When our son Robert was three, his Grandpa asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He gave the usual young boy reply; cars, trucks, a bicycle ... but Grandpa, who had a unique sense of humor, kept telling him he was going to get a Barbie doll for Christmas. One day while Robert and I were Christmas shopping he picked out a Barbie doll to give Grandpa for Christmas. On Christmas Eve. with the family all gathered, each present Robert opened Grandpa told him it was going to be a Barbie doll. Was Grandpa ever surprised when he opened his Malibu Beach Barbie. The laughter that erupted from Robert and the rest of us is still talked about and one of our fondest Christmas memories. Grandpa gifted the Barbie back to Robert the next Christmas and for 20 years that Barbie traveled throughout the family. Robert is 23 now and sadly we lost Grandpa this October. He was a loving and caring man who is deeply missed. The family decided to retire the Malibu Beach Barbie and we will do that by giving her to Grandpa when we visit the cemetery on Christmas Day.
Shortly after WWII my parents, sister, and I shared a house with another family. Money and housing was scarce then. The Saturday before Christmas mother asked Dad and the father of the other family to get a Christmas tree. Well, it was a cold Saturday in Lansing, Michigan, so the two men stopped off at a local pub for some "anti-freeze". They showed up at dusk with red noses and a skeleton tree from which that they had spend most of the afternoon removing all the green needles. Mother did not get the joke, slammed the door in their faces, and ran upstairs crying. She refused to come down even after Dad brought in the "real tree".
- R. Simmons
My mother passed away on November 12, 2005 at the age of 75. A couple of days later I had been at my parents' house with my dad and siblings making plans for the funeral. I was emotionally exhausted as I began the 45 minute trip home by myself that evening and my heart was hurting as I grieved and mourned the loss of the most influential person in my life. About halfway home a Christmas song came on which was kind of strange since it was still a week or two before Thanksgiving. I have no idea who the artist is and am not even sure of the exact words but what I heard was "Grandma will be home for Christmas"! What I heard in my heart was an encouraging word from my loving Father, God, that my mom who worked hard to raise six kids and always made Christmas magical was now in heaven with Him having the ultimate celebration. What a joyful reminder of my mom's pain free eternal home and what a blessing to know that I was being comforted in the arms of the one true God who is Love, Comfort, and Compassion. What an amazing Christmas gift.
Some of my favorite Christmases were in the Baptist Home at Monticello, Arkansas. We met in the dining hall to hear the Christmas story and open Christmas gifts. My sponsors didn't come through very well and were always changing, but Mom Seefeldt always made sure we all had gifts. A brotherhood group in one of the churches always gave everyone a silver dollar, and I still have some of mine! One of my favorite memories is memorizing the Christmas story and quoting it while Mrs. Holland, (Pop Seefeldt's sister) put cutouts of the story on a flannel board. We did it for different groups in the church. I can still quote the Christmas story from Luke 2: 1-20, which I have done many times through the years.
I grew up on a farm and ranch that has been in my family for several generations. Every December we cut a tree from the pasture, gathered real mistletoe and returned to Grandma's house to decorate. The tree would be dressed with lights, tinsel, homemade ornaments, a few glass balls and popcorn that we had popped and strung that day. Mistletoe was hung above every possible door in the house with red bows or ribbons.
Christmas would find the family gathered at Grandma's house singing songs around the piano and eating so much food you thought you would bust. Finally it was time for gifts. Grandma frequently gave us homemade gifts or something she had bought but added her own touch to. For example one Christmas she gave my cousins and myself all a kid's cookbook and a homemade apron complete with our first initial sown on in red rickrack. While there were many wonderful Christmas' at Grandma's, one has stuck with me to this day.
The gift I received from Grandma the Christmas of 1985 is still one of my most prized possessions. That year my cousins and myself each opened a small box that contained a tape. Grandma announced that when we had memorized the message she had recorded on the tape we would get the rest of our gift. She had a recorded a different saying for each of us. I still remember the words to this day, "Be all you can be, expect only what you earn and enjoy life". When I had recited this back to her she gave me a small golden bumble bee pin. (All the sayings started with or contained the word "be" I think.) I have carried these words in my heart ever since and now that Grandma has been gone for many years I charish the ability to put in a tape and hear her voice.
The gift and Christmas were simple but the impact immeasureable.
I've been blessed to celebrate 65 Christmas mornings in my lifetime, but there was that one very special Christmas memory I will always cherish.
Nearly 30 years ago, I was working as a home-based pre-school teacher. We traveled throughout our county to visit "at risk children of poverty" and provided home based education services. A week before Christmas, my co-worker , Janet, asked one of our families if they were ready for Christmas. This family had four children and sadly, dad was alcoholic who spent most of their funds on the purchase of liquor.
