The night air growing colder, the shops staying open longer, the colorful lights twinkling through the evening — these are the signs that Christmas is near. Many people think of Christmas as that time where you get a few days off of work or school and when you get the presents and the bonuses. But I never really saw Christmas in that light.
When I was a kid, every Christmas was special. My family would really put in the time and the effort to clean, and decorate. Our house would be filled with lights inside and out, and the whole family would spend a day decorating the tree and the stairs with garlands and tinsel while Christmas songs played in the stereo. It was that time of the year when my dad, a seaman, would come home. And it was the one day when my parents wouldn’t argue, or at least try their best not to. And every Christmas, my mom and grandmother would cook and bake so they could feed us until we could no longer eat. And when we were full and content, the presents having been opened, my mom would make her hot chocolate from scratch. Just one sip brings back all the good feelings of that time, memories of home, family, love.
When my mom and grandmother died, it all changed. My father couldn’t bear the loss so he didn’t come home for years at a time. We spent our days being passed on from one relative to the next. Gone were the decorations, the songs, and the hot chocolate. It was just my older sister and I. We were all that was left.
But I remember that during those dark, confusing years, when it was nearly Christmas, 2 girls who were only 6 and 10 years old would sneak downstairs to the kitchen and take out a box of Swiss Miss with the little marshmallows from the cupboard they could barely reach, and pour hot water into the pre-made hot chocolate. It didn’t taste the same. But it was Christmas. It was how my mom celebrated Christmas. And it was how my older sister let me know that even though we were all that’s left, we could still celebrate Christmas our own way. There were no lights, no fancy food, and no big presents. But it was home.
Many things have changed since then. But every year, when December is fast approaching, and I stop and breathe in the cold night air, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement. Because that is what Christmas is all about. It’s the one time in the year when people are motivated to give and be generous. It’s that time when families try to get together and celebrate, even if they were just shouting at one another days ago. Christmas makes people kinder, more forgiving. It is that spirit that lets everyone know it’s time to set aside our differences and love. Just love. In fact, we should all try to live it out every single day. But, for now, I’d settle for that moment, once a year, when my sister and I play Christmas songs in the stereo while we decorate the house with my younger brothers and our maid, and I get to make hot chocolate from scratch and drink it with them. After all, what is Christmas if you didn’t find a way to celebrate it with your family, in your own way?
May your Christmas be filled with love and happiness. Add a mug of hot chocolate, too.