‘Yet another Christmas has come — and gone.’
When you were a kid, did you have an Advent Calendar? If you did, you got it around the first of December, hung it somewhere handy, like on the fridge, then every day you opened this little numbered door to reveal a gift or an animal or an ornament. Whatever was behind that little door didn’t really matter. It was just fun to do, and added a sort of ‘countdown drama’ to your already-overexcited anticipation of Christmas. (BTW, I just googled ‘Advent Calendar’ and guess what? It was invented by Lutherans.)
[I remember that The Child had a particularly clever Advent Calendar (a gift, natch) made of felt with little toys and ornaments that stuck to it with velcro. It’s buried somewhere in a bag full of (now underutilized) ornaments, ready to be unearthed and pressed back into action at some future (extremely hypothetical at this point) grandchild-populated date.]
But even if you weren’t a Little Lutheran armed with an Advent Calendar, waiting for Christmas was a pretty exciting time. We Henrys got so jazzed that we called December 23rd ‘Christmas Eve Eve’ and sometimes even December 22nd was dubbed ‘Christmas Eve Eve Eve’. But that’s nothing compared to one of my Facebook friends who posted on June 25 that it was ‘just six months until Christmas’. Now that’s a person who’s really got her Christmas Countdown down.
And when Actual Christmas actually arrived? Well. Big times. We Lutherans, at least those of us of the Swedish persuasion, had big doings on Christmas Eve. (Check out ‘(N)o Tannenbaum’ and ‘Who’s yer Santa?’ for festive details.) These festivities usually involved opening a present, or perhaps two.
But Christmas morning, after Santa had made his rounds, well that was the Big Exciting Time, at least for gift-opening at our house. I think many of us can remember being awakened at dawn’s early light by small people whose heads barely cleared parental bed-level. ‘He’s been here! Come look at all the presents!’ Which is why family photos of gifts being unwrapped usually feature groggy parents clutching coffee mugs, and kids in jammies. Well. Everyone’s in jammies, actually. My Favorite Sister always serves what she calls ‘Happy Coffee’ to make up for her lack of sleep and forgone grooming opportunities.
But now, even if I weren’t writing this on the 29th, I would definitely know that Christmas has come — and gone. There are no more carols on the radio. No more presents under the tree. (At least not wrapped ones.) Why, at the Metropolitan Museum yesterday, the guard wished me ‘Happy New Year’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’ or the these-days-very-daring ‘Merry Christmas’.
But before we leave Christmas in the twinkly tinsel dust, let’s talk a little more about those presents. With a few memorable exceptions (Ruth, I’m talking about your golden-haired doll. Mom, I’m remembering your roller skates in the ‘hair ribbon’ box), I’m thinking we remember the anticipation of the gift even more than the actual gift. And that what we really treasure are the memories wrapped around each one.
So I’ll leave you with my best wishes for wonderful memories of Christmas 2015. And I’ll share one of my favorites with you. This is a gift from The Child that I couldn’t bear to ‘cash’. After all, a made bed only lasts till it’s slept in again. This coupon lives on in my desk drawer, where, jumbled in among the paper clips and business cards, it continues to give me a lift every time I come across it.
New York City. December 2015