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Today is February 25, 2021

Mississippi Seen

Christmas Today and Yesterday

By Walt Grayson

Christmas Today and Yesterday

Christmas season seems to have no beginning and no end these days. Just a vague lull and then a mad dash. You can buy Christmas trees online year-round. Same thing with watching Christmas movies on cable. Some of our friends who have the extensive outdoor displays of lights spend half the year putting them up and taking them down. Even at our house, we leave at least one mantle decoration all year for a glance of cheer.

This year my exuberance for Christmas hasn’t been as keen as in years past. Too much else going on — COVID-19, politics and work. Maybe it’s just me.

My dad never seemed to let anything get in the way of his Christmas spirit. But he had a definite date upon which the Christmas season arrived at our house. Dec. 1 was the day. There was no thought of Christmas at Halloween. There was little thought of it at Thanksgiving. But by sunset Dec. 1, the tree was up and all of us kids would decorate it that night after school.

Having a “bad” Christmas back then wasn’t even in our vocabulary. Some years we got better presents than other years. But “Christmas” itself was always Christmas. Christmas was more of a feeling than a thing; more an experience than an event.

I have tried to replicate that Christmas season experience for our kids and grandkids. Other than the mechanics of it — decorating a tree and stuff — I feel as if I haven’t been very successful.

But thinking back, my Christmases were populated with aunts and uncles and cousins gathering at grandma’s house at some point during the Christmas season. The smell of coffee and bacon cooking on the woodstove drifting up the stairs woke us up. We would climb up out of a feather mattress and it seemed the floor was so cold our feet would stick to it. We played hide and seek in the infinite cubbies, corners and closets of that house. There was an old upright radio at one end of the living room that we kids were forbidden to touch — a radio that hadn’t worked since World War II. We sifted through granddaddy’s magical collection of arrowheads and oddities and got down his scrapbooks of articles about the strange things that appealed to him — five-legged cows and published arguments that Jesus must have died on Thursday and not Friday.

We sat down for meals together as a family. We instinctively knew we were an integral member of that group of folks. Bound with an invisible bond to them that we didn’t have with any other category of people on earth. Not our friends at school, not our church congregation, nobody else.

The presents we got for Christmas were nothing compared to what they gave us — a sense of belonging. A purpose for being that you don’t get from just opening stuff from under the tree and then peeling off to play video games.

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