Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Best Christmas Ever

     In his column this morning, Andy Rooney asked the question, “What is the best Christmas present you ever got?” In thinking about it, I don't know the answer. I do know that I have had many very good Christmases, but I also realize that the good/bad rating of Christmas had nothing to do with what gifts were received.
     When I was three years old, I went to live with my grandparents on the farm because of the Great Depression. I don't know where my grandparents got the tree, but I do remember filling the bucket from the coal bin to hold the tree. Next the bucket had to be wrapped in tissue paper, usually red, and filled with water. That was supposed to keep the needles from falling off, but it didn't work very well - there were needles all over the place when the tree was taken down.
     Then the lights had to be strung. It was necessary to test the lights first, because if one bulb was burned out, the whole string went dark. You had to check each individual bulb in order to find the guilty one. Even though multicolored lights were popular, Grandma always liked blue ones.
     Of course, to me as a kid, the success of Christmas did actually depend upon the gifts received. At that time if you wrote a letter to Santa, your name and what you wanted was read on the radio. I don't know when Santa decided not to go on the air, but that was always exciting to hear him read your letter – you could be sure he had received it.
     One year the hootenanny, a drawing toy, was the toy of choice – every kid wanted one. It was later reintroduced as the Spirograph (see http://www.retrowow.co.uk/retro_collectibles/60s/spirograph.php). (This is not exactly the same thing, but it is very similar.) Anyway, I was delighted when Santa put it under the tree.
     Another year I wanted a cowboy suit and pearl-handled six-shooters. Again Santa came through, and again Christmas was wonderful.
     Perhaps the most joyous Christmas occurred while I was awaiting permanent assignment after completing basic training at Fort Knox. I was unexpectedly given a ten day pass just a couple of days before Christmas. To the surprise of my parents, I arrived home on Christmas Eve. It was wonderful!
     I also remember another Christmas Eve when I was busy assembling toys, installing batteries, etc. until 4:00 am. The boys usually woke up by 7:00 on Christmas day - If they didn't, we awakened them - but in spite of the short night, I enjoyed every minute of it.
     There have been many other happy Christmases, but the point is, it is not the gifts that made them happy; it is an intangible spirit that I can't explain, nor do I need to explain it to anyone who has experienced it. As the song says, ”Oh, if we could only see such spirit through the year.”
     And above all, there is the story which Luke recounts in his second chapter, preferably in the beautiful language of the King James Version.

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