Christmas then and now

Back in the mists of prehistory, also known as my childhood, I recall Christ­mas­time as a season of anticipation. I had my Christmas list written in July, and it grew steadily until Christmas Eve.

My brother usually started saying, “Just you wait until you see what you’re going to get for Christmas” sometime in September. The tree usually went up right after Thanksgiving, just in time for the toy ads to hit the papers and the Christmas catalogs to come out.

By Christmas week, my childish excitement was at a fever pitch. How many presents did I have? How big were they? Did they make interesting noises when I shook them? The suspense was almost unbearable. Only opening said presents on Christmas morning could relieve the tension.

These days, the tension takes a slightly different form. In July, Christ­mas seems years away. Septem­ber rolls around, and still you have plenty of time to start shopping and crafting early.

Thanksgiving arrives in the middle of a blur of birthdays, vacations, appointments and the onset of wrestling season—with a TaeKwonDo belt test thrown in for good measure.

Suddenly, in the wink of an eye, I’m behind on my list of homemade presents, some of the ordered items still aren’t here, and the tree almost seems like an afterthought. Somewhere in there I need to get holiday baking done.

Now I’m anticipating checking those final items off the to do list, and Christmas morning will bring a sigh of relief that it all managed to make it here on time—and if it doesn’t, at least I have patient and understanding kiddos.

The kids did a wonderful job of decorating our juniper again this year. I think my perfectionist’s eye twitch is finally gone. One of these years we might have to break down and spring for new ornaments and lights. Some of these are older than the kids, and not because they’re priceless heirlooms either.

As I usually do in quiet moments about this time of year, I think about what the last year has brought us. This year hasn’t disappointed us when it comes to new experiences, new opportunities, and more chances to laugh.

I find myself thinking quite frequently about how many of these things are things I never thought I’d want to do, let alone actually do. If the me from 10 years ago got told about the me today, I wouldn’t have believed a word.

Most notable for me this year is TaeKwonDo. Hubby was a black belt in it before I met him, but he hadn’t practiced in years. We started as something to do with the kids. I fully planned to drop out after a while, since I just knew I’d never be able to kick like everyone else.

Lo and behold, these days I find my own personal foot whistling past my face on a regular basis. Plus, competing and medaling at tournaments is kind of addictive. Hopefully, next year will hold a black belt for me, too. I guess it’s true that you’re never too old and it’s never too late.

And that’s just one of the new lifestyle additions. Looking back to childhood, it doesn’t seem like my parents were this busy. Sure, they had their own activities, but they never seemed to be fatigued or frazzled, busy or bustling, rushing or running. They really seemed rather boring in their apparent calm.

I wonder sometimes if our kids see us that way. Are we just placid chauffeurs and cheerleaders? Even if we do amp up the intensity at competitions—theirs or ours—are we the islands of calm in their stormy young seas? Does that calm mean that *GASP* I’ve grown up? Say it ain’t so!

I think as I get older, it’s not Christmas morning that’s the greatest day of the year for me. Yes, it’s the day we celebrate our Savior’s birth, but he’s with us every day of the year.

It’s the day we give each other shiny new gifts, but we can bless each other every day of the year. It’s the perfect time to look back, but also the perfect time to look forward. It’s realizing that “all is calm, all is bright” can happen no matter what the season, and feeling blessed to enjoy those all too fleeting moments. Every day of the year is my favorite.

As always, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Merry Yule, Happy Holidays and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

May you always be blessed and always be fortunate enough to feel like it.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at

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