Part two of three-part series
Every year, without fail, “Christmas” can be found starting somewhere around Halloween or shortly thereafter. It may have to wait a while for everything Thanksgiving to be fully utilized before Christmas can be in full swing, but no doubt we’ve all noticed that some TV channels have even been running Christmas movies for several months already by that time.
What do most people seem to like the most about the Christmas season? That is, what appeals to their senses the most? Might it be, to the eye, the festive and traditional decorations that include the ever-popular evergreen trees and wreaths, along with that refreshing pine aroma that fills the sense of smell, bringing the great outdoors into the home, to say nothing of the delicate glass baubles and shiny colored Christmas balls that may hang upon them?
While individual decorations are always popular, some of which can even outshine the giant stores and other commercial decorations on display, they often seem to be outdoing each other, whether the designs are more flashy, more gaudy, or more extravagant, or even just have more lights than they had last year. There was a cartoon showing such competition between two homeowners outdoing each other that depicted a home totally bedazzled in thousands of lights and several blow-up “statutes” of Santa, snowmen, elves, and the like, and a non-decorated home next to it with a large arrow pointing to his neighbor’s house, along with a simple lit-up sign that read, “I give up… he wins!”
Yet regardless of what’s on the outside, it seems that people are especially partial to the decorated Christmas tree inside. We’ve morphed from real, fresh-cut evergreen trees to those artificial ones
in white, pink, blue, or maybe any color a person may want, as well as the green look-alike trees. While some people still have the old-fashioned ornaments handed down from their grandmothers or great
grandmothers or such, others deck their trees out in fashionable baubles that are all the same style and color, adding perhaps longs strands of that sparkly tinsel-like wrap-around to give the tree that finishing touch. Individual strands of tinsel placed on the tree one at a time are mostly a thing of the past, having given way to the wrap-around kinds. Some even go for a designer look that expresses
their personality with odd bits of this or that, lending their tree a Picasso look in 3-D.
Some put more energy into seeing that their mantle is well hung with stockings for everyone in the house, stockings that express the personality in some way of the one whose stocking bears their name.
The original “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem tells of the stockings hung by the fire with care, in anticipation of seeing them filled with goodies and gifts in the morning. It’s an old tradition and one that lingers still.
Poinsettias turn up everywhere, and who can ignore the mistletoe hanging in unexpected places, luring unsuspecting visitors into that traditional kiss with whoever happens to be there at the same time.
But decorations are hardly the end-all of sensing Christmas. Christmas cards, sent out to those you hardly ever — if ever — see, yet want to keep in touch with and send your heartfelt greetings to are just the other side of all those greeting cards you receive, feeling good that you have been remembered as well.
Then there’s the office parties, the house parties, the Christmas events at the Senior Centers or whatever other organizations might be sharing in the joy of the season; and there’s the ever-popular gift exchange, and the guy dressed up as Santa handing toys out to the children. There’s also the special Christmas foods we look forward to, from homemade gingerbread cookies, to those specialty Christmas cakes and fruit cakes (for those who really like them and those who keep getting them anyway), and the singing of Christmas carols outside the homes of friends and strangers, and then joining in with them to sup a cup of hot cocoa or eggnog.
Yet Christmas is still so much more than the trappings described above. The “flavor” of Christmas is everywhere, with those wonderful Christmas movies we remember from long ago, coupled with so many new ones. Yes, some may seem a bit “sappy” or hokey, but we watch them anyway and immerse ourselves more deeply into what we call the Christmas spirit. People generally seem happier and kinder at this time of the year, and it may have a lot to do with all the trappings with which we surround ourselves and allow into our life to fill our senses.
Notice that these old and ongoing Christmas traditions have nothing to do with what religion you are (or aren’t) or what beliefs you hold to.
While Christmas was ostensibly built up around the idea of celebrating it as the birth of Jesus, that will be discussed in Part Three. But since everyone does not celebrate that, one can still join in the
Christmas festivities without feeling that they’re giving in to a religion they don’t believe in or going against their own beliefs.
Christmastime is a season; Christmas itself is a holiday, and all are invited to join in the festivities in whatever way feels right to them. Christmas cakes and cookies; decorations from the fresh smell of
pine needles, to the gaudy baubles hanging on a tree, to mistletoe kisses and gaily wrapped gifts, to Santa wannabes giving gifts to children, to the sound of merry and solemn music in the air. Nothing
is actually religious, while such religious touches can be added to the festivities where wanted to keep the ostensible meaning alive for those who choose to believe it’s the actual birthday of Jesus.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.