By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The hustle and bustle and financial woes of Christmas draw to a close as the celebrated day arrives tomorrow.
Christmas was always an amazing time during my childhood. Being the only child who was raised by my mother and grandmother, Christmas (and other holidays) meant my aunts, uncles, and cousins would soon be present and I would no longer be the sole child on the premises. It meant laughter and lots of cooking going on the kitchen, visits by other family members, and that indescribable moment when Aunt Norma and Uncle Fred would FINALLY get up on Christmas Day (even though it was still early morning) so my cousins and myself could go raid the gifts under the Christmas tree.
I was raised very untraditionally to other kids my age. When my parents divorced, Mom and I lived with my grandmother, who lived in the home my grandfather began building — and never finished out — when he died in 1939. The house sat lengthwise to the road, rather than facing the road, so the Christmas tree was always put by the window in the ‘spare room’ used only when we had company. When Uncle Fred and Aunt Norma came to visit, they slept in that room, so we had to wait until they gave us the say-so before we went barging excitedly into the bedroom.
But the gifts were not the highlight of the season for me — it was the presence of my cousins, aunts and uncles who gathered for the family celebration. It was the closeness of family, the joy of togetherness, and the experience of sharing.
When Mammaw died, we four oldest grandchildren were in our teens and getting ready to spread our wings into the world. Uncle Fred and Aunt Norma didn’t come home for Christmas anymore because they had their own family. Uncle J.R. died the April after Mammaw’s death in September, so that eliminated another part of the family get-together for holidays. Uncle Kenneth and Aunt Barbara and Darrell, when they lived close by, continued the family tradition of the holidays, but when they moved to another state, holidays were usually just Mom and me.
The adjustment was traumatic. Christmas, despite the number of gifts, just wasn’t Christmas anymore. Like every family, we had our problems and conflicts, but holidays were a happy time for family, not a setting for a family feud.
Today’s society doesn’t seem to follow the traditions that were standard in my younger years. Families are at odds with one another, or don’t enjoy being together at all. Drugs, alcohol, unstable behavior, and materialism have ruined our world. The levels of respect and morals have crumbled and empathy and understanding seemingly is a thing of the past for many people.
In the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, it is imperative that we as a society cherish life. Christmas should be a day of celebration, as even the troops during past wars have called a cease-fire and set aside a few hours of peace.
The season of Christmas originated as a recognition of unselfish giving and sacrifice, not of money and goods or presents and lighted trees. It is about the birth of Jesus in the most humble setting and trials of life. It should be our ultimate goal to share goodwill and teach our children to honor tradition and instill respect into their lives. Christmas should be less about iPhone, iPad, iPod and “I want,” and more “I love you” and “thank you.”
With that said, I wish each of you a happy and enjoyable Christmas Day and the days after. May peace and love be your guide. Merry Christmas!