“The Magic of Christmas”
Today we live in a different world from the one I knew as a child. December 25 is referred to as the “Holiday Season,” “Yuletide,” “X-mas,” and other politically correct terms. But, in our house, it is CHRISTMAS, the birth of Christ, and we celebrate it as such. During these later years of my life, I think of Christmases past and how it always brought a magical glow to our lives.
My Mother-in-law, who lived with us for many years before her death in 2004, shared her own Christmas memories. She said that at the old home place outside New Edinburg all the family gathered together for days before Christmas and lingered for days afterward. Papa would have gone into the woods around Thanksgiving to choose his tree. Then, on or about December 23 he would cut it down, haul it back to the house in a wagon and set it up in its prominent place by the big window. That night, Mama and all the older kids would decorate it after supper. They used strings of popcorn and berries, pictures cut from the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, and splinters of a broken mirror or other glass to catch the fireplace glow. The decorated tree stood waiting for dusk on Christmas Eve.
At that time, all the children under the age of thirteen were relegated to the front porch, regardless of the weather. They stood there shivering in anticipation of what they knew was about to take place. During their absence, older members of the family placed dozens of candle stubs on the towering tree that reached almost to the ceiling. A star was placed on top by Papa himself and then all the candles were carefully lit. At last, the younger children were allowed back inside to witness the miracle. There were “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” and the intake of breath, while for only five minutes, they experienced first-hand the magic of Christmas before the candles were extinguished.
Now, I grew up in the 40s and 50s, but something similar happened each year at my house in Carthage. Daddy brought in the tree he’d usually buy in Little Rock around the third week of December and set it up in its water stand in the corner of our living room. We decorated it that night with multicolored lights (much larger than the ‘twinkle lights’ used today) and bubble lights that were my favorites. Next, we loaded it with tinsel garland, brightly colored Christmas balls and icicles. Our presents were not placed on a Christmas skirt but on angel hair that covered its base. The lights had been tested so Daddy could replace any defective ones, but it was not lit again until Christmas Eve.
After Daddy came home from the store and my three older brothers had arrived with their families for Christmas Eve supper, we all went into the living room. Daddy took his Bible and stood in the midst of us to read of the birth of Christ from the second chapter of Luke. Not even one of the small babies uttered a sound while he read.
When finished, he nodded to Mama to turn out the table lamps while he walked to the tree in utter darkness to plug in its lights. Suddenly, the room was filled with its magnificent splendor. Each year, I felt chills of joy as I first gazed at that beautiful spectacle with its star aglow and all that it stood for. It was thrilling…electrifying! This is the way the magic of Christmas still makes me feel today.
Brenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author of two books. She welcomes your comments on this column at [email protected]