By Suzanne Mazer Stewart
There are certain things that I have to have in order for Christmas to BE Christmas, if you know what I mean. We all have our traditions, the "little things" that are unique or special to us, and I'm no exception. Nothing fancy, mind you, but my Christmas just isn't Christmas without them.
I've got to have candles at Christmas. Many years ago, my mother started the tradition of lighting the entire house on Christmas Eve with just candles and the tree lights. I've continued to do so every year. I must spend as much on candles as some folks do on presents. Even the smell of candles burning reminds of Christmas at other times of the year.
Another thing is the smell of baking. Growing up, we started the Christmas baking the week after Thanksgiving. Before the kids came along, there wasn't as much need for the cookies and such. Even then, though, I'd have to mix up a batch of gingerbread and some sugar cakes, just so my house could have that warm, heady scent in the air. Now, with the family and all, well, let's just say I've already bought ten pounds each of sugar and flour, and restocked my supplies of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla.
We put up a tree, like so many other people do, with the angel on the top and all the lights and ornaments on it. We set up a nativity scene, too. Actually, you'll find 6 or 8 manger scenes decorating my house. Growing up, we only had the one, and it was years before I was considered old enough to even touch it.
There's one in my house that's just for the kids. There's two from my students when I was teaching, there's one made out of paper, one on my desk. They've just sort of multiplied over the years. I figure, Jesus IS the reason for the season, and you certainly can't forget that at my house.
On Christmas Eve, just before they go to bed, we read to the children. First comes "The Night Before Christmas" with great overacting and drama worthy of an Oscar. Then, quietly and more respectfully, we read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. I got a beautiful picture book version a few years ago that has the "extra stuff" edited out.
I won't deny my kids Santa, but I want them to remember God's Christmas present, too.
Lastly, there's the Christmas music. My favorite Christmas album is a collection of carols played on mountain instruments: dobro, dulcimer, psaltery, fiddle, guitar, banjo and mandolin. I don't remember where I picked it up, I've had it so long.
It just says "Christmas in the hills" to me. When I was living in the city, out of state, hearing that music brought me back to Christmases at home. Now, I know you have your traditions and they're different from mine. I know they are every bit as special to you as mine are to me. If you don't have any, make some. Take some of mine, if you want. Christmas is too precious a time not to make it special in some way.
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