" Have you completed your shopping?" Janet inquired of the mom. "Oh, I don't shop", mom replied humbly. "I give my list to the Lord". Janet was puzzled, "How do you that ?" she inquired. Then mom explained, " Well, I gather each child around and ask them to give me one Christmas wish; we write it down, say a prayer and put the list in the Bible. The children understand that if it is God's will, they have their Christmas wish...and, if not, they will understand." Needless to say, as Janet shared this story with me, tears streamed down my face. Ironically, we would have never known about that list..that very private, secret matter... if we had not asked the question about shopping. That mom's deep faith touched and inspired us. We scurried to find any agency or church resource to help us....and help us they did!!!
On the day before Christmas, Janet stopped by that home. "Get that list out of your Bible" Janet demanded. "We're going shopping. The Lord has answered your prayer".
I have lost touch with this family over the years, but trust that mom's quiet, humble faith has produced 4 fine young adults who love the Lord and recall a very special Christmas morning nearly 30 years ago.
I felt compelled to say. “Now Dad, you know you’re not really Santa Claus?” My father had been the mall Santa Claus for over twenty years. Each year, he spent much time getting prepared and would familiarize himself with all the latest toys and electronic gadgets. He would peruse Toys R’ Us and even try some of the hottest new toys so as to speak with authority to his little visitors. He had ready information as to how his elves had a part in either the design or making of each toy. He knew all the customs, folk lore and traditions associated with his namesake’s history. He could tell you things about his seven reindeer even Google has yet to discover. He could very believably weave the proper relationship of Rudolph with Prancer and the rest of the team. Over the years he built an impressive inventory of fascinating solutions to each question or problem a child could pose. Just how does Santa come into a house with out a fireplace anyway?
He loved each child exactly as Santa would. He listened very intently to their desires, always being very careful not to make a promise he couldn’t keep. Never set a child up for disappointment, he would say. On one occasion he hoisted a child up on his lap and began his usual questioning and Christmas comments, when the mother interrupted and said, it doesn’t matter what you say, he is deaf. That realization of his inability to communicate the wonder of Santa to this child nearly devastated Dad. Very soon afterward he enrolled in a community school program to learn sign language. Over a few short years he became very proficient and felt such great reward when a deaf child realized he could communicate with the magic of Santa.
My sister, wife, and I all worked in the local school system and Dad made it his business to know the principals’ names for all the elementary schools. He delighted in seeing the eyes of small children light up when they would say, “You know my Principal!” He would always encourage children to do their very best in school. With a twinkle in his eye, he would often give them a second candy cane with instructions to give it to their principal as a gift from Santa.
Dad saw the good in every child. He believed Santa Claus was such a viable integral part of the true spirit of Christmas. He knew the photo session with Santa was so much more. For a few brief moments, in a bustling mall and with a waiting parent, Dad was Santa to each little boy and girl. Each child left his lap cherishing their special time with Santa. He gave from his heart, with all the realism imaginable, sharing the joy of believing he truly was Santa. Now many years, later at this time of the year, I too, cherish my fond memories and can proudly say, Dad, you really were my Santa. I believe!
My most memorable Christmas happened the year we lived in Hawaii when my 3 daughters were ages 6,4,and 2. As I look back I think it was the BEST Christmas too.
We met many service men while we were there and would bring them home with us after church for dinner and then take them back to their bases after the evening service. They were each very special and had such interesting stories to tell which we loved hearing.
As Christmas came, we decided we needed to share with them too and since money was short, because of the cost of living there, we shared what we could. The girls and I went "shopping"!
We got each one of them a Praying Hands key chain and a small box of chocolates. THEN the girls went outside and picked up small sticks. We wrapped each little package separate that way they each got 3 presents. When they opened them, they had tears in their eyes and it was such a special day. One of them told us that he hadn't received any other present so those were so special!
It just shows how a Simple Christmas with Christ in the center of it does not have to be expensive, stressful, or hurried. The Lord showed us that we just need to allow Him to live in us and thru us.
When I was 11 years old we had the best Christmas. The previous year my dad had started working nights in an attempt to save our family business and would work all day, sleep for 5 or 6 hours and then work the graveyard, come home, and start all over. We tried to save money in every way we could, we even lived in the back of our shop to save on rent. My mother gave birth to twins and soon it became obvious that having a family business was not in the cards for us. My parents sold their store and my dad continued to work the graveyard and mom began working for the school system as a teachers aide. During the Christmas of my 11th year we had lost so much during the sale of the store that we weren’t hopeful for a big Christmas so this is what happened.
