NORMAN — Oranges in the tips of stockings, clam dip, Avon makeup and Doodle Bears. It’s not exactly sugar-plums but for me, these are the visions of Christmas past.
Though I share many of the same memories as other Americans — trimming the tree, the twinkle of lights, carols and leaving out cookies for Santa — Christmas has always stood out as a remarkable time of year for me.
Peppered into my holiday memories are glimmers of moments that my young mind could only describe as magical: the look on my music-obsessed brother’s face when he found a drum set under the tree, discovering the joy in service as I did a Secret Santa project with my mom, or when I first became aware of the truly humble beginnings of my Savior Jesus Christ.
I remember obsessively rearranging the fake snow on our Department 56 village in the window, greedily eating fresh mandarin oranges from the local farm all month long, and — among my favorite memories — Mom unwrapping a ruby ring Kris Kringle had left in her stocking — good call, Papa.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that many of the charming Christmas moments from my childhood hadn’t happened organically. Somewhere, someone had planned — even agonized — over the gifts, events, acts of service, food, decorations and music I would participate in during the holiday season. The realization left me quaking in my boots.
My first Christmas away from home was spent as a newlywed 1,500 miles from the place I had always known and loved during the holidays. As Christmas Day approached I felt absolute dread. How could I recreate the nostalgia of the holidays for myself and my husband on our shoestring, student income? Could I become Santa?
It took some coaxing, but that first Christmas my husband was able to remind me that beautiful holiday experiences don’t happen just because someone planned well enough, was creative enough or had enough money. No, the Christmas season was beautiful because it was a celebration of love. A celebration of familial, platonic and romantic love. And most importantly, a celebration of the love offered by Jesus Christ and God.
Whether a celebration includes all the trimmings, or perhaps, like the first Christmas, takes place in a manger — Christmas is Christmas as long as love is present.
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