Friday, November 25, 2005

Finally, The Christmas Season has started.

It's official, duly noted by throngs of shoppers waiting in freezing temperatures, or rain, certainly all in the dark, at retailers across the country, for stores to open insanely early to accommodate Christmas bargain hunters. Most retailers here in the Sacramento area opened at 5am.

But never mind the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorations. Ignore the post Halloween glitter and Veteran's Day "Pre-holiday sales". They were all premature, efforts by the retail establishment to garner ever more of your hard earned dollar. The glitz of twinkling green, red, and white lights, mingling with the amber and orange hues of fall "harvest celebrations" are a misbegotten holiday-hybrid, turning the shopping masses schizophrenic as they mash their apples and pumpkins into pies, which sit heavy in their uncertain tummies, unsure if they are enjoying a post-harvest goodie, or a pre-Christmas taste of things to come.

The posing is over. The pretending is done. The dress rehearsals have finished.

Christmas truly starts today.

Christmas, with all it's glamour, glitz, and glowing, twinkling bobbles. The glitter of ice, the crunch of snow, or the chill of a foggy December morning, all brings, to us in the Northern Hemisphere, a forshadowing of, and hearkening back to, wonderful times.

The sight of a decorated Christmas tree germinates memories of childhood holidays.

Coming from a large family, I always enjoyed watching the pile of presents under the tree grow, day by day, as my parents added to it gifts they bought, right up until Christmas Eve. I would poke and paw and caress each present that had a nametag on it addressed to me, trying to discern the contents of the wrapping. Most often I was completely surprised on Christmas morning, no matter the depths and detail of my previous sleuthing.

As an adult, I see the same phenomenon in my own children's eyes. They see the packages coming into the home, and they just KNOW there's something in there for them. They carefully gauge the size of the bags, catalogue the shape and sounds it makes coming through the door, and mentally tick off possibilities from the list of things they've asked for. My x-wife and I changed my childhood tradition a little, and made a habit of hiding all the presents until Christmas eve, when, after the kids had all gone to bed, we'd bring out everything and place it all under the tree, to watch with wide-eyed looks on sleepy-eyed children as they behold what, in recent years anyway, had become a wonderful stack of joy for the little kids.

But the beauty and joy of Christmas isn't all in the commercial gift-giving. Obviously, that's a fun and enjoyable part, giving gifts and seeing the joy your gift imparts. But there were years when Christmas for my girls was quite slim. And bless them if they didn't seem to enjoy Christmas just as much during those years of want as they have have during our years of plenty.

The Christmas spirit, I've found, is indeed alive and well, and I want to encourage each everyone of you to experience it, enjoy it, and pass it on; love your neighbor as yourself; do to others as you'd have them do to you; smile and say a kind word, every chance you get.

As a Christian, I refuse to get bogged down in the petty arguments over the PCness of "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas". To me, it will always be "Merry Christmas", and no one can change my opinion. To the neighbor who wishes me "Happy Holidays" as their way of passing on good cheer, then thank you, and God Bless you for it! If Wal-Mart wants to wish me "Happy Holidays" as I pass through their doors, that's fine with me. I'm certain they won't throw me out for wishing "Merry Christmas to you" in return.

The good cheer and good grace is the important part.

So, to each of you as we Official Start The Christmas Season, I wish you Merry Christmas. I hope your holidays are warm and happy.

If you ever have a hard time finding your Christmas Cheer, remember, Christmas Cheer is one of those things you find only after you give it away to someone else.

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