Once upon a time there was a four-year-old little girl being raised with five older siblings by a single mother in a farming community in Iowa.
This little girl’s first memory of Christmas was of her mom and all the unique styles of the 1960s—like the small silver tinsel tabletop tree on the record player, on top of a lace doily embroidered with mistletoe. Under this tree sat a plush (and actually sort of scary-looking) Santa Claus that her mom proudly saved her money to buy. For some reason, this little girl loved that Santa, so for two weeks a year, he became her security blanket; she felt safe and loved when cuddling that scary ol’ Santa because, to a four-year-old, no bad things can happen when you’re cuddling a Santa.
Since money was scarce, her mom had a no-cost tradition on Christmas Eve, and that was to get all six kids in the car (without fighting over who gets to lay in the back window, or yelling that someone touched someone else) and go into to town to drive around and look at Christmas lights. The little girl brought the scary, freaky-looking Santa along, and this Santa was her constant companion for several Christmases to come.
Today, that plush Santa sits in my living room and is never put away. It’s still my constant companion, reminding me of peace, love, and joy.
To me, the true meaning of Christmas—and the holidays in general—isn’t the money we spend, or how many parties we attend. It’s the prayers we say from our lips and from our hearts; it’s the smile we give to strangers and our friends; our kindness towards one another; and the forgiveness we give to others who for some reason we feel have done us wrong. It’s telling someone you love them unconditionally—no strings attached.
And it’s looking ahead to the new year, remembering our cherished memories and traditions… and looking forward to making new ones during the fresh beginning that this time of year always brings.