Every year our family anticipated the Christmas season. My three brothers, my sister, and I started looking through the Sears Wishbook long before Halloween. And the season began in earnest when we followed our father into the woods to participate in the fine art of picking a tree. Over the years in the Holliday home we decorated with popcorn, blinking lights, fake icicles, and a bit of everything on the various trees.
Christmas memories bring back a rush of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and even the hugs from relatives. Even now when I visit my Mother's house with my four children on Christmas day I look forward to tasting her blueberry yum-yum dessert. The smell of live trees refreshes the memories of the past like family get-togethers when aunts would squeeze the "dickens" out of you. And like that stringed popcorn for the tree the memories seem to be connected together by laughter that springs from the joyful wells of the Christmas season.
I can remember the year as a second grader when I opened my gift of "Bart Starr" pajamas. Christmas night my bedroom was not a place where four boys slept in beds, it became a pro-football field. The beds were not beds at all, they transformed themselves into the ferocious Dallas Cowboys' defensive line. There my brothers and I had to crash through that line to score a touchdown. And beds made great end zones for diving catches - my, my, my how the Green Bay Packers rolled that night. We didn't even have to concern ourselves with the aquarium because we lost it during baseball season (momentarily it was a beautiful indoor waterfall with live fish and all.)
Maturing with my siblings during our childhood years, every Christmas season brought about board games and card playing tournaments that might last 2-3 days long. One brother became so enraged after losing a close Monopoly game that he knocked over the card table. Play money, game pieces and cards went everywhere. Without adult intervention we instituted our own anger management protocol by making the rule that the winner must neatly put the game away. It worked for years.
From school plays, church pageants, and singing around our family piano, memories of Christmas carols soothe the inner soul and dip deep into the Christmas wells of joy. Now with four children of my own, I look forward to our Christmas season rides from Tupelo to my parents' home in Ripley. We sing Christmas carols along the way, not necessarily beautifully, but joyfully. One year just as we passed through New Albany my wife had had enough. I said, "Come on Leslie, by the time we finish the Twelve Days of Christmas we will be near Blue Mountain College."
From the passenger seat she turned to say, "My family comes from New Albany and that's as far as I'm singing. You're the one who grew up in Ripley."
From the look in her eye I knew better than to pursue the matter. So the children and I continued singing, receiving our second wind as we journeyed by the Cotton Plant lights display.
But with all the sights and sounds and wonders of the season, my favorite memory is our family each year sitting down by candlelight to read from Luke and Matthew. The story never grows old. It is the difference between happy holidays and Merry Christmas. The angels, the shepherds, a star, wise men, a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, a messiah born, a son given, a promise delivered. Christmas gets no better than its truth that never changes, its joy that never ceases, and its blessings that flow unto all generations.
As my Christmas childhood memories flood forth, indeed there is joy to the world, an alleluia chorus stirring the heart just like the shepherds' hearts when they were "sore afraid" just outside the little town of Bethlehem. "O Holy Night!" Hallelujah! And from my family to your family, Merry Christmas!
Dr. Ed Holliday practices general dentistry in Tupelo. He is an author, and a passionate voice in the TEA Party movement. He may be contacted at email@example.com.