I am and have been hosting the holidays for our family for many decades. It is a job that I willingly signed up for, but in hindsight, I’m not exactly sure why I have been able to do this for so long without having been committed to a state institution. Why would anyone voluntarily sign on for this lifetime of holiday madness? Present shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, house decorating, tree trimming, housecleaning, baking, meal preparation, family hosting…Let the exhaustion begin!
It started innocently enough. It was Christmastime, I loved the holidays. The holiday movies, the 24/7 Christmas songs on the radio, the holiday TV shows, the lights, the trees, the decorations, the snow, the excitement, the happiness, all of it.
Christmas as a kid involved decorating the tree (which I wrote a blog about a couple of weeks ago). We were able to open a present on Christmas Eve before going to Midnight Mass, we got all dressed up for church in our velvet dresses, tights, patent leather shoes, muffs, hats, the works. Dad would have the car warmed up, and we would trek out into the cold night for the 25-mile trip to town. Once there we would hurry through the frigid air to catch a seat in the closest church pew to the altar. It was always a packed house so the earlier we got there the better. The church was breathtakingly decorated with lush poinsettias, massive evergreen wreaths, garland draped lovingly along the railings and pews, a humbly carved life-sized nativity in the corner depicting the birth of the baby Jesus, and various bejeweled trees with beautiful twinkling white Italian lights. It was exquisite and always a heart-warming and thrilling sight. The organ with pipes seemingly stretching clear to the rafters of the upper balcony would pierce the silence with a cord that filled the air while the chorus in their crisp white robes would magnificently begin singing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. The Clergy marched up the aisle from the back of the church to the altar with the Priest fully engaged in swinging the brass thurible from it’s chain burning incense that would fill the air while the Altar Boys trailed behind echoing their prayerful chant. The services were always so beautiful. Nothing else can compare in getting you in the proper holiday spirit than high Midnight Mass. It hits all the tick marks for the season, spirituality, homage to the reason for the season, the lights, the decorations, pomp and circumstance, giving, fellowship, receiving the sacrament, the pipe organ splendor, choir magnificence, the entire service was always so precious.
These Norman Rockwell Christmases are the basis for my love of the holidays. I am much older now and have had many Christmases since. As a working single girl, a newlywed, a young mother, a grandmother, a retired matriarch. So many trips to see Santa, holiday pictures, special outfits, office parties and gift exchanges, enough toys over the years to open our own store, ugly sweaters, presents, slipper socks, cologne, bath sets, stocking stuffers, books, board games, game systems, electronic equipment of every kind in every format , hundreds of baked cookies, pies, cakes, candy, nuts, Chex-Mix, popcorn tins, holiday meals, presents, wrapping paper, special dolls, clothes, sports equipment and memorabilia, music (we’ve bought the same Beatles’ record about 6 different ways), holiday movies, dozens of artificial trees, sentimental homemade and special ornaments, home videos, and secrets and surprises galore. All of this holiday madness emanates from the one true meaning of the season. If we can cut through the madness and simply focus on the spirit of Christmas of approaching everyone with love and kindness, then the rest will all fall into place. It really doesn’t matter how good or how bad your past holidays have been. We all have our own feelings about this time of the year, but Christmas really is special. No matter your persuasions, I recommend you attend at least one glorious Midnight Mass in your lifetime. Peace… Sandy