Friday, December 21, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Christmas in the Burbs

Every year the holiday season seems to get longer and more glitter-filled. People rush around buying trees, presents, food, and decorations. All to satisfy their need to bask in the glow of an old-fashioned Christmas—a concept created by greeting card companies and retailers to get people to buy, you guessed it, more stuff.

What exactly is an old-fashioned Christmas? The pundits say that you should savor the traditions that have helped countless generations celebrate the season of Jesus' birth. If that were so, it would be more prudent to break out the shamrocks since it has been proven that Jesus was actually born in March.

And there’s certainly no lack of cultural traditions that you can follow, depending, of course, on your family’s heritage. While many people decorate Christmas trees, it was actually the Germans who started that practice. Consider the image of families trudging through knee-deep snow to swing axes and claim the trees that will grace their parlors. Today, families are more likely to ride over to a nearby tree farm in the warm comfort of their SUVs while their children sit in the back seats texting their friends on their cell phones. Once there, they pile out and climb aboard a hay wagon to be pulled passed rows of carefully manicured fur trees that look more artificial than the artificial ones. And after they’ve picked their trees, everyone can sit by a fire and drink hot chocolate. Now all that someone has to do is put this scene to music—oh, that’s right, someone has.

And what of the carolers singing their way through quiet streets, and grateful residents offering steaming mugs of cocoa?  You can thank the Brits for that practice. While people still carol, they’re more likely to bring their own hot chocolate from the nearest Dunkin Donuts.

And, of course, all the grandparents out there delight in the children—little ones stringing popcorn. Actually, they eat most of it and throw the rest at each other. And what of their small, hopeful faces pressed against windows? Just what do they see out there in their development?

And who can forget the candlelight tours of historic homes. Don’t they just make you feel warm and cozy. They’re great to look at but would you really want to live there? Outside, imagine horse-drawn sleighs gliding down snow-packed streets. When was the last time you saw a horse-drawn sleigh in your neighborhood?

Think of the deer in the evening shadows, eating up all of your prized azaleas. And what about those yule logs popping in hundreds of fireplaces. Chances are the fireplaces are gas, and the only yule log you’ll see is the one burning on T.V. with carols playing in the background. You might consider building a fake brick fireplace, then putting your flat-screen T.V. in the opening and hanging those special stockings made just for filling above it on the mantel. All you need now is the smell of pine and a wood-burning fire. Oh, that’s right, you forgot to plug in the holiday air freshener.

And don’t forget the Christmas feast. No figgy pudding for you. This year you’re serving a turkey with all the fixin’s that you picked up at your supermarket, along with a “freshly baked” pumpkin pie that you have warming in the oven.

What holiday would be complete without St. Nick? Well, Easter for one and Fourth of July for another. But again thanks to the Brits and the Dutch, you have the jolly old elf to keep your pre-schoolers enthralled. For the rest of us, he might as well be the guy with the white beard selling cars in the T.V. commercial.

But what an old-fashioned Christmas really means is sharing—little gifts in bright wrappings, a pie baked for the needy, an extra dollar in the Salvation Army kettle, neighbors invited over for cider and eggnog and store-bought cookies.

Slip out on Christmas Eve to shuffle along your neighborhood streets. Treat your eyes to the sight of a thousand lights strung around windows, trees and doors. Try to imagine what it would be like to smell the ginger cookies baking and the turkey roasting, if people actually did that any more. Feel the gentle touch of snowflakes gliding down. Wish whoever you meet a “Merry Christmas,” knowing that you’ve just spread a little Christmas cheer of your own.

Here's wishing you and yours a holiday filled with love and happiness. 

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