By Andrea Whatcott
I didn’t grow up with Santa Claus. He had a little accident and flew his sleigh off a cliff when my oldest sister was just 7, so I’m told. But the absence of the jolly round man dressed in red did not create a lack of magic in my Christmas experience. The magic of Christmas came in different forms.
I am a Christian, and as such Christmas has always been a time centered around hope, giving, charity and peace. I was also raised in a family of nine kids, so Christmas was a time of family, rough housing and laughter.
When I was young, my family would deliver The Twelve Days of Christmas to a few choice families in the neighborhood each year.
The battle my parents faced in doing this activity year after year was not in getting their nine children excited about it, but in mediating who would ring the bell.
The ringer had to be fast to avoid getting caught. They had to be quiet. They had to hide well. We all thought of ourselves as sneaky little spies, capable of delivering packages of Christmas joy without the tiniest trace left behind. It was a game, all part of the Christmas fun. However, the real treat of being the ringer was being close enough to see their faces when they opened the door. Nothing was more magical.
Growing up in a family of eleven, Christmas could easily have gotten out of hand. But my parents seemed to handle it well. Maybe that’s why we didn’t have cable, because all those commercials featuring the latest and greatest toys would have created nine ravenous children, impossible to handle.
I can honestly say it’s a struggle to remember many presents I have received for Christmas in the last 27 years. When I think about Christmas, I rarely think of presents.
There was one year my mom made my four sisters and I some crazy lime green and black striped shorts. I remember that gift.
I remember that Christmas.
It was my oldest sister’s first Christmas back from college. We had greatly missed her, especially my mom and my next oldest sister. Like girls often do, they got to chatting in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve. Talking turned to boredom, and boredom quickly turned into mischief. The three decided to play a trick on the rest of us slumbering folks. Quietly and systematically, they turned all the clocks in the house ahead a few hours. Two o’clock became six, which was a reasonable time in our household to wake up for presents.
The three excitedly dragged each groggy body downstairs to the Christmas tree. And once the sleep was wiped away, fun and laughter ensued. After all the presents were opened and all five girls had put on their crazy striped shorts, everyone patiently waited for the sun to rise. It never came up.
After an hour of waiting, we went about our day. My mom made breakfast and my dad began watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but there was still no sun. After several hours, we began to wonder if the world had come to an end. Finally someone called time, a thing we did back before cell phones. My mom and sisters burst into laughter. They had fooled us well, and in the process created a magical Christmas memory that we still laugh about today.
It comes down to the little things like tricks on Christmas day and stepping into freshly fallen snow and listening to it crunch under your feet. Or the sight of sparkling lights draped around trees and houses like a warm winter scarf. Or looking up and watching flakes appear from nowhere and gently drift to the ground like fall leaves dancing in the wind. Or even tiny toes and intertwined fingers warming by the cozy fire.
December, Christmastime, is a magical time of year. Fear and doubt melt away like snow in the summer sun, and love and hope rises like the evening stars. Even without that man from the North, I find Christmas the most magical time of the year.