I have been writing stories since my children were little. I included them in the stories and they learned to read and love it.
Elves Are Ready
What Is Christmas
What does Christmas mean? That is like asking someone to tell you the meaning of life in five words or less. With so many beliefs and traditions in the world, how can the meaning of Christmas be narrowed down to 'this is what it means' because it might not mean that to other people. Christmas is a warm, happy, exciting, anticipating, hoping, gathering, helping, loving, giving kind of time. It is also a busy, frustrating, tiring, grating, depressing, worrying, trying kind of time.
I'll tell you how my family celebrated and maybe it will help you see if that answers the question. While I am rattling along, maybe you could take a trip down memory lane with me. Who knows, you might be able to answer the question for yourself.
Definitely a Snowy Christmas
Our experiences while growing up will almost always affect how we act and feel. It teaches us about life based on the beliefs of those who teach us. Parents, for instance, or siblings, nannies, or orphanages. We do what we know under most circumstances.
I grew up in a poor family. We grew most of our own food and worked hard all summer and all winter to keep up the farm and care for the animals. School was just a quick break for us and then it was off to shovel snow, feed the chickens, collect the eggs, feed the pigs and check their bedding, and so on. Summers meant time in the garden, plowing, planting (in straight rows or father had a fit), weeding (don't pull up any vegetable sprouts or else), and then gathering. But it wasn't all work. We enjoyed corn on the cob in the fall and ate our own vegetables all winter long. We even had apple trees and mom would make and freeze apple pies, applesauce, apple jelly and anything else you could think of to do with apples.
When Thanksgiving came, the only thing we had to buy was the turkey, because everything else had come from our own garden (but turkeys were hard to raise with other animals). After Thanksgiving, we would begin preparing for Christmas. Does being poor affect how we believe? Not for me, instead it gave me reasons to have hope.
Wreaths And Trees
The first thing we did was to go into the woods and gather 'Princess Pine' (a vine that grows what looks like tiny Christmas trees) or evergreen boughs to make homemade wreaths. After shaping a clothes hanger into a relative circle, we would use black thread to tie the pine or boughs to the hanger. It was hard work and our fingers cramped a lot, but when we were done and had put on the bow and the small ornaments (whew) the feeling of pride was wonderful. We hung them on the doors, gave them away to family and friends, and dad would bring one to work every year for his boss.
Once the wreaths were done, we would go into our own woods, wrapped up like Eskimos because it was cold and we would choose a tree. Dad would cut it down and then we would all drag it home. Dad would make a cross of wood for the bottom to keep the tree up-right and then it would go into a large bucket which we then filled with stones to hold the tree steady and straight, well as straight as could be. Dad would usually tie a string or two to the tree and then to each side of the wall, just to make sure. I will never forget filling up bottles and pitchers and crawling underneath the branches of that tree to pour water in the bucket so the tree wouldn't dry out. Whew, that was a chore. Remember, there were ornaments and such on the tree and we weren't supposed to knock any off (yeah right), we learned to grab what fell and put them up fast before Mom or Dad found out.
Did you have a fake tree? Did you put up a big tree, or something to sit on the table? Did you make a wreath, or did you buy one instead? Doesn't make a different because you are the ones who have to like what you have. Christmas comes in all shapes and sizes.
Now to Decorate
All the decorations were in the attic--what a cold and hard to get to place that was, and the boxes were heavy. It usually took an entire day just for that. Then we would hang everything we could on the tree. It sparkled and glittered even without the lights. It was a sight to see. The outside decorations would go up next. We lived on a bit of a mountain so it was cold and generally getting dark by the time we got out there. We did something different every year, just so the neighbors wouldn't get bored, but that meant hours of stringing lights and laying extension cords. It was worth it, though when it was all done. The inside was always the last thing to be done because we would need the time to get warm from being outside all that time putting up the decorations. After the decorations went up, mom would play Christmas Carols all day every day until Christmas. We would sing with the records and learned most of the songs by heart.
Do you decorate a lot or a little? Ours was always a big deal, but many family's can't afford to decorate. Some of them don't have a tree or maybe a house. Some make their yards a Christmas Wonderland. I wonder how many of their neighbors like those set ups.
How excited we were as kids to say we had helped with something, that is until we were older and expected to help.. Then it turned into a job and not a game. The rule of thumb is keep them moving, keep them full of cocoa and cookies, and give them high praise when they do it right. Then, give them the right to say "I helped." How wonderful is that? Even the little ones can help if you are creative. Give them rolls of tape to bring to anyone getting low. Give them trash to throw away. Give them small packages to put under the tree. It may take a little time, but you will get a lot done in that time. The best part is you will be free for a few minutes while they accomplish their task.
Need other ideas on how to keep the kids busy?
- Try giving them wrapping paper and a small unbreakable item to wrap. You can fix it later.
- Give the kids damp clothes and have them clean the lower cabinets so they look their best at Christmas.
- Give them a bribe to pick up their toys. A cookie goes down real nice if you earned it.
- Have them carry boxes or bags for the wrapping paper on Christmas morn.
- Have them stir some of the food, with supervision, and let them add things that you have already measured out.
- Put the small plastic ornaments on the bottom part of the tree so the kids can hang them. If any fall, the kids can also put them back.
