My mom suddenly decided yesterday that it was time to tear down all of our Christmas decorations, and within three hours of her decree our house was almost completely devoid of lights, glitter, and the colors red and green. The Christmas season is officially over. As I surveyed the plastic-tote filled aftermath of the big Christmas purge, I was reminded of all of the things that I love about Christmas, the things that make it one of my favorite days of the year. Now, after several minutes of intense writing effort, I present to you, in a professionally numbered list, my five and a half essentials of Christmas.
1. Jesus: There’s a reason it’s not just called “Mas”. I imagine a legion of angels would probably tackle me if I didn’t put Jesus first on the Christmas essentials list, and for good reason. God’s love and mercy on His undeserving creations is far and away the best reason to celebrate ever. Everything that happened before was setting the stage for that moment when God became one of us, and it has profoundly affected everything that’s happened since. Whoever decided that we should throw a party one day a year in honor of that truth has my eternal respect and deserves a plate of gingerbread cookies.
2. Family: College has made me appreciate this part of Christmas more than ever. Now, Christmas is one of the few times that I get to come home and spend some real, longer-than-one-weekend time with my family. There’s no school, no outside obligations, just a few weeks to enjoy the wonderful people that live in my house. Not to mention the fact that without my family, there would be no cookies, but we’ll talk about that more on point number five.
3. Giving: When my siblings and I were younger, my mom used to split us into teams of two, give each team forty bucks, and send us off into Target in search of a gift for each sibling on the other team and either Mom or Dad. It was fun, it was a thrill, but it wasn’t really giving on my part – until this year, when it came down to us kids having to fund the venture with our own money. We pooled whatever funds we could spare and went all out buying gifts for each other and our parents. We had a great time keeping the gifts secret and trying to surprise each other, and seeing each family member’s face when they received their presents was unforgettable. That’s one of the things that sets Christmas apart as a truly great holiday: it encourages us to put the focus on what we can give to and do for other people.
3 1/2. Getting: You know you like this part, too. And before you start assuming that I’m in favor of commercializing Christmas, allow me to point out that you can’t have giving without someone, somewhere getting. That and the fact that I only gave getting half of a point and giving gets its own (say that five times fast). As long as giving is a part of Christmas, getting will be a part of Christmas – and hey, as long as I’m doing some giving, I don’t mind being on the getting end of a few gifts, too.
4. “It’s a Wonderful Life”: Yes, this is an essential. There is no debate on this point, as all counterarguments are invalid. This movie never ceases to amaze me by beating out movies that are decades younger and more “advanced” than itself in every possible way. Every Christmas Eve my family watches it, and every Christmas Eve I think to myself that the sound of Jimmy Stewart shouting “My mouth’s bleeding!” is without a doubt the sound of Christmas.
5. Sugar: Okay, so maybe it’s not an essential for you, but around my place, sugar is an inescapable Christmas staple. We have candy canes, we get candy in our stockings, we make pumpkin pies and at least half a dozen varieties of cookies in enormous batches. Christmas breakfast usually consists of said cookies and candies, and you know the day is officially over when you can’t handle the candy-induced headache anymore. Every year I think that I should probably cut this tradition out of the list, but somehow it always makes it’s way into my heart – and my stomach.
How many of these essentials do you include every year? Which ones did I miss? And what’s your favorite part of Christmas (after Jesus, of course)? Tell me in the comments below!