but it sure was a Christmas to remember! Besides Christmas, our Mom was making a wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses for my oldest sister's wedding the end of the month, so a flea circus was not her idea of a good time.

Family get-togethers over Christmas were absolutely the best in my eyes. Christmas eve would be spent at Gramy and Grandad's and my Aunt Lois and Uncle Keith and their four kids would all be there, as well as any "strays" that were included. It was total bedlam with all the kids in that relatively small house, but it was joy at its fullest to all there. Christmas Day would be spent at either our house or at Keith and Lois's house, depending on whose turn it was to host. It lasted all day, with Dad and an older brother or two going home briefly to do chores and milk the cow before we ate the leftovers from dinner for supper.

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As we grew up and the kids started to marry and have families of their own, we no longer did Christmas Day together, but Christmas Eve has remained a time for those of us who can, to get together. Up until a few years ago, that was at my oldest brother's house, and when they moved to Texas, it moved seamlessly to a cousin's house.

Now we "kids" are the grandparents and there's once again a hoard of little people running about, laughing and having fun together. It's a treasured time of visiting, eating, laughing, and catching up. There are some "to the death" Chinese checkers matches and Dominoes played on Christmas Day.

I realize that everyone didn't grow up that way and I know that I am blessed beyond measure to have been born where I was. So, at this Christmas time, I hope that you all enjoy a Christmas that will make wonderful memories for you and yours. Family doesn't necessarily have to be blood kin either.

Jesus Christ was born so long ago, in a humble setting, to be our Savior. He came as a man, to be one of us, to eventually die on the cross as the sacrifice for our sin. No matter who you are or what your background is, He died for you as well. If you don't know Christ as your savior, I hope that as Christmas comes, you will make that decision and become a part of the family of God. It will be the best Christmas ever and the celebration of Christ's birth will be even more meaningful. May God bless you, one and all. Merry Christmas to each of you.