I recently watched a Christmas movie where gifts from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” arrived at a home prior to Christmas, with the final gift and message arriving on Christmas Day. While searching for the name of the movie, which turned out to be My Christmas Love, I came across two other Hallmark movies based on twelve gifts of Christmas.
The interesting thing I discovered during Christmas services this morning was that Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas, which means that I’ve always had the entire gift-giving thing backwards. I guess I’m not alone since Hallmark has it wrong too. I think we all assumed it was a countdown to Christmas in the same manner as advent.
So, on this first Day of Christmas, I can’t help but remember the Christmases past. In so many ways, the passage of time lies in our memories of white Christmases, balmy Christmases, blue Christmases, indifferent Christmases, bittersweet Christmases, beleaguered Christmases …well, you catch my drift.
My memories of Christmas fit all of those. I remember being worried as a kid that Santa couldn’t come unless there was snow on the ground.
The Christmas when I was 18, I spent fifteen minutes of Christmas day with my new husband. That was one of those blue Christmases as I headed home, and he headed back to Vietnam.
I remember many Christmases as a new mom, worrying whether “Santa” was going to be able to afford a decent Christmas for my kids. It seemed we always managed, and we let the kids open their presents on Christmas Eve to leave Christmas day open for the big dinner.
Since we spent Thanksgiving with my family, we always spent Christmas day with Jim’s family. Virginia would cook a huge meal and everyone was invited. We’d cram into her small house and on those “balmy” Christmas days, the overflow would go outside and eat Christmas dinner on the picnic table. The day would be full of joy, hugs, laughter, and love.
After the kids were grown, we had our family get-together on Christmas Eve. When my youngest son was on-call for his work, we just started having it on a Saturday before Christmas. We’ve just been flexible about it. Christmas Eve is my granddaughter’s birthday, so by moving our family gathering, she can celebrate her special day at home.
For the decade of Jim’s dementia, Christmas was bittersweet. I saw each Christmas become more and more disconnected from the traditional Christmases of our past. One year as I was clearing a shelf to decorate, I boxed up some of the framed photos that sat on the shelf the rest of the year. Jim silently pulled the photos out of the box and set them back on the shelf.
After Jim went into the nursing home, I brought him home for Christmas the first and second years. It went pretty well, but it was certainly different. After that, I spent Christmas day with Jim at the nursing home. After I came home later in the day, I usually missed most of the people who had come to Virginia’s house for Christmas dinner.
Since Jim’s death, my Christmases have been a hodgepodge, but most would not be considered “traditional.” Still, in a way, they are somewhat traditional for me. All the hectic celebrations are out of the way by Christmas day. It has truly become a holiday from obligations for me. And that isn’t all bad. I love to light up the trees and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a great time to reflect on the good times and to count my blessings.
Since the twelve days of Christmas do not end until January 5, I suppose I should leave up my Christmas decorations until then. Whew, that takes off some pressure. I usually plan to take them down the first day of January, but now I have a reprieve. After all, we should celebrate all twelve days of Christmas, don’t you think?
I will also count myself as one who does not judge the people who leave their outdoor lights glowing until January 5. After that, seriously, shouldn’t you shut them off?
Copyright © December 2016 by L.S. Fisher