Megan's Christmas Column

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Christmas Traditions and Snow Donít Make Christmas, Christ Does

By Megan Moss

 

My Christmases have remained basically the same, year after year, since I was a child.  The first celebrations started on Christmas Eve.  We got dressed in our holiday finest and went to celebrate with my dadís side of the family.  My granny threw a huge party for her extended family and close friends.  We sang carols and Santa came and visited, bringing presents for all the young children.  Then we ate a meal together, which each family had contributed to, and finally, a gift exchange, one for the children and one for the adults.  After the celebration we left and went to visit my great grandmother and my momís side of the family.  There we ate more and opened presents.  Finally, we attended midnight mass, going back to my momís parentsí house to sleep.  The next morning we raced downstairs to check our stockings to make sure Santa had come.  Finding them full, we woke everyone and waited impatiently for the coffee to brew and cherry Danish and coffee cake to be set out.  Finally we could open our stockings.  Then, another wait for my aunt and uncle to arrive before we opened presents.

We lived in Florida and in order to be able to spend the holidays with our family we would make the long journey ďup north.Ē  My sister and I were so excited.  We couldnít wait to see snow, the most magical part of Christmas for us.  We didnít mind the trip, as it meant we were going to grandmaís house, though I am sure there was some bickering along the way. 

Eventually my family moved back north and my great grandmother passed away, so our Christmas Eve was slightly less jam packed, but only slightly.  We still rushed to get ready, wrapping presents at the last minute, and we still came together to celebrate, even after my granny died and it was just my dadís brothers and sisters.  They all lived close by and no one wanted to see the tradition come to an end.   Then, when my grandmother died and my grandfather remarried our Christmas morning tradition had to change as well.  She had her own children and wanted to spend Christmas morning with them.  We still saw my dadís family on Christmas Eve, though it was now our children that were sitting on Santaís lap instead of us.  In many ways, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day felt the same as so many had before, and I wanted it to stay that way.  To me, that was Christmas.

I realized this for sure one year when my husband and I were living in Maryland and decided to meet my family in Florida the day after Christmas.  That year I missed our Christmas Eve traditions, and although we had a pleasant dinner with our close friends, it didnít feel the same.  I vowed that I would keep our Christmas traditions from then on.

This year, however, we decided to stray from tradition once more.  Much as I had as a child we made a long car trek, but instead of going north, we went south.  My grandfather has Alzheimerís disease and his wife has placed him in a nursing facility in Florida, where she spends most of her time.  My parents rented a house close to where he is living and big enough for the whole family.  We planned on spending a week together and having the opportunity to visit with my grandfather and make his Christmas special. 

A few weeks before our visit his wife sent my parents a letter stating that she didnít think it was a good time for a visit, due to a disagreement she was having with my parents.  My parents were disappointed, but we thought we would still be able to see him.  The closer the time came for our visit, however, she had not answered our messages, and we feared we wouldnít see him after all. 

We were not going to let this ruin our Christmas.  On Christmas Eve we took the kids to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, a present from their grandparents in England.  After leaving the zoo we strung the inside of our car with Christmas lights, put on Christmas music, and headed south to meet up with the rest of my family.  As it got dark we started to get noticed by other cars.  We felt as festive as you can celebrating Christmas in a place with no snow.  We ate dinner together, thanking the Lord for allowing us all to come together in this beautiful and warm location.

Christmas morning we opened stockings, went to church and came back to exchange gifts.  I was feeling maudlin because I suspected we wouldnít be seeing my grandfather, also, being somewhere warm with no snow didnít feel like Christmas. 

Finally, after the last gift had been opened and we were relaxing and enjoying each otherís company I said two prayers, one for my grandfather, that the Lord be with him whether he was with us or not, and one for his wife, that her heart be softened to let us be able to be together.  Then I looked around and realized that although this Christmas was unlike any other I had celebrated, I was still with my family, celebrating Jesusí birth, and that I wasnít going to let any negative feelings get me down.

Today we are getting ready to go home.  Unless a miracle occurs, we wonít see my grandfather.  I will leave him a message, letting him know weíve been here.  Next week I will call and talk to him.  I have to take comfort in the fact, that although we werenít able to see him, the forgetfulness of his disease means that he wonít remember. 

Although this Christmas has been different from all past Christmases, and a disappointment in some respects, I realized it isnít traditions or cold snowy weather that makes Christmas special; it is being with the people you love and sharing in the joy of Christís birth, so many years ago. 

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