I never felt safer than when I was lying under the Christmas tree with my siblings (or alone), looking up at the lights and ornaments through prickly branches, listening to Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums or one of the many many Christmas music boxes my mom collected. I felt joy, peace, comfort . . . And if “home” was a feeling, that would’ve been it. Our house always smelled a certain way at Christmas. Like pine and candles; Christmas cookies; old ornaments; masking tape. There was a tangible feeling. It really was magic.
Every Christmas Eve we would squish on the couch and watch an old VHS tape my parents made of all the TV Christmas Specials. There was “Rudolph,” “A Claymation Christmas,” “Garfield’s Christmas,” “Pee-Wee’s Christmas,” “Christmas on Sesame Street,” and “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” (I have to say, these are all epic shows, but if you haven’t seen Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, you must see it.).
(Sidebar: I still have a ton of 80’s-early 90’s commercials memorized because of that VHS tape. “I’d like a bike, I’d like a pony, but what I LOVE is My First Sony!”)
We’d drink hot cocoa with marshmallows (we called them eights) stirred with a candy cane, listen to “The Night Before Christmas” and eat sugar cookies we’d decorated in the weeks before. We’d turn the lights off, except the twinkle lights, and gather around the tree to open our presents from Grandma and Grandpa Kuhns (because that’s how they do in Deutschland). We’d end the night by listening to Dad read from Luke chapter 2, verses 1-20, the real story of Christmas, from his great-grandfather’s tattered and well loved bible.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
On Christmas morning, we’d gather in mom and dad’s room, then line up youngest to oldest and go down the stairs and into the living room. Mahalia Jackson would be playing on the stereo and our stockings and the contents thereof would be strewn all over the couches. Mom used to wake up early to make a fancy Christmas breakfast, but one year we had “fun” cereal, hot chocolate, and Nutella instead. We NEVER got sugar cereal, and we all loved it so much it became a tradition. Nothing is as great as Christmas morning cereal. NOTHING. I’m pretty sure I would eat several bowls throughout the morning.
Honestly a little piece of me disliked Christmas morning, because I knew it meant the magical Christmastime feeling was almost over.
Because of all these wonderful memories, thinking of Christmas has always had a calming effect on me. I can think of the tree and lights and feel comforted. Even in the middle of summer, Christmas music makes me feel peaceful and safe. And it’s never a bad time to watch Garfield’s Christmas.
This year has been really difficult. I feel like I’m missing the entire season. Picking a tree, making cookies, listening to Christmas music, Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations. . . I don’t feel Christmasy here at the center. For the time being we aren’t able to listen to Christmas music, and we don’t have any decorations. Yet. I think we’re supposed to get a tree and some décor tomorrow. I really hope we do, because even with my ugly Christmas sweaters and Christmas socks, I’m struggling to get that Christmas feeling. I feel sad. I miss the way my family used to be. I miss Christmas. We never had a ton of money, but we were always SO SPOILED. My parents had a way of making Christmas very special every year. It was always in the little details, like the funky Santa pillow, the stockings knitted by Great Grandma Bertie, the bell on the front door, or the somewhat creepy Santa face we hung on the wall. . .
I really wish I could bottle that feeling. I would carry it around in my pocket and sprinkle it on people who looked sad. I would put it in brownies and call them “Magic Brownies” which might confuse some people because pot is now legal in Washington. . . I would wear it like perfume and suddenly become unexplainably irresistible to everyone.
I would be really creative and call it “Christmas in a Bottle: aka WORLD PEACE.”