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Column: Ghosts of Christmas

In the corner of the living room, our Christmas tree still glitters during each day’s darkest hours. Wrapping paper needs to be stowed away, and the remnants of butter-rich cookies linger in metal pans, the chill of our unheated breezeway doing its best to preserve their goodness just a little longer.

Oh, the new year has arrived? Permit me a few moments to reflect on the spirits of Christmas before we plunge full-speed ahead into 2019.

My ghosts of Christmas past include happy thoughts of Baby Angel, a treasured doll I was delighted to receive as a three-year-old. Candles and “Silent Night” at Christmas Eve services have been part of my family’s annual tradition as far back as my memory stretches.

The years of parenting young children carry a different tune, one that hummed along to Bing Crosby’s seasonal songs while I read endless holiday-themed picture books to my excited but attentive trio. They loved being initiated to the mystique of Santa, and speculated incessantly about the trials of Mary and Joseph at Bethlehem.

How did we survive the late-night Christmas Eves? As 30-something parents, we were busy after-hours elves, stuffing Christmas stockings with candy and trinkets, assembling wagons, trikes and Hot Wheels tracks, and taking pains to set the Santa scene for our eager kids who inevitably descended the stairs in barely contained anticipation shortly after 6 a.m. each Christmas morning.

Although no one would consider me a crafty do-it-yourselfer, I once decided it would be possible–even easy–to make tied-end fleece blankets for the kids. The necessary fabric was purchased by early November, and I fully intended to complete and stash them far in advance, but somehow that goal melted away with the countdown to Dec. 25. Around 11 p.m. that Christmas Eve, I finally pulled the fleece from the closet to begin the project, finishing the three blankets around 3 a.m.

Strong, black coffee was never more appreciated–or necessary–than at 7 a.m. that Christmas day.

Christmas present arrived, but the first of our household’s three young adults didn’t arise before 10 a.m. That revolutionary wakeup schedule provided leisurely hours for my spouse and I to indulge in toast, news reports and a few cups of java before the “kids” were stirring and expressing any interest in opening gifts.

Helping hands aided in production of Christmas dinner, despite my failure to have included candy canes in the family’s 2018 Christmas stockings. (I didn’t forget to insert some cold cash, which maybe compensated for the absence of peppermint sticks.)

The ghost of Christmases yet to come holds many promises that present even more alternate holiday pictures from what I’ve ever known.

I envision a Christmas when we may celebrate with family on earlier or later dates, due to our offspring owing their presence to in-laws or families of their own. Perhaps, eventually, the pitter-patter of  grandchildren’s feet may replace the footsteps of our own children on the early hours of a Christmas morning.

Or, maybe we will sometime have the chance to follow the example of empty-nester friends of ours who escaped all the holiday hubbub in favor of a relaxing week at a luxurious, all-inclusive resort conveniently located on a warm, tropical beach.

Whatever future Christmases may bring, Charles Dickens’ closing reflections on Ebenezer Scrooge will forever ring in my ears: “…it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

God bless us, every one.

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