We didn’t have a plastic tree and couldn’t afford to buy one so my mom took two pieces of cardboard cut them out and slotted them so they would look like a Christmas tree and it could stand on its own. She painted it green and even painted all the decorations on it. My brother and I made some of the most ridiculous (I’m sure) Christmas gifts for my parents and Christmas eve we sat and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” I’m sure there was supposed to be some meaning to that. Still no gifts under the tree. Of course though, Santa hadn’t been to our house yet because we hadn’t gone to sleep.
In the morning I came out to see a HUGE gift sitting beside the tree with my name on it. It was wrapped with newspaper and was taller and wider than I was.
Beside it was another gift that was pretty big too along with several gifts spread all around the base of our “tree”. My dad had built me a stereo cabinet out of scrap wood, but it looked like he spent a million dollars (at least to me, at the time) and they put enough money together to purchase a small turntable and amplifier with speakers from Radio Shack so I would have a stereo for my cabinet. The rest of the gifts were clothes that my mother made for me, mostly from material she had collected in big boxes over the years.
It still amazes me to this day that they were able to do so much with so little back then and make us feel so loved. We made a tradition of making gifts for each other for years after that, something we have gotten away from since my siblings and I have all gone and started successful jobs, but I miss those days and the way it felt when you got a gift from someone that took more time and attention than running to the store and picking up a gift card.
I live in Mountain Home, Arkansas and work at ASU Mountain Home. I am a grandma now of some wonderful children, but I remember many memorable Christmas's from when I was a child. I was the oldest of five kids and we were very poor growing up. The odd thing about that was that we really didn't know we were poor until we started school and someone was around to tell us how poor we were. But getting back to the Christmas times. We had many, many very slim Christmas mornings. My parents were very hard workers but they just didn't have good paying jobs most of the time. I remember one Christmas that my parents got each of us one thing a piece and spent far less than $5.00 for all of it. But the one Christmas that I will always remember happened when I was about 9 years old. My dad had just gotten a job from one of the wealthiest men in Mountain Home, T.J. McCabe. He worked on some of his farms. We got a house as part of his pay. The house was in town next door to the school those of us that were in school attended. It had no inside bathroom and we got our water from the creek that ran through the yard. But we thought it was great. But again, we were looking at another slim Christmas morning. One day Ms. McCabe stopped my father and gave him a big box filled with wrapped items to take home to his kids. When we opened those gifts, they were far from cheap toys, they were all expensive modern toys..such as a talking Woody WoodPecker just to name one of them. That year was a year that none of us will ever forget including my parents. And it wasn't because we got so much for Christmas but because someone cared enough for someone they didn't even know to give us that Christmas.
About 25 years later, the best that we could figure, one of my sisters and I decided to pay Ms. Sarah McCabe a visit at Christmas time. We took her a Christmas card where we had written down some of our feeling about what she had done for those 5 little kids so many years ago. To the best of our knowledge we had never met Ms. McCabe after that brief time in our lives but we felt we needed to say thank you. Ms. McCabe was touched but said she didn't really remember doing that particular good deed. The reason for that was because she had done it for so many underpriviledged children throughout her lifetime.
I know that she made a difference in my life eventhough I was so young when it happened. I love to see a 'cause' and try to find a way to make a difference and I think that part of that comes from that generous stranger that was in my life for that one Christmas approximately 45 years ago.
Mountain Home, AR
I've been a paid "Santa" for malls and a volunteer "Santa" for various groups in my hometown. From those experiences I've got lots of great stories that I could tell. Some are tear-jerkers and others are quite funny. But my favorite Christmas story was the one my dad experienced as a "Santa" for his Kiwanis Club in 1970.
Dad was great in his "Santa Suit" at 5 feet 7 inches tall with his round 300 pounds. Of course the truth of that great Santa figure is that he was not in the best physical condition, but whether it was his weight or the stress of his job as a car salesman, one night he was unusually tired. The last thing he really wanted to do was fulfill the obligation of putting on the Santa suit and hurrying to address he had been given. It seemed he had been elected by the club to dress up that night and hand out gifts to the children of the membership. He was given an address on a certain street in town to be there for the gift giving performance.
When Dad told the story later he still seemed confused as to how he somehow got the address "messed up in his head." But he was blissfully unaware of his error when he knocked on the "wrong" door in another part of town from that written on the paper. The man who answered the door seemed surprised to see "Santa" standing there. Grabbing my dad's arm he ushered him through the house to a back bedroom stating, "I don't know who sent you, but thank God you came."
