Christmas has always been a special family time. I can count on my two hands exactly the number of times we were not at home celebrating Christmas. If you ask any of my siblings, they will all say that each time we were away for Christmas, it just wasn’t the same. It lacked that special Christmas touch that comes from being in a special place with special people.
Christmas, for me, is more than a holiday and good food (Please don’t get me wrong, my family love to eat our special, traditional Christmas lunch). As a kid, my siblings and I would dress up and do a play for my parents and grandparents. We all took turns being the donkey, the wise men, Mary and Joseph. My mom would play Christmas carols on the piano and we would sing along at the top of our pretty voices. The setting up of the Christmas tree was a huge deal. It went up on 1 December or as close to that date as possible. On the Christmas music would go. Out the boxes of decorations would come. My mom tried to keep it orderly, but with my three humorous siblings (I’m not humorous at all – and my dad would try calm everyone down); it often meant the tree would take hours to set up. But in these hours, the laughter and memories created and shared became priceless. We would often end up wrapped in tinsel and lights. The most important moment would come when the star would be placed right at the very top of the tree. Every year someone different would place it at the top. As our family grew it would eventually mean waiting six years😑.
With my dad being the pastor of our church, we tried (in vain) to get him to agree to Christmas Eve meetings instead of Christmas morning meetings. After years of trying – we gave up and eventually set a time limit of 1 hour. My dad normally says something along the lines of, “My kids will be timing me this morning…” as his opening line. But the word he preached on Christmas was always special. It always reminded me of my faith in Jesus, His love for me and the importance of my family.
Finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for – opening presents. Presents are always stacked under the tree. No names are on them just numbers. Mom would have this super secret book where each number was written and to whom that present belonged. We weren’t allowed to touch the presents until they were handed to the person opening it. We gladly obeyed because it made Christmas Day that much more interesting and fun. Opening presents became more special the older we got. Each person would buy each family member a gift. They ranged from token gifts, to thoughtful ones to just down right hilarious. One year Gareth wrapped gifts using literal rolls of brown tape (the kind you use to close boxes) and I could not stop laughing because the more I tried to open it, the more tangled I got. We all laughed so hard!! One year my parents decided to do a childhood throw back gift for each of us. These gifts represented our favorite toys as kids. My favorite gifts to give are the ones that surprised my mom or dad. Their reactions were so genuine and priceless. It’s definitely not the size of a gift that counts. It’s not even if the gift is useful. It is the reason that counts. It is the gesture. It is the act of giving that matters. And one tradition we used to do was the “aftermath photo”. This was where we all got under the mounds of wrapping paper that was strewn across the lounge floor and took a series of fun photos.
Then came lunchtime. Mom always made us wait for lunch😜. Loads of decorating went into the table much to the dismay of our hungry tummies. But I am proud to say, every table had such a beautiful theme and was worth all her effort. Hope I picked up some creativity from all my years of watching her decorate. Christmas lunch consisted of eating, pulling the crackers and reading the jokes. My siblings normally provided large doses of laughter and entertainment.
We were never surrounded by huge groups of people. We didn’t go on fancy holidays. We didn’t over do it. We just enjoyed family. We enjoyed home. We created traditions and learnt to appreciate the moments and memories created.
Now that I have gotten married and left home, Christmas is taking on a new meaning. It’s been difficult knowing I won’t share in some of those special moments. But I am excited that I will be sharing some of these traditions and also creating new ones with my husband as we celebrate our first Christmas together. It is also causing me to focus on the real reason that I have for celebrating with family – Jesus.
Jesus is the ultimate reason. He is the ultimate giver. I know love because of the family He gave me. I know joy because of His gift. I know peace because of His gift. I know freedom and can celebrate all because of His gift. Don’t forget to celebrate Him. Without Him there would be no celebration, no memories, no laughter and no family. Enjoy the gifts. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the people. Remember to celebrate the greatest gift – Jesus!!