As soon as Thanksgiving was officially over, my 10-year-old sister started writing her Christmas list. She composed it in alternating colors of red and green and designated which items she could purchase herself and which she could not. They were typical requests for a fifth grader: CDs, video games, an iPod. What puzzled me was #9 on the list: “A Good Christmas.”
A good Christmas? What does that mean? Perhaps that meant her single-handedly assembling our six foot tall Christmas tree while my mom was napping and I was at school? Maybe her obsessive counting of the number of wrapped packages addressed to her?
In my mind, I flew back to last Christmas. It was 7 a.m. when my little sister Michelle threw the door open and grandly announced “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”
We groaned. I threw my sheets over my head and pretended I hadn’t woken up. My older sister Debbie did the justice of inquiring what time it was. It turned out that Michelle had been up for an hour already, but had been abiding by our parents’ wishes not to wake us. Upon the news, Debbie fell back on her pillow and pleaded, “Just one more hour, okay?” I didn’t have to raise my head to see the dejection in Michelle’s eyes. She stumbled out of the room, but not before slamming the door with a few loud, angry comments at the two of us.
Ten minutes passed. We were still awake. Debbie felt so bad that she got up, returning to tell me that she had found Michelle alone on the couch, clutching her stocking in her hands. I reluctantly got up to face my angry little sister and her disappointment in us.
I couldn’t figure out what happened. Not too long ago, I was that little girl, excited about Christmas morning, eager to wake up in the middle of the night to catch Santa in the act. When did I decide sleep was more important? Where did the magic go?
One of the worst part of growing up is looking back and seeing what I can’t feel anymore. That one mysterious night and all of the festivities leading up to it suddenly had no meaning anymore. Instead, Christmas became a huge reminder to me of consumerism, my secular beliefs, and an empty piggy bank to boot.
A good Christmas to a 10-year-old might mean lots of presents. It might mean spending time with his or her parents finally home from work. It might mean a big family dinner. But what does a good Christmas mean for those who don’t feel the magic anymore? What can we do to rekindle the joy of Christmas morning other than taking a few extra hours of precious sleep?
Maybe a good Christmas can be had by spending time with those we love most. Looking back, it seems worth it to stumble through one early morning for the sake of a happy little kid. Perhaps we can bring back those feelings of magic, of mystery and of happiness by being with those who can cheer us up even in the middle of winter.
I know it’s at the top of my list.