In the bed of this child's room was a small boy who had been waging a difficult battle with an illness. His father whispered to my father, "He won't make it to Christmas, he's dying of Leukemia and if you would just go hold his hand, it would mean the world to him."
My father left after a short 20-minute stay and managed to find the correct house a street over from this fateful one. He got caught up in the merriment of the happy healthy children.
After his Santa job for Kiwanis was completed, still in his Santa suit, Dad dropped in on us. He told the story of his being stupidly lost as a matter of little importance. Poor Dad was still too tired to grasp what had happened. "No Dad," I told him, "you weren't lost. God sent you to the one child that needed nothing but you beside him. You were a little miracle!"
One of the most memorable Christmases that I have was when my youngest daughter, Hannah, was small. It was when the “tickle me Elmo” first came out. I had seen them on the shelves at Wal-Mart, but I had no idea that they were going to be hard to get the closer Christmas came. My daughter had wanted one so bad. I put in a rain check for one at the Toys-R-Us in Longview, Texas. I had told my daughter that Santa had asked me to find “little Suzie” one, and the he himself was going to look for her one as well. I got the call from Toys-R-Us. I had no one to watch the girls while I went to pick it up. I told Hannah that I found one for “little Suzie” and that we need to go get it. The girls and I were on our way. We pick up the “tickle me Elmo” and head back home. I had stopped for fuel at a country store just outside of Carthage, Texas. I was fueling my car when I hear a noise. I look up and into the window of my car. I see Hannah in the back seat; she had gotten the toy and was pressing his tummy and playing with it. The more the toy giggled the louder she did. When she pressed him the 3rd time he giggled and shook. She was hysterically laughing and bouncing up and down by this time. She then got out of the car and said, “Mommy watch!” I received such pure joy when she laughed with each press of the tummy. We get home, and I put it away. She never thought any more about the Elmo we had gotten. Christmas morning came early for me as Hannah came in and woke me whispering in my ear with pure excitement, “Mommy, Santa found me a ‘tickle me Elmo’!” I responded with a “He did?” I was just as excited as she was. Hannah is now 16 will be 17 in just over 3 months. She was about 3 when we bought it. She still has the Elmo. He is a little worn, well, a lot worn, but she insists on keeping him. This is the best Christmas that I have ever had.
There are many wonderful Christmas memories in my mind and heart. I was born and raised in Magnolia, AR. The place where they put blue lights on the Magnolia trees. Christmas has always been my favorite day of the year.
The one that stands out is when I was four years old. That was so many years ago. I am now 47 with a family of my own. I remember waking up on Christmas morning and looking at all of my gifts. My two older sisters and younger brother were there with me. My mother fixed us a wonderful breakfast and as we sat down to eat I begin telling stories about hearing Santa coming in the house. I saw as a small child my parents laughing and I started making up even more stories.
We always visited grandparents on Christmas day and eve. That day after visiting my grandparents, we decided to go see my aunt, uncle, and cousins. My cousins being my age and being a girl and boy. My brother and I played with them all evening.
While we were still there we receive a phone call that came from our neighbor telling my parents that our house was on fire. She had called the fire dept. for us. My parents rushed over there to see. A few minutes later my aunt loads all of us kids in the car and we drive over to the house. I remember standing in the yard and watching my house burn. It's a scary thing as an adult, but as a child frightening. I stared at the house holding on to my new doll, Chatty Kathy. Thank goodness I carried her with me. One of my older sisters looked at me and said, "how did you get that?" I explained that I had brought it with me. Of course, everything that she and my other siblings received for Christmas was gone.
I was concerned about our dog in our backyard. Later to find out that Trixie was safe.
We went back to my aunt and uncle's house. My cousin asked me to spend the night with her. I told her no. She pinched me and made me promise to stay. Not really knowing what a promise meant I told her yes. The minute I saw my dad I ran and jumped in his lap and begin crying. That was all it took. He had to leave the room to keep others from seeing his tears. I managed to snick out with my parents and broke my promise. From that moment on when I made a promise I kept it. My dad could just look at me and say, "do you promise." I could never lie about anything when he did that to me. He always knew when I was telling the truth.
We stayed with several relatives the following weeks and finally found a rent house to stay until we built later on.
My dad took all four of to a Sterlings store and we were able to pick out toys that we wanted. My younger brother had a stuffed bear that he named Gentle Ben after the show. It burned in the fire. One of my aunts bought him another one and told him it was him. It seem to make him feel better.
That Christmas we had to have help by family, friends, and our church. I realized then what true joy was. It wasn't the stuff. It was having the ones you love close by.
