One tradition I’ve noticed in the South is that around Christmas time each year, we acquire large amounts of fruits- normally apples and oranges, but this year we seem to have apples, various kinds of oranges, tangerines, and pears, which is a reason to be thankful in my opinion.
I remember being told as a child that when my parents were young, they would get apples and oranges for Christmas. I also remember that my conception of the era when people received apples and oranges for Christmas looked much like how I imagined Israel to look in Jesus’s time, so needless to say, I wasn’t really aware of the rate of progress as a child.
Christmas is without a doubt my favorite holiday of the year. Since I was in about 8th grade, though, there has been a continually ominous sense of it…”not being Christmas.” 8th grade is the earliest that I can remember this feeling, and then I remember as a senior in high school one of my classmates remarking, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.”
Over the past two or three years, this has changed. Call it my renewed interest in Christianity, call it my letting go of my own materialism or whatever, but each year has increasingly felt more like Christmas again.
Now having gone to Mass and experienced the lighting of the Advent Wreath this year, I feel a deeper and more significant connection to Christmas. Combine that with the mystical concept celebrating being pregnant with God even as the Blessed Virgin Mary was once pregnant with God, and looking towards His Nativity in the inner world even as He was once born into the outer world, and the affairs of matters suddenly shift a bit- Christmas suddenly means something, and Christ dwells within it, not in the superficial way that most Christians try to connect Him to the holiday, but in a very deep and visceral manner that expresses itself in quiet reverence and needs not be spoken about.
But despite the joy of the occasion as I now know it, I have as part of my family’s inherited lore a rather sad story dealing with Christmas to tell.
My paternal grandmother declared in her childhood one Christmas that she did not believe in Santa Claus. This firm declaration resulted in her receiving a stocking full of switches, and her sister received a lovely doll in her stocking!
This story always bothered me when I was a child, and now as an adult, I’m extremely bothered by it. I can’t begin to imagine what my great-grandparents were attempting to teach my grandmother in doing that to her. To my knowledge, they weren’t Catholic or Anglican, so not believing in Santa Claus would not have been the equivalent of speaking ill of Saint Nicholas.
Moreover, though we might argue for a metaphorical or allegorical existence of Santa Claus as we know him today, the actual Saint Nicholas most likely does not appear from heaven each year and travel ’round the world doling out presents to good little boys and girls, so…
…wouldn’t it mean my great-grandparents were actually requiring my grandmother to believe something that isn’t true? I don’t wish to speak ill of my ancestors nor the dead, but that seems to be the sort of thing that only crazy people would do these days.
Maybe I’m coming from a more modern perspective on this, and though I have no children, I can’t imagine not giving a child a gift for Christmas because they said they didn’t believe in Santa Claus.
Years later, one of my aunts corrected that situation in life by buying my grandmother a lovely doll of her own for Christmas.
Don’t worry- I’ll bring happier stories into the mix later on.