On the Corner
Changing Christmas Traditions
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –
I had this dream the other morning—just before I awakened to a brisk California morning—only 65 degrees outside at 7:00 a.m. I dreamed I had been discussing Christmas with Diane—about how much I loved the relaxed, unhurried sentiment of the holidays—celebrating with family and friends.
She looked a little frazzled in my dream—not altogether happy with my prone posture. Then she spoke. I heard it clearly through the fog of sleep.
“You know Bob—women have a lot more to do than most men when it comes to getting ready for Christmas.”
In my dream it was several days before Thanksgiving and “my” Diane had just finished bringing a large collection of boxes and bags into the house. In my usual somewhat clumsy manner I had rather forcefully inquired where she had been and what all those bags contained.
I suppose her “look”—kind of a stern glare said more than any words about my implied criticism.
I then struggled to make out the date on my watch and asked: “Isn’t it kind of early?”
Shaking her head, she blamed my comments on the fifty percent of the population that claim to be males with a one word salvo: “Men!” She kept on working, sighed with a somewhat disgusted, tired look on her face and said: “It takes a lot of planning and time and effort to get ready for Christmas. This year I’m starting early.”
I said: “Oh!”—being smart enough, even in my dream, to know when enough was enough.
It didn’t stop me from wondering, however, about the entire meaning of “getting ready for Christmas.” My first thoughts concerned the social tradition of gift giving: and how it had become more of a children’s day with adults being responsible for the oohs and ahhs relative to all the decorations in the room and the array of perfectly wrapped packages precisely placed under the tree in a manner designed to suggest they had been left hurriedly by some fellow with a long beard dressed in a red suit.
The gifts, still in bags as Diane looked for a place to hide them, reminded me of the budget and bank account needs of the season for a family with six couples and fourteen grandchildren. Some preparation needed to be done about money.
Because I don’t seem to care much about money and have delegated all responsibility for its management to my wonderful Diane, my principal concern was the debt picture in January. Her childhood Christmases had not been laden with too many material things, so she tends to compensate for that with overabundance for the grandchildren. I hoped that she had salted some funds away in preparation for the grand fiesta.
She looked at me and said: “You know (as if the matter had been thoroughly discussed sometime in the past) we’ll be going over to Julie’s for Christmas day.”
I thought for a moment and asked: “You mean no one will be coming to our house Christmas morning?” This part of the dream almost awakened me completely.
“We’ll have our own Christmas, and the other families will have theirs. They need to start traditions, too,” she said.
Tradition—there it is. I’m a traditionalist. I like to see them develop, sometimes without any planning, and then lock-in as something to be cherished. I don’t like to surrender them. I felt the ache in my chest as I rolled over and covered my head with a pillow.
Now fully awake, I heard her voice through the down. “We’ll (I knew who that was) need to get the folding chairs and two folding tables loaded and taken over to Julie’s this afternoon. We’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner over there. Then I’ll want you to take all the presents in that back bedroom and hide them in closets and under beds. You might need to clean some of them out a little. You’re very good at those kinds of things. I really appreciate your help.”
Then, as I rolled back over, staring at the ceiling, it hit me. I better get prepared physically for all this heavy Christmas lifting and hauling and carrying and loading. I’ll need to lift some weights or something—get my blood going.
Slowly, I eased a foot out from the warmth of the covers and reached for the floor. “What do you know,” I said. “It’s there.”
I wandered out and found her in the kitchen.
“I know it’s hard for you to give up some family traditions—but I want you to know that the whole family will be here for Christmas eve—so make sure you know where your father’s Bible is—you know, the one you like to read the Christmas story from.”
I’m sure I must have smiled, and we hugged and kissed. In the middle of the embrace, right after I realized I had the most wonderful wife in the world, it hit me. I need to get prepared spiritually for Christmas. I wouldn’t want this bunch of grandchildren to grow up with a misconception of what this holiday truly represents—what it means for the world and everyone in it. A Savior is born.
She looked up at me and said: “I love you, Bob,” and I said “I love you, Diane. I really want to get ready for Christmas.”
“Wonderful,” she said. “Janet and I will be going out in a few minutes to shop some more, and I know you won’t mind fixing your own breakfast. And don’t forget to hide those things I bought yesterday,” she added…“and remember, we need to get those tables and chairs over to Julie’s right away.”
I felt another tradition beginning. Some traditions start without planning and then lock-in as something to be cherished.