Every year it was the same. I would rush to get the decorations up, rush to buy everyone a gift, rush to get the season over with, and then rush to pack it all up again. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the holiday season. Christmas is a time to be with family, to give thanks for the blessing in our life, to honor the Christmas story, and to enjoy the magic that comes with this time of year. However, somewhere along the way Christmas became just another task on my to do list. A collection of errands to get complete and cross off one by one for yet another year. Gosh, one year I even packed up the decorations before Christmas Day just to get it over with! How had this holiday become only about food, decorating and buying presents?
Then one magical holiday season I was gently reminded of the joy that comes with all the traditions of Christmas and the gift of giving. After being absent from my life for years, I saw the excitement of a person going through a Christmas stocking in anticipation of a cherished keepsake; the sparkle in their eye when they received a gift that truly meant something to them; and the precious moments shared with family and friends during this blessed time of year. However, it was not a child that brought the magic back into the Christmas season for me, as one might expect. It was my seventy-nine year old grandmother.
My family has many Christmas traditions, one of which is a wall of stockings. There is a personalized stocking for every child and grandchild carefully handcrafted with love by my mom. However, somewhere along the way, the tradition became more of a chore. In fact it came to the point where we would fill each other’s stockings with meaningless and trivial trinkets that would quickly become discarded shortly after the holidays. On this particular year, my grandma was invited to join in on this Christmas morning tradition. Literally days before she arrived, my mom frantically put together a customized stocking and at the last minute phoned us kids and requested we all bring a small item to throw into grandma’s stocking.
The gift I chose was a small angel candleholder with the words Merry Christmas scripted across the front. My grandma did not even decorate for Christmas any more but it was all I could find on such short notice. I literally picked up the figurine at the dollar store and put no thought or time into the selection process. Not that I did not care. I loved my grandma dearly and we were the best of friend. But unfortunately this behavior had literally become my holiday giving style: quick and strictly on task.
When my grandma arrived, she was so heartfelt and appreciative of the small gesture she could hardly contain her excitement. Turns out after seventy-nine years of holiday giving, this was the very first Christmas stocking my grandma had ever had. Of course, I was thinking to myself, don’t get too excited there grandma; your stocking is only filled with cheap, meaningless items that will undoubtedly find their way to your junk drawers after a few months. But I was wrong. My grandma was so touched by the gesture from these small priceless gifts. She even cried a little that day and thanked everyone for being so caring. Her excitement and gratitude touched all of our hearts that year and it was certainly a wonderful experience.
Months later I went to visit my grandma. There on her kitchen counter in the middle of the spring season was the holiday angel I had purchased. To be honest I was shocked to see the Christmas ornament still proudly on display months after Christmas. Had she forgotten to put it away? Perhaps grandma’s memory was starting to fade I reasoned.
When I questioned her about the figurine she merely stated it was the nicest gift she had ever received and would keep it out always as a constant reminder of the magic of family, giving, and Christmas. I was speechless and touched all at the same time. I had no idea such a small gift could bring so much joy.
One year later, my grandma peacefully passed away. She is dearly missed and forever in our hearts, not just during the Christmas season, but each and every day. As her only granddaughter, I have had the privilege of keeping many keepsakes. I have my grandma’s china dishes, some of her most cherished rings, and even some of her furniture as a constant reminder of her love and inspiration in my life. However, the most precious keepsake I have is that small little holiday angel. It is forever and proudly on display as a constant reminder of the magic of Christmas and my efforts to keep this magic alive all year long. For to me, the true spirit of Christmas is celebrated each and every day. It is a time to be with family, a time to give thanks for the blessing in your life, a time to honor the divine, and a time to enjoy the magic that comes our way everyday of the year.