Then it would be time for us to open the gifts to each other and our parents. Well, we didn't have any money. Mom and dad couldn't pay us for working on the farm. We weren't old enough to hold down a job. Gifts were tough. Once we got together and made a chimney out of cardboard. We then wrote poems and decorated cards to fill it. Sometimes we made pictures which we then wrapped up. Sometimes we would take something that meant a great deal to us and we would wrap it up and put it under the tree. When we got older, mom would help us make cookies and breads that we could give away as gifts. It was great to be able to say "I helped" when the gift was opened. It is not the gift itself that counts though, at least I don't think;. But I think it is the thought that count.
When Christmas Day finally rolled around, we were so proud to see all the gifts under the tree that we had made or wrapped. After everything was opened, we would clean up and then go to our Grandmother and Grandfather's for dinner. Of course, we would get a few things there to open as well, and we always gave them something we made.
We Are Back to the Meaning
Now that I have relived our family Christmases, I think I can tell you that Christmas is a warm, happy, exciting, anticipating, hoping, gathering, helping, loving, giving kind of time. Oh, wait, I said that earlier didn't I? I guess that what I'm trying to say is that Christmas doesn't mean presents. It means family, love, gathering, and happiness. Is it religious? Sometimes, but more importantly it is the celebration of family, and, the way I see it, how much more religious can you get? I'm not talking about just your family, mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, etc. Yes, they are important, but I'm also talking about neighbors, co-workers, the cop on the beat, the mailman, the store clerk, the guy who loaned you his ladder last year, the woman who offered to let you cut in line at the movie, EVERYONE!
Christmas is a time when we open up and smile at people for no reason. Christmas is a time when we smile at the antics of the kids (rather than punishing them for being too loud or rowdy). Christmas is a time when we give the people behind the counter a little bit of lee-way because we know they are stressed out and VERY busy. Christmas is a time when we take the time to be....well, people.
Relax, enjoy a cup of eggnog, smile at the kids, go to church and thank the Lord for your blessings, and remember that the blessings are all around you. Don't stress the holiday, enjoy them for what they are, family and friends and joy and happiness!
Ideas to Help
- Gather family and friends over and have finger foods, or share a pie and coffee with them.
- If your living space is small, then make your plans accordingly. Small artificial tree, or no tree at all.
- Invite small numbers of friends to share the holiday with you.
- Have supplies ready and let everyone make your decorations for the season. They don't have to be good, just hand made.
- No family or friends near by can mean you can share with your neighbors, or do zoom or face time with them.
- If you are alone at Christmas, there are Christmas songs playing all day on the radio and the television. Even on the internet. Play the music, sit back in your comfy chair, and savor a nice cup of hot cocoa.
- Gifts you simply don't want or can't use can be donated to a shelter or charity of some kind. They can get it to people who can use it.
- Take it back to the store for something else. Around Christmas time stores will often give you store credit for an item they carry even if you don't have a receipt. But do it early so they know you got it for Christmas.
The Meaning Is:
The meaning is still not perfectly explained. It rattles and twirls all over the place. Every tradition, every decoration, every event, and every family has different reasons for doing the things they do. Everyone does there own version of Christmas. And, I think that is the best part of Christmas.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2011 Cheryl Simonds
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 14, 2011:
Enlydia, you are very welcome and my hopes and prayers go out to you and your family.
Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on November 14, 2011:
Well, my children are grown (the youngest is 18) and so I don't worry about trying to give them the "best Christmas ever" anymore. My husband and I had been un-employed for the last three years, but he just got a job in August and things are better for us.
I am just trying to find my spot in the world, and find my calling. I gave up being a nurse due to the stress of that occupation. Became a reflexologist since then, but have not tried to find clients...so I am in the inbetween state of doing and not-doing. Just finished three books, so I guess that is "doing".
Thankyou for your hopeful thought.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 13, 2011:
Enlydia Listener, thank you for your kind words. Yes Christmas brings back many memories and I am glad that I have them to remind me of my childhood. I am glad you received your miracle. I hope things are better now.
Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on November 13, 2011:
Reading this brought tears to my eyes...I am glad that you have good memories of Christmas. Yes it is a special time of year, even with the stress that it brings to some people.
I wrote a story once about our miracle christmas. Both my husband and I were out of work, and had no money to buy our seven kids presents.
Three weeks before Christmas, the futility of it hit me...I went down to the livingroom one night and begged and cried for a miracle...Then things really began to happen.
Yes, we have so much to thank the Lord for.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 12, 2011:
I loved the simpler celebrations we enjoyed as children. Thanks for joining me as I walked down memory lane.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 11, 2011:
It sounds as though you had a great upbringing and learned all of the important things in life. Loved hearing about your memories of Christmas. That time of year is once again fast approaching. Enjoy and Merry Christmas...even if this is a bit early!
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 03, 2011:
Thank you Simone Smith, it was different, fun, exciting, hard work, and rewarding.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 03, 2011:
What a pleasure it was to read about Christmas for your family when you were a kid! I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for the holiday now- as well as a better understanding of what life on a farm is like! Great Hub!
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 03, 2011:
So true, thanks for stopping by and reading my story.
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on November 03, 2011:
Sounds like you had some idyllic family Christmases - shows that money is not everything and that life is what we make of it.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on November 02, 2011:
Thanks, Christmas always brings back the memories of seeking a tree and making wreaths, they were indeed simple times, and wonderful times.
Cindy Murdoch from Texas on November 01, 2011:
What a great hub for a very special time of year. I could so relate to what you said about growing up and raising all your own food. But they were good times, and simple times.