My first memory of Christmas must have taken place when I was around three years old. We were living in a duplex on Lincoln Street in Dubuque, Iowa. It was Christmas Eve, and my sister Chris, my Dad and I were lying on a bed and Dad said, “What was that?” I will never forget hearing the pawing of reindeer feet on our roof that night — never mind that we lived in the downstairs half of the duplex…our neighbors lived upstairs and we could not have distinguished a roof noise from their footsteps over our heads.
And so it is with the magic of Christmas. We believe in things that would not make sense at other times. We hold moments in our hearts and our imaginations with a tenacity unseen in other life experiences. I can barely remember what I did on my birthday this year, but I will always remember the thrill of receiving the Hanson Kids Puppet Theater one Christmas morning when I was perhaps 8 or 9.
In my family, we ritualized every little activity which occurred on Christmas Eve or Day, until we could barely function normally — from noon on the 24th every moment was spoken for by one “tradition” or another. Eventually, this collapsed under its own weight, not without a lot of tears and angst.
Now, we celebrate in warm ways that hearken to the old traditions, but are no longer bound by them. This year, I will marvel at my grown up nieces and nephews, coo at my first great-niece, try to maintain some control over my food choices. I will hold my parents and siblings close, filled with wonder at the grace that has allowed us all to still be here on the this earth together. And while I will be grateful for the 49 years of Christmas memories, the ones I will hold most dear are the ones we will be making together at that moment.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.