Christmas is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. Each year as a family we travel to Upper Canada Village to see the heritage site decorated in hundreds of thousands of mini lights. I’m a Christmas music junkie. I could listen to those songs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the entire month and never get tired of them—of course there are some I like far more than others. While my grandkids may love “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” I tend to prefer the more traditional tunes.
There are some traditions in our family that have been a part of Christmas ever since our children were born. Stockings are at the top of the list. Over the years, those knitted wonders have taken on a life of their own. Santa painstakingly wraps each item in the stocking—a pack of gum, a chocolate bar, batteries, aftershave, a toothbrush… you name it! It all gets wrapped and placed lovingly in the sock—or the new overflow bags that appeared when the kids got older and full sized toiletries made their way into the stockings. Opening stockings has always been the most exciting part of the day. Now, my daughter has continued that tradition with her own family—but guess what? Mom still plays Santa for her, delivering the wrapped items in time to be loaded into the stocking on Christmas Eve.
The second aspect of Christmas that is essential is the tree. I have been collecting ornaments for forty-two years. I still have the first Christmas decoration I purchased for our first Christmas together. Over the years, I collected the Disney ornaments which I gave my daughter when she started her own family. My tree is full to bursting with memories. Each year, as I lovingly unwrap them, I take a trip down memory lane. I remember people no longer with us who contributed to the tree, places we visited, and important events that only happen once in a lifetime. Christmas is all about family and memories.
As I said before, I’m a Christmas music junkie. If someone were to ask me to pick my favorite Christmas song, I’d be torn between “O Holy Night” and “White Christmas”—quite a stretch, I know, but each song represents something special and different for me. Born and raised in a Christian family, attending services on Christmas Eve is an essential part of the holiday. I love to watch the children recreate the Christmas story. Now that my four grandchildren are all old enough to participate, it’s even more enjoyable. They’ve been angels, shepherds, even sheep. Last year I had two angels and two wise men—one of which looked a lot like Hugh Hefner in a gold lamé smoking jacket. This year, who knows? I think the eldest may be hoping for a speaking part.
After church, while our daughter takes her crew home to get ready for Santa’s visit, my husband and I and our bachelor son go home to indulge in egg nog and watch the old black and white version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. By that time, I’ve already watched It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas as well as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and every other Christmas themed movie that’s been on.
To me, Christmas is all about love and family. People are nicer to one another. More people smile. There’s a magic in the air. In Fire Angel, Christmas has a cameo when Jake realizes everyone in the family will be home for the holiday this year, but at that point in the story, he anticipates being alone. And that’s the other thing that makes my Christmas special. I often have surprise guests for dinner—friends we know have no family who’ll spend the holidays by themselves otherwise. An invitation to dinner costs nothing, yet it can make a world of difference to someone alone.
As this Christmas season approaches, I’m giddy with anticipation. 2013 has been very good to me and to my family. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. To my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah, and to the rest of you, Merry Christmas. May the magic of the season touch you in a special way this year!
~ Susanne Matthews
Learn more about Susanne at http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/