As a writer, just about every year at this time I think a lot about why December 25th, or Christmas is so magical to me, and why it inspires me so much. Being raised as a Catholic and growing up attending Catholic school during a good part of my youth, the religious imagery virtually surrounded me. There were colorful statues and stained-glass church windows, wood pews (benches) and flowers and candles, and a hint of insence in the air. The real reason for the holiday we were taught was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our savior.
I still remember the traditional catechism tale of Mary and Joseph in search of a room for the night to prepare for the birth of their child. And how they were turned away from each until they found themselves spending the night in a manger where they were surrounded by animals also trying to stay warm. Throughout my life, I have seen a million interpretations in miniature to life-size of that manger. And Above it sat the star of Bethlehem, and just outside, three camels arriving with three kings (said to have been Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India)bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the new born child.
The other imagery of the season was Santa Clause of course, the jolly fat man in the redsuit, black boots and the white beard. Christmas brought dreams of presents that might be received on Christmas eve or day. I, along with my sister and friends spent most the year before planning our want list of toys we just had to have. We had a pile of store catalogs that were dog-eared and had items circled. We looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons to be treated to commercials for the most popular toys being offered for sale, and took note of those we really wanted.
And when we finally did receive our Christmas gifts, we were pretty much satisfied with what we got. It did not matter if it was new, homemade, or a hand-me-down, we were thankful. One of the favorite traditions of our family at that time of the year was to ride the bus down to Main Street in Downtown Houston. Foley's Department Store always had whimsical animated displays in the windows, and we spent hours watching these. Then we would walk down the street to Woolworth's to eat at the lunch counter, before taking the bus back home.
When the Shopping Malls began to open and directed the consumers to covered shopping opportunities, these malls always offered all kinds of holiday events on the weekends, to keep the shoppers coming back. There were multiple Santas at the Mall and I'm sure the children were pretty confused about that.
Television brought so many cartoons and Christmas specials year after year, and radio brought so many holiday songs into popularity.
Christmas to me has always been a mixture of all these things, but mostly because it was a time for the whole family to come together and celebrate. Of all the gifts one could have received, I felt just spending the day with close family and friends was the best gift ever...