Growing up, my mom’s baby sister, Aunt Becky, was – to put it mildly – a Christmas freak! The Thanksgiving coma had barely worn off when we were whipped right into the Christmas swirl. And it didn’t start slowly and then rise to a crescendo on Christmas Day. No… it was like a tornado with no eye; with all the details that needed to be attended to, it was like going from 0 to 60 in 1 second flat. Every year the Christmas tree had a different color scheme and theme. My favorite was the Santa-themed tree – each Santa lovingly hand made by Aunt Becky using yarn, a pop top, and beads. The lighting that year was all white, if I remember correctly. The whole house was decorated from floor to ceiling and the outside decorations would blind the pilots flying over.
We normally spent Christmas Eve with my Dad’s family and later that evening we would rejoice with Mom’s side, too. Christmas Day was a full ritual, which actually began on Christmas Eve when everyone got to open one present. I generally chose to open my present from Uncle Jimmy because it was always… how do I say this politely? It sucked! (A sixteen year old’s technical expression.) Uncle Jimmy would spend months and months researching the perfect gift. I think he enjoyed the look of surprise on my face, but it was actually annoyance at the lengths he would go to just to get my goat. Surely he must’ve had better things to do? I remember one year he gave me a toy logger truck. Now, I may have liked that as a four year old, but I was sixteen at the time. But the point wasn’t that it was a truck—it was a logger truck. And considering I was an environmentally-conscious teenager, to say I was not a big fan of logging would be an understatement. We all know the old saying that it’s the thought that counts… well, not so much! But everyone had a laugh and I got that out of the way so I could enjoy my real presents on Christmas.
We would then be instructed to be at Becky’s house on Christmas Day before sunrise. Knowing better than to defy orders, we’d arrive at her house sleepy-eyed and ready for the party to begin. Christmas was a sight to behold. Literally. Christmas morning always looked like an FAO Schwarz store on steroids. I was a little embarrassed by the excess, but Becky had a strict rule that everyone had to have the same amount of presents. So if my cousin Jeremy was being spoiled, we all got to be spoiled! And he always was (Jeremy, if you’re reading this, you’re banned from leaving a comment :)).
The moment the unwrapping began, so did the magic. Wrapping paper flying, surprised looks – some of them strained (you’ve all been there, “Oh great, a scarf. Perfect!”) – and of course, love. It was definitely the perfect holiday storm. And to be honest, I miss those days.
Now, looking back as an adult, I know all of that wasn’t something that just happened. It was something that was generated – by a passion to capture the holiday spirit. From baking the best sugar cookies in the world, to decorating the house with so many lights they must’ve drained the Utah energy grid, to hand-making the perfect tree ornaments, everything was done not for the doing, but to create a magical wonderland.
It doesn’t matter what holiday you celebrate, in the midst of all the running, shopping, decorating, eating, and celebrating, just remember the intention is the same – to capture the spirit.