View from the Hill

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
Is it still Christmas season?



The stores have not put out the Valentine’s Day stock yet. I suppose the answer is “Yes.”



I may sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, but I have never been a fan of long, drawn-out seasons, no matter which holiday shows up on the calendar.



A long shopping season will not get me into stores any sooner to buy gifts. I have a certain routine when I do my Christmas shopping-albeit a very brief routine-and if I want to change it, I will do so.



But not because some battery-powered Santa was “Ho, ho, ho-ing” for the last nine weeks.



How many weeks can one stand hearing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the radio without wishing there were no days left? Or how many hot, dry, brown November and December days can one stand while listening to Perry Como’s “White Christmas” album wafting over the store’s intercom?



Long seasons are best known and loved for sports, like baseball.



But with anything else, long seasons tend to wear out their welcome. Imagine if the August heat stayed around until late November, or a sub-zero January snowstorm hung around until June.



OK, those examples are a bit extreme, but you get the picture.



Christmas and “the holiday shopping season” are not one and the same. I enjoy Christmastime, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. To put it in a more poetic fashion, Christ is the reason for the season.



And for that reason, I enjoy giving gifts to family and friends. Doing so reminds me of the ultimate gift God gave to humanity, the gift of eternal life in paradise with him, thanks to the sacrificial death and resurrection of his only son, Jesus Christ.



I even enjoy the more secular symbols of Christmas. I love watching little children get excited at holiday parties when they hear the jingling bells and laughter of an approaching, jolly St. Nicklaus. They know they are in for a real treat.



I have fond memories of my own childhood Christmastimes. At the little country church in Adams, Okla., my favorite time of year was when all Sunday school classes prepared for the Christmas pageant. We learned our lines and played our roles as best we could.



One year I was a shepherd, another year I was a sheep. I even played an angel once.



My daughter, ever the thoughtful one, who knows all my stories by heart, once playfully asked; “Did your horns hold up your halo?”



No. I must have been especially good that year.



And when the big night, Christmas Eve, arrived, the old church glowed with the lights of many candles everywhere.



After the service was concluded with the singing of many carols, the ushers would pass out sacks that contained an apple and an orange, peanuts, cashews and other nuts. And there was a lot of candy. My favorite was chocolate candy. Any chocolate candy.



My first year as a teen, I considered myself fortunate to be able to go caroling with the cool, high school kids in the church’s youth group. Some of you readers might think caroling in the dead of winter is no big deal. After all, you walk to a home, you sing, you get cold, nobody is awake to say, “Thank you!” or “Merry Christmas!” So what’s so great about that?



Well, you haven’t experienced Christmas, western Oklahoma style. This is the place where some say it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.



In western Oklahoma, residents knew how to be hospitable.



Our group of hearty carolers always knew that after we serenaded the household, there was hot chocolate, hot chili and many other assorted Christmas treats awaiting us inside at each house.



We usually spent a few minutes visiting with our gracious hosts. After all, one rarely gets to entertain an entire group of people in western Oklahoma, where even wild animals outnumbered humans.



Christmas caroling in a sparsely populated region was an all-night affair. Our church, though small, had members who lived in nearly every distant hamlet, town and in-between. It was no big deal to make a 20-minute ride to a member’s house.



We sang at every member’s house, and at each house we sang a minimum of four Christmas songs in the unabridged version. We did not sing cute, short Christmas melodies sung for these hardy folk.



On my first time out, I rode in the back of a convertible. Even with the top up, I remember the car’s heater barely held the frostbite at bay.



In spite of the self-imposed hardships, I still cherish those memories of Christmases past. And I anxiously await the Christmases yet to come. I want to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings every year I am alive.



As for the long holiday shopping season, though, I say, “Bah! Humbug!”

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