There’s room for all of it

“Happy, happy Christ­mas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!” —Charles Dickens

I grew up in a Catholic home, part of a family that went to midnight (literal) Mass every Christmas Eve

Year after year, I was one in a long line of kids wearing a robe and silver pipe cleaner halo, grasping a tiny candle as we marched up the aisles of the church toward the altar, formed rows in front of the packed church and sang, “Away in a Manger.”

To and from Mass, I sat in the backseat, face pressed against the window, searching the black sky in furious silence for that small red glow. I always hoped to see it, but also felt nervous about making it home and falling asleep before Rudolph’s hooves touched down. (Update: We made it every single year.)

One specially selected gift was opened on Christmas Eve. Others would appear Christmas morning, set out by Santa Claus around the tree in their unwrapped glory.

To this day, I feel the same anticipation as Christmas approaches. From the first ornament stocked onto store shelves before Halloween to the last left-over peanut butter ball at New Year’s, I feel like the kid version of me in the backseat, searching for the red light in the sky.

I wasn’t raised in a home with resources for a lot of gifts. But we always had them. I don’t remember every present, just a few that linger years later. But I remember the feeling. Gifts have always been a part of my Christmases. Even more so after I came to know the joy—not work—of giving them.

Losing the heart of Christ­mas seems to be a collective fear. I just can’t be convinced that every other beautiful part of the holiday needs to be dismissed on a quest to preserve the real meaning. Is the season commercialized? Yes. Do we put too much emphasis on stuff? Yes. And gluttony has found its season.

But if we’re going to wait around for “them”—whomever they are—to change their view of Christ­mas, it’ll be a long haul. It happens inside each home, like all solid things should, in spite of distractions.

I love presents. I love caramel and chocolate. I love Christmas cards. I love “Away in a Manger” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I love wide eyes on Christmas morning. I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I love pipe cleaner halos. I love Santa Claus and believing in the magic of believing. If you’ve seen “The Polar Express,” you know what I mean when I say I still hear the bell.

What else happens during this materialistic nightmare? We spend more time with family. We read the Christmas story. We hang lights and spend evenings driving around to find the best displays. We hear Christ­mas bells. We watch kids transform into Mary and Joseph at nativity plays. We share cards and buy gifts for giving tree families.

I can’t help but love Christmas for what it is. For ALL of what it is.

Those of us who believe know the reason for the celebration, but can still appreciate the other symbols that come with the season. The ones sung by candlelight or shown through a child waiting for Santa.

I love Christmas because I believe. There’s room for all of it under my tree.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com