That was many years ago. I now have three children of my own. I have told them that story over and over.
As for my dad, he is with the Lord. He was killed in a tornado in 1999 along with my brother-in-law. I think of how he and my mom pulled it together to make sure we had what we needed. There wasn't a lot of money, but there was a lot of love.
I was very young, but I remember this Christmas well.
I will begin my story with a brief back ground. I was born on a small farm in midwestern Illinois in the early 1950's.
We lived very modestly with no indoor plumbing, we had to carry our water from the well and an out house that I shared with my 3 brothers, mother and father that was never short on supply of wish books from JC Penney and Sears and Robuck. Outside of the farm my father worked 2 other part time jobs just to make ends meet and we never expected much for Christmas but one thing for certain we would be getting a new pair of socks and jersey gloves.
Shortly after graduating from high school I was drafted into the US Army and always boasted that my senior trip was to Viet Namm and this is where my story begins. Given the back ground that I was brought up in, I did not find it hard as many others did to adjust to the crude and simple living conditions that Viet Namm offered. This was my first time and first Christmas I spent far away from home from family and loved ones that I grew up with. Christmas Eve of 1970 found me on an isolated mountain top where I was serving with the 46th combat engineers.
I and my brother conrads for the most of us experiencing a Christmas without snow, without a Christmas tree, a stiffling humid climate and darkness without electricity. With only a few warm beers and a pack of ciggarettes to share we settled in for our normal routine of sharing stories of home and our past and reminising of Christmas's gone past. This is my family now and we each held a special bond of comarodity. The world I lived in was small and contained, but at midnight from the mountain top view that I had I could see 100 square miles unevenly scattered. Clusters of flares to numerous to count of red, green and white spurtting and spewing into the sky. Marked in celebration like a grand finale like one I've never seen before was the where abouts of other small clusters of fellow GI's far from home but in the same predicament I was in. I never realized till then how many of us who most of them I will never get to know were here and there and everywhere and it brought joy to my heart to know that in this foreign land that I and my fellow soliders for 1 brief moment expressed their regonition of the birth of Christ our savior. A silent but visual expression in a colorful way and I often wondered just how many of us came out of their bunkers to truly witness this spectical. This is my story and I brought it home with me in memory for those who fought and those who never returned.
The call came on Christmas Eve day. Mother was apologizing-"It looks like I will be having emergency surgery tonight. I'm so sorry to spoil your Christmas Eve." We hurried to the hospital in my home town.
That Christmas Eve there was no big decorated tree, only a small one in the ICU waiting room. The whole family wasn't there-only Daddy, my husband, my daughter, and me. Our adopted family that night was waiting room friends who had spent days there. The carolers who came were not in the snow outside our house. They were strolling the hospital hallway.
Morning found Mother having survived a very difficult procedure. Our Christmas dinner was not around the table at home. It was in the hospital cafeteria, but it was Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, lovingly prepared and served by people from a local church.
For several days, the waiting room became home, as the whole family gathered to wait and pray. On the night of January 4, we left the hospital. We left Mother's body there. The Christmas tree still was bright atop the hospital.
Emmanuel, of course, means "God with us." Seventy-two Christmases have come for me, but the Christmas when I really felt "God with us" was when God was all we had-no "trappings" of Christmas. Emmanuel meant Mother was with Him that Januray 4th- and He is with us still. Isn't that,after all, what makes Christmas?
Christmas means so much more to me than anyone will ever know. As a U.S. Naval Reservist, I have been deployed to SW Asia over Christmas time for two of the last four years. I was in Baghdad, Iraq over Christmas 05 and this past Christmas, my unit shifted from Al Asad, Iraq to Kandahar, Afghanistan in the days just after Christmas.
I have a son who is now 10 and a daughter that has just turned nine so they were old enough then to know I was gone, but not old enough to truly understand why. Being gone from my wife and kids over the holidays was as difficult as I expected, but the experience changed me forever for a lot of different reasons. The deployments were tough in different ways, but being gone from family and friends at Christmas was something I was not used to nor could have ever prepared for.
I was lucky enough to be able to send gifts home to family and friends if you can call the local trinkets available at a remote Exchange or outdoor Bazaar in the middle of the Iraqi and Afghan deserts a “gift”. Items for kids were few and far between, but treasures like a brass camel and a locally made dress for my daughter or plastic encased 6 inch scorpion for my son had to do. I was also able to receive gifts from my family as were the other members in my unit. You wouldn’t believe how we decorated our work spaces and our berthing areas with lights, letters, pictures and other items that in any other situation would have just been piled on a desk. Even the smallest of thoughts brought the largest smiles to me and those around me. The DFACs or dinning facilities walls were decorated at Christmas with posters, drawings and letters from people who didn’t know us and we would never meet. Things like that seemed to mean the most, at least to me, knowing that others cared enough to send items to troops that they didn’t know and did it just to brighten someone else’s day.
