Another Day in the Country
Livening up Christmas
© Another Day in the Country
Maybe it’s just a role I’ve assumed, but ever since I’ve had a home of my own, I’ve been livening up Christmas — or any occasion, for that matter.
Christmas needed help because in my childhood home it was very low key. Mom had decided as an adult that according to what she’d learned in history, Christmas was a pagan ritual that had been co-opted by religious leaders, corrupting the story of the Christ child and therefore nothing to celebrate.
So, no trees, wreaths, lights, stockings, elves, or Santa and his reindeer in her house. After my sister was born, Mom did put up a little nativity scene for her. We did have presents opened on Christmas Eve with Mom wrapping them after supper, at the last minute, while I did the dishes.
There were lots of Christmas carols as our church gathered “money for the poor” during the Christmas season and we took turns singing in the neighborhood as we solicited door to door.
I hated the soliciting! However, I loved seeing all the Christmas lights and Christmas trees shining out through the picture windows in the houses.
“Some day, when I’m grown up,” I vowed, “I’ll have lights and Christmas trees and we’ll hang stockings at Christmastime.”
And I do! Even now, my family humors my penchant for Christmas stockings and surprises.
The first Christmas after we moved back to Ramona, we tried to light up the whole town. We begged people in town to put up “something” and even volunteered to hang lights for those who couldn’t. We put up lights around Ralph’s door and hung lights in his crab apple tree. We had lights and scenes in every window on the main drag — some of them with live people in the scenes. We had a live nativity in the park.
“We can see the lights of Ramona from way out in the country,” one old farmer said. “You are lighting up the prairie!”
It seemed important to see lights in the middle of the winter’s cold. It was a ray of hope.
This year for sure, we all need a ray of hope, and folks are putting up lights in Ramona. I drive around, like my Aunt Naomi used to, checking to see if any new displays have come on.
Jeannie always rocks her corner. Kathy and Don have lights in their yard shining year round, but they’ve added new ones. Jess put up lights at the Ramona House and her yard is ablaze. She bought projector lights at the hardware store in Marion that were on sale and put them up at Tony’s house and in my yard to add a little sparkle.
I laughed, remembering the days when we used to string cords all along the main street in town lighting up Christmas trees that Art and Tim would cut for us. Those days are over; but a lot of us are still livening things up at Christmas.
Jess and I have a running text chain with a couple of our artist friends, and today Phyl told us a story of her childhood, making yard displays with her dad, waiting until Dec. 20 (her birthday) before the lights on the Christmas tree were lit up to honor the day, her mom making Swedish dishes — the sweetest stories.
Then M, who grew up in Austria, told of her father taking her and her siblings out for a walk in the woods on Christmas eve, hunting for the Christ child — which they never ever found — but then coming back home and finding that the Christ child had brought them a Christmas tree with real candles that they would light while her father stood by with a bucket of water (just in case) and the whole family sang all the Christmas carols they knew.
Then there would be a Christmas prayer, which her Dad didn’t really know but he would join in with his booming voice making up his own words and the kids would want to giggle. After supper when the dishes were done and everything cleaned up, there would be gifts that they’d open oh so carefully so that the paper and ribbons could be reused by their mother another year!
Snuggled in bed still, I read these precious stories from my friends.
It had snowed a bit the night before.
We’d taken a slider sled out to Kristina’s kids as a surprise just in case there was snow. And this morning she sent pictures of Clayton flying along behind the four-wheeler, waving.
We’re all still livening things up! I’d love to be on the slider-sled, remembering all the times we went sledding behind the truck on the streets of Ramona. Will do again if we get enough snow!
I got a Christmas card from friends I’ve had for over 50 years, and Gary reminded me of when we used to live in Denver in the 1960s, and we’d hunt for spots in town with snow deep enough for sledding, and one year we ended up at the city dump of all places, sledding.
These memories, the stories, and the folks who inspire them are my fondest, most precious, Christmas gift this season, on another day in the country.