Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When will it be Christmas?

I spotted my first Christmas trees of the season at our neighborhood Piggly Wiggly. I've driven through Uptown and noticed the bright lights adorning the lanterns. And yes, I have witnessed the ever-growing traffic jams as Black Friday draws near. But for me, it is not Christmas yet and I'm just now getting to the place where it is "Thanksgiving in my heart." You see, this year will be so different that I am not sure when it will truly be Christmas. Let me try to explain.
Growing up in a big Italian family meant Christmas would be spent opening presents on Christmas morning and visiting relatives. It amounted to a lot of noisy, boisterous fun with delicious food and goofing off with my favorite cousins. The adults talked over each other but it didn't really matter. That's what Italian families do.
As I grew up and moved out of state, Christmas took on different meanings as my husband and I worked hard to develop new family traditions first for us as a couple, and later as the parents of our own 2 children.
One tradition that we embraced early on was cutting down our own Christmas tree. For years we took turns choosing the perfect tree at a nearby tree farm. It was never enough to just buy a half-dead tree off the lot at Home Depot. It's still not good enough for our family. Nope, our tradition must involve a hack saw or a chain saw. Last year was Bethany's turn to pick out a tree so we trudged off to Davenport's Tree Farm here in Greenwood. She picked a beauty, a Leland Cypress, a variety we'd never had in PA or MD.
Right now the Ziegler family is in a state of flux. Allen & I live in SC, Bethany in Atlanta, and our son Jordan still calls PA his home. We are renting a condo, building a new house and have decorations stored in several locations. Will we see relatives this year? It's highly unlikely as we are not sure of a move-in date. Will we go to the tree farm this year? Maybe, but it will be only Allen and I choosing the perfect tree. We've already decided not to exchange gifts this year and so this is another tradition put on hold partly due to economics, partly due to practicality.
A second tradition of utmost importance in the Ziegler family involves decorating our tree while watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. You know, Clark Griswold, Cousin Eddie and that crazy Aunt Bethany who wraps her cat and says the blessing. We all don Christmas pj's for this occasion. I realize that I'm starting to sound like Clark Griswold himself as I reflect on how different this Christmas will be. If I'm really honest, I'd want both kids to be home for this time honored tradition.
We all reach a point when Christmas actually feels like Christmas. For some, it is when Christmas carols resound for the month of December. For others it is on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning when children wake up early to open their presents. For me, this year Christmas will become real when I transition from Thanksgiving to rejoice in Christ my savior, and when we put up a tree, regardless of which house we live in. Happy Thanksgiving.

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