I watched as we all shared food and gifts with those who had received nothing, troops from other nations and even with the local children living just beyond the wire of the base at Kandahar Airfield. Sharing stories, cookies and food with your fellow troops around a burn barrel at night provided memories that will last a lifetime. There is nothing like sharing what little you have received from halfway around the world with others to remind you what Christmas is really all about. We received gifts of food and other handmade items from local individuals that we worked with. These people went out of their way, spent their money and even risked their safety to bring gifts to US troops just because they cared.
Basically the meaning of Christmas for me has been changed forever. I have seen the best and the worst of humanity and even in the face all this, the goodness of the vast majority of people still shine through. It reminded me of the fragility of life, that we should never take even the smallest of life’s gifts for granted and the season of Christmas is the greatest gift of all to each of us!
During the early years of the 60’s our mother was unexpectedly hospitalized right before Christmas. My three younger brothers and I managed to agree on how to be with her at Christmas because we missed her terribly!
We had a tin cup (actually it was my dad’s USMC issued cup) that looked like it would do the job. I bundled up my three brothers in the entire winter garb that we could find and headed out to every door in the neighborhood to sing Christmas carols. Just four little kids holding a tin cup out to them for a donation. Some people were friendly and some even concerned. Most people put some money in the cup.
The journey that night profited $8.63. More money than we had ever owned. As her daughter I knew exactly what she needed. So off to the Woolworth’s store we went with our eye on the prize of a new jewelry box. You know the one with crushed velvet on the inside with a little mirror. It would replace the cigar box that had gold spray painted macaroni glued all over it. We then had to purchase a necklace and matching earrings so that she would have something in her jewelry box. To top off our Woolworth experience we picked out the biggest, most beautiful Christmas card especially for Mother.
On the way home we stopped in a second hand store in an alley close to our home. We still had a little money rattling in our tin cup. We laid our eyes on the perfect set of aluminum tumblers and serving tray that would complete our gift to our Mother.
After we arrived at home we begged our Dad to take us to see our Mother. He explained to us that kids were not allowed in the hospital, but with hope he took us anyway. The hospital did make an exception to the rule and allowed us to visit. We let our youngest brother, Paul give her our gifts. As we stood around her bed our hearts were knit together with love.
One of memorable Christmas happened in 2005. I had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004 at the age of 43, at the time our child was in preschool. After surgery and 6 months of chemo I was cancer free. Then a spot showed up on a CAT scan the next year, the doctor was very concerned since it was in the area of my surgery so he ordered a PET scan for Christmas week. Needless to say that week had us (me and my husband; plus our family and friends) remembering how precious life is and what Christmas is really about. After waiting several days on 12/23/05 at 4:30 p.m. (if we didn’t hear that day it would be the next week because of the holidays) we found out that the PET scan was clear and the spot wasn’t cancerous.
I did have a relapse in 2007, once again surgery and months of chemo but hopefully this will my last bout. I heard you on the radio as I’m getting ready for a quarterly oncologist visit and remembered how much we had to celebrate that Christmas with each other. Thank you for all you do for us, my daughter Catherine (now in 5th grade) and I listen to you every morning in Fort Worth on WBAP on the way to school.
