I wouldn't say that I "love" Christmas like lots of people do. I usually get a little down during the holiday season and don't really know why. I guess I don't like the expectation of everyone thinking you should be happy for the holiday season when in fact you should try to be happy all the time!
But what I do like about the holidays is the receiving of holiday cards. If you know me, you know I like to receive cards, make cards and send cards. So many people don't send holiday cards anymore and that is a shame to me. But those that do, I love getting them, and I say thank you. Even if there isn't a holiday letter inside explaining to me what everyone has been up to I still enjoy them. I thank the Lord I have friends that still remember me and take the time to send that holiday greeting. And, I love reading all the letters -- I know a lot of people make fun of them, but I do enjoy reading about all the wonderful things people are doing and the love they are sharing.
Our family didn't have a lot of "traditions" at the holiday time when I grew up except maybe two that I remember. My father was a pressman for the Peoria Journal Star (PJS), the daily newspaper in Peoria Illinois where I grew up. He always worked nights. But Christmas Day was the only day of the year, the PJS didn't publish. So, my dad would always have Christmas Eve off from work. We knew he would always be home that night. In fact, my mother and father were married on Christmas Eve because of that very fact. At the time, he was an apprentice and didn't get much time off at all, so they knew they were safe in planning a Christmas Eve wedding and that his friends from the newspaper could be at the wedding. Every year on Christmas Eve, it seemed as if everyone we knew came by the house and "celebrated" my parent's anniversary and Christmas Eve. I don't know how it started, but every year, we could always count on seeing our friends, neighbors and relatives that one time of the year. No one was sent invitations, everyone just showed up. My mom always had lots of food and everyone brought their homemade goodies to share with everyone. I don't remember my mom working for days getting things prepared......it just happened. I'm sure she did, but don't they say that the sign of a good party is when it looks effortless?
Another tradition that we had involved my dad. He was an orphan growing up. His mother had some problems in child birth after one of his siblings was born and could no longer care for my dad and his siblings. They were put in an orphanage and all of the children were adopted out to different families except one who ended up staying in the orphanage until she was a young adult. The family that adopted my family didn't end up raising him as he ran away and headed up to Illinois (he was born in the south). In adulthood, he ended up finding a sister and a brother and was able to actually reunite with his birth mother before she died. But, having grown up an orphan he didn't exactly have many traditional Christmases. He never asked for a lot, but he loved opening presents. So, we would wrap everything and anything for my dad to unwrap on Christmas day. He was a big fisherman so we would end up wrapping individual little hooks and fishing flys just so he would have a lot to open up. It sounds silly, but he enjoyed opening all the presents as much as we enjoyed seeing him smile.
My dad died the year before my son was born. One of my biggest regrets in life is not having Alan sooner so my dad could have met him. They would have been buddies.
Life's short. Make your own traditions with your family and cherish the moments you have together. The tragedy that unfolded recently in Connecticut should bring that home to everyone.