I’ve always loved Christmas Eve. The day’s events start out early, frantically. Way back, we’d spend Christmas at my grandmother’s house and would inevitably need to run to Leggett’s for something. Leggett’s had everything, it was right there on Main Street, very small-town Americana.
Now Leggett’s is gone, replaced by a Belk store at the local mall-o-rama, where you can’t ever find anything in any department without first knowing who designed it. Sorry, I don’t shop by label, I shop by function.
Anyway, we’d get back from town to find my grandma cooking, or watching the soaps while various food items were cooking themselves. Supper was at 5:00, always. My grandpa’s store was open on Christmas Eve, so he might be working that evening, but he always had supper at 5:00. So there you go.
And it was a typical Southern holiday spread: ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, various other veggies in various states of cooked-ness.
Then there was dessert: applesauce cake, pecan pie, fruit cake that was actually good because someone make it right after Thanksgiving and soaked it brandy ’til Christmas.
There were quite a few of us grand-kids, and we were responsible for cleaning up after supper, which had to be completed before the commencing of the gift distribution, which was organized chaos.
Things changed as we grew up. Sometimes the family’s numbers dwindled as we started going to our boyfriend or girlfriend’s house; sometimes the numbers increased, when our friends came with us to Christmas Eve supper. Then the great-grandbabies started coming.
Once everyone was stuffed, all the gifts opened (except for Santa’s), all the wrapping paper gathered up and placed in the burn barrel, things started to quiet down, families would leave for their own homes, the grown-ups would talk while we got ready for bed.
Finally, around 11:00 PM, it was calm.
We still have a few things to do around here Christmas Eve. Actually “a few” is an understatement if you include the moving tasks we still haven’t finished…or started. So things aren’t quite as they should be; not just yet. But we’ll get there, as we do every year without fail.
I think about the first Christmas, whenever it actually was. The quietness of Bethlehem that night as Joseph and Mary tried to find somewhere to rest, only to find no open doors. Even now, as we drive home from Christmas Eve service at church, it fascinates me to see all the stores closed, the streets devoid of the snarling traffic, and I think about this event we call Christmas. The birth of a child, during the night, in an animal pen. Here we are, 2000 years later, running around doing our “holiday-ing”, as one retailer put it this year. (Did you ‘holiday’ was a verb? Neither did I.) But as the hours dwindle down and we finally go home, a quietness settles over the cities, towns and crossroads of our country, as well as those of most other countries. How could something so seemingly insignificant as the birth of a single child, 2000 years ago, in a barn, still bring everything in our world to a screeching halt?
Christmas Eve. The calm before the storm of last minute preparations, before the calm as dawn approaches, carrying with it the joy that is Christmas.
I love Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas because it communicates these same ideas that I stumble through with such ease, sweetness and simplicity.
This Christmas probably has more than its fair share of “grinches”: economic crisis, political upheavals, and plain old garden-variety evil. But Thursday morning the sun will come up.
So he paused – and the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low… then it started to grow.
But… but this sound wasn’t sad. Why, this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing without any presents at all. He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came. Somehow or other, it came just the same.
He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!
Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.