What Christmas Is…

Christmas is supposed to be a time you spend with friends and family.  It is hard to spend Christmas alone.  Even if your family drives you crazy; being with them is better than being without them on the holidays.

I have listened to a lot of people complain about having to be around their families or having to cook for their families or travel to see family.  I would give anything to have family with me on Christmas day.  See being here in California, holidays are spent just the five of us.  And believe me, I am every bit thankful for that.  But I cannot deny that I would love to have family or even friends around; lots of people, like the holidays are supposed to be.  Like the holidays always have been.

Last year was slightly different than this year.  We arrived in California the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving was spent eating Korean BBQ, as it was one of the only places open.  This year; I cooked my first ever full Thanksgiving dinner; turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, spinach, cranberry sauce and bread; and I did a pretty good job at it.  Although we ate turkey leftovers for quite a few days it felt more like Thanksgiving Day than just another day.

I didn’t decorate much last year for Christmas; we have a little tree and no outdoor decorations, as I had sold a lot of them prior to moving from Houston to Los Angeles.  The “less is more thing”.  This year, we have more decorations; the small tree is still up, and the nativity is set up across the mantle of the fire place.  The gate and fence are decorated with bows and candy canes, with a festive banner saying Merry Christmas hangs across the porch.  Paper cut outs of Santa, snowmen and reindeer décor the windows of the house along with fake snow.  No lights, even though I would love to have icicle lights to hang across the front of the house; maybe next year.

Cards and boxes are arriving from family in Texas and Florida, filled with gifts from grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Every television station is running Christmas specials and episodes.  It’s nice to watch the classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”) with my kids just like I did with my parents when I was their ages.

If we were in Florida we would be spending Christmas Eve, probably at my grandmother’s; opening stocking stuffers, eating meatball subs or chili and playing games till the wee hours of the night.   Christmas Eve in Texas would be spent at one of my sister-in-laws, exchanging gifts between family and having a nice dinner.  And as with both family, Christmas morning would be at our own homes with our kids opening their gifts then off to whoever’s turn it was to host dinner that year.

Christmas Eve last year Sammi and I spent with Melissa and her family watching movies (Christmas Vacation) and making tamales.  Being away from everyone in family for the first time in years at Christmas, being in a family atmosphere like that was exactly what I needed to help keep the holiday blues away.  I can never explain to her, or thank her, for how much that meant to me.

This year we are watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music to get (and stay) in the holiday mood.  The time has come to start work on Christmas cards to send from our family, and perhaps the few gifts that will go out; as well as decorating the stockings, adorned with our names, to hang on the fire place.  Shopping for each other is always fun, I love buying for my kids and seeing them excited on Christmas morning.

Helping to write the Christmas lists and letters to Santa has been a joy.  Listening to and reading the items they are requesting has been blissful.  It is heart-warming to read things like, “For my family to be happy”; and laughable to read things like, “Chocolate milk” on the lists.  Sammi and Alex want almost everything they see and have lists that span 3 plus pages.  Then there is Robert, who at 13 knows exactly what he wants and his list is short and precise.

And I wish with all my heart that I had the means and resources to give them everything their little hearts desired.  But, unfortunately I cannot.  We are fortunate for what we do have; as I know there are plenty out there with a lot less.

I am hoping this year though I can express to them again that isn’t about how much you get or even how much you give; but about being together.  That the holidays aren’t all about the gifts, but that they are about something more…family, merriment…cheer…and most of all the spiritual meaning behind why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ.

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