Priceless gifts are rarely the most expensive.
They are immeasurable because somewhere in the giving
was the giver’s presence.
A star ornament sits at the top of our tree each Christmas. It has the Dove of Peace etched on it, a gift from my Dad on the last Christmas we would have him — 1983. I was with him at the Veteran’s Administration the day he and other veterans went shopping in the gymnasium for family gifts. He asked me to get him an apple cider, where it was located beside the choir. That Christmas I received the ornament but to me, it is home.
Everywhere I look, I see love.
Most ornaments on our tree are homemade from nieces, our nephew, siblings — their charm makes the tree all the more cozy. I can see the little one’s faces as they waited for our reaction at the gifts, so each ornament has an even sweeter memory attached to it. Some are store-bought ornaments — my memory of receiving them still crystal — this one for my birthday, that one from a journey family was on, but they knew I would enjoy it because they took time to know me.
My Mom gave me a light-up Woodland Santa, which sits amid an heirloom German snow globe, a hand-painted Santa, Rudolf and a chubby snowman. She purchased it from our local Coast-to-Coast, surprised to find such a treasure in a small town. Our home would not be the same without its calm, soft glow.
We have a Fraser Fir this year and its fragrance reminds me of every Christmas memory I treasure. It seemed that when I was little, we always set our tree up the first weekend of December. I’d wake and breathe in its fragrance, slowly make my way to the living room downstairs where the tree was the center of my universe. I loved to lay under it staring at the lights above me, each a Christmas wish, while time refused to move in any way but slowly.
We have a Fraser Fir this year.
Its fragrance reminds me of every Christmas memory I treasure.
Our cats also love the tree. Gemma was so excited the night we brought it in that she ran around for an hour, up and down her cat tree, leaping and being sassy. She and her brother, Gabriel, play hide and seek a couple times a day around the tree’s base, and their joy is infectious. Lucky, our older kitty, enjoys being under the low branches and back in the corner, where she can drink the tree’s sweet water and guard her fragrant castle. I like to think she also is dreaming of all her Christmas wishes coming true.
December signaled baking the likes that only happened once a year.
My Mom was a phenom at caramels, fudge, Refrigerator and Aunt Sally cookies, and she made the best oven-baked caramel corn I’ve ever tasted. She loved making, and we loved eating, her Divinity but she lamented how it could burn out her electric mixer.
We decorated Christmas cutouts with icing and sprinkles like our lives depended on it, and because Mom let us mess up the kitchen table and floor, we knew it was an important task. Rudolf must always have a shiny nose of one red hot and if we were lucky, “Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer” would be on TV that same night.
We could be found with eyes peeled on the Peppernut dough — an anise and bread-like German recipe — our Dad would mix. It must rise for at least all day and was even better if it was left to rise overnight. Peppernuts are a favorite of mine and all my siblings, and each time I make them, I find myself checking the dough hourly, as if watching could ready them faster.
Frosty nights and days…
And every moment of Christmas when I enjoy new moments or miss the presence of a loved one, I am reminded and so thankful of the reason we have a Christmas to celebrate.
In my childhood, we would spend December Saturday mornings at church, for it was Christmas practice time! We worried we might, and hoped we wouldn’t, forget our Bible verses that told the manager story. We sang “Away in a Manger,” “God Loves Me Dearly” and “O, Little Town of Bethlehem.” Sometimes, we got to dress the part.
Luke 2:11-12 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The Christmas Eve service would always go so quickly, feel impossibly perfect and be missed before it ended with “Silent Night” on a beautiful holy night…
I wonder sometimes, do the Angels still prepare to sing as they did the night of Jesus’ birth? Do the Shepherds stare in awe at the star? And do the Wise Men still journey to Bethlehem just to remember the moment they set eyes on the Baby? A tiny Baby born in a manger was sent to save us all and the world was changed forever.
May all your Christmases bring moments of peace and the most important presence — that of love and loved ones.