Christmas 2005 will forever live in my heart as a miracle Christmas. We were over 999 miles away from home but we were together and nothing else seemed to matter. Sam (our oldest son at 11 years old) had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia that August and after almost two months of unsuccessful treatment; we had flown to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas in hopes of finding a successful treatment plan. We had experienced everything the horrible disease could offer, and as Christmas time rolled around, our primary doctor was sure there was not a possibility of being “home” for Christmas. So my husband, Scott and youngest son, Seth (then eight) flew down to spend our last Christmas with Sam; between staying at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Houston. The day before Christmas Eve, Sam was released with the understanding he would need to come in Christmas Eve to receive some type of blood product as his counts were so low. For us, that was great news; life outside the hospital walls seemed somewhat “normal” and RMH almost was as homey as home. Sam on the other hand preferred the hospital, as it was reassuring to have so many caring people a buzzer call away, to help him if he needed it. And there was a TV right in front of him (at RMH there were only TVs in the three family rooms, which everyone staying at RMH shared). But as always, Sam put on his brave face and tried to be excited to be leaving for our home away from home. We had been blessed with many caring people mailing many gifts to us, and a group through the Candle Lighters (group to support families with children with cancer) had adopted our family and had provided gifts too gracious to explain, but the gifts didn’t seem to even matter that precious year. We ended up driving the Chevy Cavalier down to the Gulf and played miniature golf at a little tourist spot in Galveston and eating “Jack in the Box” hamburgers and chicken sandwiches from the drive through. We headed back to the Ronald McDonald house; we had spent the day walking on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico and laughing at Seth, as he had at least twenty “Wait, that shot didn’t count” miniature golf shots and Sam getting a hole in one. Nothing could have been better. Almost as soon as we got “home” Sam started coughing, a sure sign for mom that he had spiked a temperature. I took his temp. and called the emergency room of MD Anderson. By 9pm we were in the emergency room being admitted. The emergency room would not allow children to be in that area, so Seth was sent to sit in the waiting room, by himself in the fourth largest city in the Untied States! When the commotion of being admitted was done, Seth was allowed to go the hospital room with the rest of us. It was only after Sam was settle in his room that I realized how hard he had pushed himself, to make sure his family had a fun filled Christmas. I know now, that God gave him the strength he needed to create that precious memory of that fun time together. Miracles happen everyday; we have to be attentive to notice them!
Over 2,000 years ago, a young man and girl were far from home, and also had some very unique admittance problems, but as we know, the most miraculous miracles of miracles came from that setting! Let us never lose sight of Jesus, His human struggles and sufferings, and His great love for us, to come to earth to endure so much to ensure us eternal life. Praise God forever and ever! Many blessing to each of you and yours!
Thomas Kelly was the sixth of eight children. He grew up on the family farm in the small community of Carlisle in southern Union County SC. He learned early in life the value of hard work and of a dollar. After we were married and our two sons came along, he with shake his head as I dithered about what to buy for whom, etc. etc. during the Christmas season. He would shake his head and tell me that the most of us had Christmas all wrong. "You give gifts to people who will give you gifts in return," he would say, shaking his head. "All you're really doing is swapping gifts!" But he knew how to keep Christmas. A week or so before Christmas Eve the basement of our house would begin to fill up with boxes of fruit, candy, and large paper grocery bags. Christmas Eve morning he would get out of bed singing (if you could call it that - God bless him, he couldn't have carried a ture melted down and in a bucket with the lid on tight) and as happy as any child. He and the boys, Tommy and Charlie, would fill the bags and load them into the back of our red Ford pickup truck and away they would go. The race and gender of the recipients didn't matter, as long as there was a need and in many cases that bag was the ONLY Christmas gift the person would receive. One of our sons told me later that as they were leaving one home, my husband remarked to the recipient, "Better be good, Santa Clause is coming." They replay came back, "He already has." Mr. Huckabee, is it any wonder that years later when our older son, Tommy, was in seminary and was assigned to preach in Chapel Christmas week on the subject, "A Symbol of Christmas", that he chose as his symbol a red Ford pickup truck?
As a volunteer firefighter for 23 years, one of my more pleasant annual assignments was helping Durango's "Project Merry Christmas" deliver toys, food, and clothing to needy families just before Christmas. One winter, about 15 years ago, my engine crew was having a hard time delivering all of our "goodies" on Christmas Eve because of a major blizzard that struck our area. As my team and I chained up the fire engine, and slogged thru the remaining deliveries, we were all aware of the Christmas eve we were missing with our own families. Finally, about 10pm we (barely) drove our pumper up to the front door of a single wide mobile home on the East part of the town. All 4 of us jumped out of the truck, grabbed four bags of toys, canned goods, and clothes. We waded thru the snow in our bunker gear to reach the front door.
A woman in her 20's answered our knock, carrying an infant in one arm, with two other kids clutching onto her dress, no doubt partially terrified by these four big guys dressed up as firefighters! As we deposited our bags inside the modest, but neatly kept home, the close to 4 year old boy tugged on his momma's dress and asked:
"Mommy...is all of this from Santa Claus?"
Mother removed her eyes from the inquiring youngster, and looked into each of our eyes with a penetrating gaze that I still have a hard time describing today. She then carefully and slowly said "Son, this is as close to Santa Claus as you're ever going to see".
The trip back to the station was as silent as it could have been. I've now retired from the department, but that night stands out as a God given gift...The night one family gave to me far more than I ever could expect...
The true meaning of Christmas.
Two years ago, in mid December, I took my three grandchildren to a Christmas Angel Tree for shopping. To our surprise, there were no children's Angel lists still available. Only adult special-needs Angels remained. That's a hard sell to three children eager to buy toys and fun stuff for children their own age, for ANY adult gift.
