When I think back to my memories of childhood Christmases so many years ago, I see the tree my father and I decorated on Christmas Eve. It stood in its familiar corner of the living room with its blue lights sparkling, its silver tinsel lovingly hanging on its branches, its bright gold, silver, red, and green balls in just the right spots, and its golden topper like a crown. It would only be up until New Year’s Day, so all its beauty had to be absorbed in a short time.
I see the swag wreath on the front door. Its branches were cut from the pine tree in the yard and tied with the red ribbon bow that was saved from year to year.
It was my job to wrap the presents. We didn’t have gift bags or stick- on bows back then, so wrapping required some skill. When we opened our presents, we had to try and save the paper so my mother could iron it and use it again the following year. I would use the blunt edge of scissors to curl the ribbons on the packages.
My mother made gingerbread men with raisins for the eyes and buttons, and also a big apple pie with a lattice topping. She also washed and ironed my dolls’ clothes and set the dolls on top the couch to welcome Christmas morning.
But what especially stands out in my mind, is the fat, red candle in the kitchen window, lit to welcome the wayfarer, the stranger who might, like the Holy Family, be seeking shelter and warmth on a cold, dark night.
To me, it’s the simple things that make Christmas meaningful. The love and caring of family and friends, the sharing of good food, love and laughter, and having others know that the Stranger is always welcome.
—Bernadette R. Gentry