The anticipation of Christmas usually starts for me in late November. I'm not the kind of person who digs out the Christmas Tree and puts it up the weekend after Thanksgiving, I don't go shopping on Black Friday nor do I get it done early in the year. Christmas is more to me than presents, bad fruitcake and sappy Christmas music. (There are some songs that I just want to know why the hell they were ever recorded. Gag me with a spoon!) And while I've always recognized the birth of Christ, lately it was almost forgotten in the midst of all the hype. This year, I really dwelt on His birth and the meaning of His life to the world. I thought about things I hadn't thought about in a long time and I totally felt like Christmas meant something again. From the first day of Advent, through today, the Solemnity of Mary, I totally listened, felt it and absorbed it all.
Yes... I still liked the part about the presents. I loved spending time with my family and friends, decorating my tree (which I got up late and may not come down till mid-January. It's fake), but there is so much more to Christmas when you stop and reflect on what it all means. Sure you can celebrate it in a non-religious, secular way without thinking about Joseph and Mary and their arduous journey to Bethlehem, you don't even have to think about the baby Jesus laying in a manger on that morning to celebrate Christmas, but I can't. I never could. From the minute my mother pulled out her aunt's nacimiento (nativity set) with its many pieces, I'd find myself totally fascinated by miniture representation the Birth of Christ. I'd secretly play with the pieces (she has all the stable animals, a few shepherds, a host of angels, the Magi and of course the Holy Family. She would decorate with lights, tree branches and fake snow. I'd play with it in secret, reenacting the story of the nativity as I knew it as a child. I haven't thought about that memory in a long time, but I've always known what Christmas was all about. As I grew older, I got my own set, one of those commercial sets sold at Price Club (Costco-- as it's called now) It's pretty, but nowhere as charming or meaningful as my mom's set, which my great aunt collected piece by piece from dime stores like Woolworth or TG&Y stores. For a long time I put up my set, just like Mom did with the boughs, lights and fake snow, but it wasn't the same. I'd put it up when I'd do the tree, then later on Christmas Eve as that seemed more "authentic" and finally a few years ago I stopped putting it up. It was just another decoration to lug out of the garage. This year, as I've grown stronger and have renewed my faith, I put up a nativity, but it's not the one from the garage. A bit before Christmas my dad bought me a new set-- it's by a local Santero (an original I couldn't afford) I really like. While it's a mass production piece it's still quite beautiful and has meaning to me. This set, at least the nicho and the Holy Family will probably never go into the garage for a 11 months in anticipation of the next Christmas. So... while I won't play with the pieces and reenact the nativity, I have that feeling again.