By Bruce Stambaugh
Patience is a virtue, especially at Christmastime.
Some people, however, just can’t wait for Christmas. I’m not talking about the giddy children anxiously anticipating what might lie beneath the festooned tree on Christmas morning.
Holiday commercials, promotions, and displays showered themselves upon us well before Halloween. Decorations and pre-holiday sale items sprouted in retail stores before autumn leaves had reached their peak.
Every year, the onslaught of Black Friday opens the floodgate to the Christmas shopping season. Besides profit, I wondered what the rush was all about. If there is a war on Christmas, surely this is it. The commercialization of a blessed, annual holiday demeans the true meaning of the season.
For me, Christmas is about waiting, not rushing. Life passes by in a flash the way it is. Why accelerate it all the more, especially at such a celebrative occasion? Let’s treasure this special time of year.
Christmas is about expectation. My childhood memories are filled with fondness for the days leading up to Christmas. Whether real or imagined, a certain inexplicable stir was in the air filling us with excited glee.
At school, crayon-colored paper ornaments, stars, wreaths, and candy canes replaced the finger painted turkeys on the classroom windows. We drew names for the gift exchange, one-dollar limit.
Children began combing through Sears catalogs to assist them in making their Christmas lists. Santa got them in plenty of time.
Those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to just linger. Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, it was as if time ticked in slow motion.
The excitement and anticipation of the holidays built with each passing day. Christmas was the mountaintop, and we started climbing the slope one step at a time only after Thanksgiving.
Our father enjoyed the holiday season as much or more than his five offspring. On a frigid night, Dad loaded us up in the family sedan to welcome Santa’s arrival at the end of the annual Christmas parade in the downtown blue-collar Ohio city where we lived.
We visited city centers in Akron, Canton and Cleveland more to window shop than Christmas shop. Customer friendly department stores with familiar names like Higbee’s, Polsky’s, and Kobacker’s all decorated their display windows with exquisite Christmas scenes.
Those stores are no more. A lot has changed since then.
Amid all of today’s commercials, online ads, daily deluges of discounts on everything from candles to Cadillac’s, it’s easy to get caught up in the race to Christmas. Doesn’t all of that actually run counter to the Advent season itself?
Historically, Christmas was all about hope, waiting, and watching. When the actual event occurred, only a few people recognized what had happened. Even then, most didn’t seem to fully comprehend.
Shepherds and kings from afar were struck with glorious awe at the event we now call Christmas. Others never even noticed because of their preconceived notions. As that story has been retold year after year, generation after generation, the characters involved in that first Christmas became the icons of how we now celebrate the season, Santa not included of course.
Christmas is a couple of weeks away. Will we rush our way to it, or will we wait and watch, and anticipate all the precious joys the day and the season have to offer?
Maybe it’s just my age. But I’m going to do my best to savor this season one day at a time. How about you?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014