Wednesday, December 2
My mother, Linda Henman, loves Christmas. Every year she begins the decorating on the day after Thanksgiving (after hitting the sales) and fills her house with symbols of Christmas: snowflakes, angels, a nativity scene, a Coke drinking Santa, wreaths, and the like. She has always used an artificial tree because real trees do not last as long as she likes to have the tree up – from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. The tree is covered with ornaments collected over decades, each with a story or special meaning. My mother also takes down from the walls all the pictures in the living room, dining room, and hall, and replaces each with a Christmas decoration. The big Charleston print over the piano is swapped for a Charleston Christmas print. She even switches the clock in the kitchen for one the plays a carol every hour!
There is one decoration that my mother holds back. The carved wooden nativity scene is always placed on the mantle or on top of the piano.
This nativity scene has a baby Jesus figure carved separately from the manger. When my two sisters and I were very young and still believed in Santa, my mother would hide the baby Jesus figure when she put out the nativity scene. She told us that Santa would put the baby Jesus figure in the manger on Christmas Eve when he brought the presents. So on Christmas morning the first thing we did when got up was look to see if baby Jesus was in the manger. Even after we grew out of the whole Santa thing, and now as adults at her house, my sisters and I insist that the baby Jesus figure not be put in the manger until Christmas morning, so that first thing on Christmas morning, we can go look at baby Jesus.
And it is not just the decorations that my mother enjoys – she loves the gifts too. My mother does her Christmas shopping all year long. She loves to watch the recipient open the gift she had been thinking about for months. Indeed her anticipation is as great or greater for the presents she gives as it is for the presents she receives. Now that she has grandchildren, the gift giving has become even more fun for her.
At Christmas time, it is easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed with the seeming cross-purposes of the holiday: the consumerism and big business of the secular part of Christmas is at odds with the incarnational message of the religious part of Christmas. In my family we never had a clash of the Christmas symbols – there was no baby Jesus versus Santa – because my mother blended them with joy and love, with decoration and celebration. Let us all give and look first at Jesus this Advent.
– Tricia Kilgore