Christmas Spirit

When does the first tingle of Christmas Spirit touch you? I can't decide whether it is brought on by the fresh, light snow dusting the evergreens, the smell of fruitcakes baking, or getting out the boxes of decorations which we sort, refurbish, and scatter lavishly about the house each year.

"I wish you'd put a Christmas tree or a holly wreath in the bathroom this year, Katy." Josiah said as he helped unpack ornaments and garlands. "I got kind of nervous having Santa Claus watch me shave every day last year. Nobody but you would decorate the bathroom anyway."

The poinsettia splashed curtains we made from plastic table cloths are hanging at the kitchen windows and the creché has been carefully set out atop the library table.

Christmas is candy canes, sleigh bells, fat red candles, and sticky pine sap on your hands. It is red frosted Santa cookies, knobby bundles under the bed, serious faced children shopping in the Five and Dime, and Christmas carols on every radio and tv program.

Christmas is a time to give joy to others and to ourselves at the same time. It is a busy time when one is not too busy to remember old friends with cards, to pack an extra box of cookies for someone who may be having a lonely Christmas, or to search store after store for the one thing that will most delight a beloved child.

In the late evening when weary feet rest from shopping and stiff fingers from addressing envelopes, there is time to remember the days of Christmas past. There was an endless procession of pageants with cotton bearded kings, bathrobed shepherds and radiant faced Marys. Half recalled lines of the pieces once spoken at the Sunday School Tree, mingle with a haunting fragment of the solo sung at a long forgotten candlelight service.

You remember the anxiety felt when Father sawed a great chunk off the tree trunk and lopped ends off branches with seemingly wild abandon and the boundless relief when the tree stood tall and perfectly shaped in the baywindow. How exciting it was to hurry home from school, eyes and heart fixed on catching the first glimps of the tree glimmering in the pale winter sunshine.

There's most of the shopping yet to do, all of the baking, except fruitcakes, wrapping gifts goes on until and including Christmas Eve (else where's the fun?). But at least there'll be no trouble falling asleep nights this month. Yet, tired enough to sleep through the crack of doom, on Christmas morning a child's whisper of "Merry Christmas, Mama. Merry Christmas, Daddy." will waken the soundest sleeper to another joyous Christmas Day.

Our grandson Joe, with his two elder children Joey and Trudy, stayed for hot cocoa and cookies after they brought us a load of pine branches and cones. Jos and his niece Martha, who lives with us, will be fashioning wreaths from them. Tied with huge red bows, their wreaths deck the doors of each member of our family. Josie, Joe's twin sister, asked for an especially big one this year. It will hang above the fireplace in her new home.

When the pine needles have been swept up from the kitchen, we'll begin on cookies and candy. That's the time Jos enjoys most for we keep him busy cracking nuts, stirring boiling syrups, beating cooled fudge, and sampling cookies. There is something very Christmasy about being up to your elbows in flour and sugar and having smudges of food coloring smearing your fingers. The smell of baking cookies with their flavors of almond, vanilla, molasses, spice and chocolate, threads through the house to mingle with the fresh pine scent from the garlands over the windows.

"This is really a Christmas House, isn't it, GramKaty?" Trudy muses above her cocoa mug.

"Why do you think so, Childie?" I asked with a smile.

"Because you and Gramp and Aunt Martha have fun making Christmas. And you put it everywhere all over the house, decorations and candles and things. And, and I guess because you love the Baby Jesus and want to give Him a nice birthday party."

Trudy has discovered already what makes Christmas the wonderful time it is. I hope she always remembers that "loving the Baby Jesus and giving Him a nice birthday party" is the reason for Christmas. It is so easy to forget.