The Christmas season seems to go faster every year. I remember the endless days dragging on, stretching my childhood Christmases to months of painful waiting until The Big Day. I don't think it's possible to ever recreate the anticipation of childhood Christmas. I remember hardly being able to sleep the night before, waking up multiple times a night only to realize that morning had still not come. Only children are capable of such pure, unadulterated excitement.
As an adult, Christmas is more complicated. We have presents to buy and wrap, parties to host and attend, family to see, and regular life to run to in addition to the festivities. I don't find the Christmas season stressful, as many people do, but I've definitely realized that the magic of childhood is largely created by the work of adults.
This Christmas season has been enjoyable, as all Christmas seasons are. Over the years, we've developed a routine of traditions. After decorating the house for Christmas, we always watch White Christmas while drinking peppermint hot chocolate. Every year we make our own wrapping paper with butcher paper and stamps, and we decorate the windows with snowflakes we've cut out together. Last week we held our annual doughtnut-caroling party, and a few days before Christmas we made a gingerbread house. And my favorite Christmas tradition is making all the food on Christmas Eve so that I can relax and enjoy my holiday along with everyone else.
I like all of these traditions; they bring more enjoyment to my Christmas seasons. It's fun to have something to do with the children, and as the years have gone by, they've gotten a lot better at doing all of the things. The wrapping paper has changed from a wild scattering of random stamps to a pattern that actually looks pretty when presents are wrapped in it. The snowflakes have changed from circles with random holes chopped out of them to intricate designs. And I no longer have to struggle through the songs as everyone sings at our party - Kathleen does a much better job than I ever did. I'm enjoying the opportunity to enjoy my traditions instead of herding cats who are wielding printing ink.
I love that I get to celebrate Christmas with my children, even when we're far away from family and friends have moved on to other places. This year we only had our own children for the nativity play, but even then we managed to have Joseph, Mary, two wise men, two shepherds, and and angel.
Celebrating Christmas with children is the closest thing I'll ever get to returning to my own childhood excitement. As I tucked the children into bed on Christmas Eve, I could almost taste the excitement filling the house. William's little four year-old body was wriggling with anticipation, and his eyes lit up with joy as I laid him down and reminded him that tomorrow was Christmas.
I love to watch them excitedly open their gifts on Christmas morning and see the delight on their faces as the long-awaited present is unwrapped. I care very little for any gift I might receive - as an adult with money, gifts are much less exciting - my pleasure instead is my children's pleasure on Christmas.
But the best gift of all on Christmas is the gift of Christmas itself. Without the birth of Jesus Christ, I would not be able to look at my family and know that we can be together even after we die. Without His birth, I could not change and become a better person so that the joy I have from my family is that much sweeter. Without that one birth of a small baby in an obscure village, I would not know how and where to find joy in this often sad and confusing world. All of the good gifts are made possible because of the birth of Jesus Christ.
So although I am sad that the Christmas season is over, I am happy because what happened over two thousand years ago makes it possible for all of the seasons of the year and of our lives just as happy as Christmas. And that is a gift that never ends.