I happened to look across the mall and saw a toy store where there was a Toys for Tots display manned by two marines. So there we went! I explained to the children this was a Toys for Tots toy store and to go in and buy a toy they'd like to receive. The oldest boy quickly chose Star Wars items. The middle child, a granddaughter, chose a big Barbie set. Both were ready to purchase their gifts and go on to the day's activities. But the youngest grandson, age 4, was sitting on the floor contemplating between a police car and a set of motorcycles. He'd decide on the police car, then go back and exchange it for the motorcycles. This went on for about 30 minutes. So, I gave him a deadline, he decided on the police car, we dropped the gifts in a huge box, and away we went.
I know from experience, as a child myself and a mother, that sometimes children misunderstand the words we are saying then substitute their own meaning to the words. This was the case with my youngest grandson. As we were leaving the mall, he took my hand and asked "Mumsie, why were we buying Toys for Cops?"
It's the sweetest, dearest story. And l love that he gave so much thought about the best gift for a policeman at Christmastime.
My Christmas story is when I was a young girl. Their was 9 kids in our family but we had so much love that we didn’t know we were wanting for anything, although mom and dad couldn’t get us very much. But one year I wanted a baton so badly that I left clues all over and told everyone that would listen to me. Christmas morning came and I did get that baton and that memory will stay with me forever. Actually that is the only Christmas I remember. I am now 52 and I still have a baton. Guess sometimes we still have a child living inside us. And I thank God for that.
I was returning home for Christmas during my first year in Graduate School at the State University of Iowa in 1959. I was traveling on very icy roads and was approaching a curve when an 18 wheeler came around that bend. It jackknifed a few feet in front of my car, slid across my lane, went into the ditch, and ended up in the frozen field. If I had gone a few feet further, he would have hit my car head on and pushed my crumpled vehicle into that same ditch and field. My most important Christmas gift was the rest of my life.
I'm sure I will always remember my very first Christmas as a married man. My wife and I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, while our parents (both sets) lived in a town called Maryville, which is about thirty minutes away.
After going to "Midnight Mass" on Christmas Eve, we got little sleep, as we had to be up and at my wife's parents' house by 6am. My wife really wanted to be there to see her youngest sister's reaction to what Santa was leaving. It was a great morning!
At about noon, we headed straight on over to my parents' house, on the other side of town. We opened gifts, and had a big lunch with them. It was a lot of fun!
Then, as I was the music director and an on air personality for Knoxville's 100,000 watt Pop radio station, I realized that the timing was a little off for the day. That meant that I was needed for work immediately. I didn't want to disturb others on their Christmas holiday, and I realized that I was one of the only people who truly knew how to fix the problem, so I hopped in the car with my wife, and we drove back up to Knoxville to troubleshoot at the radio station.
After fixing the station's timing, we had to drive back to Maryville to get ready for a big dinner party at wife's parents' house again. It was a delicious evening filled with beef tenderloin, and as much pie as one person could ever eat. It was amazing!
Finally, it was time for my wife and I to head back to our home in Knoxville...remember, we had been up since 5am, and we got home from church at 1:30am the night before. As you might be able to guess, my wife fell asleep on the way home, and I had to give myself a few slaps to keep from doing so myself.
As I got her up, and convinced her to make the trek from our car all the way up to our apartment, she reminded me that we hadn't exchanged gifts yet. We also hadn't been alone for the entire day, except for our many trips in the car.
Once we got up to the apartment, we both made a move for the couch, instead of heading to our present hiding places. We were somehow on the exact same wave-length, and knew that spending a moment together, alone, on Christmas was far more important than opening each other's presents.
We sat together on the couch and hugged each other tight as we looked at our beautiful Christmas tree. It seemed that we had spent all day trying to make our parents happy by accomodating the time they demanded to get with us, and we hadn't spent much time thinking about our needs as a couple.
We didn't say much, we simply sat and hugged, and tried hard to stay awake to enjoy the moment.
As it was our first Christmas as a married couple, it truly felt like the greatest single moment I could ever know. I'm positive that I'll always remember that single moment we shared together before passing out on our first Christmas.
The year was 1974. My sister was 4 and I was 6. We were visiting my Grandparents
little country church in Saddle, Arkansas for Christmas Eve services. We were the only kids in the church that
night that didn't have a part in the children's Christmas program. After the kids finished their program, the
music leader asked if anyone else wanted to sing any songs. My mom leaned over and whispered something in
our ears and then told the elderly gentleman that we would like to sing a song. You can imagine the stares from
the congregation as these two little girls stood up in the front of the church and started singing "happy birthday to
you, happy birthday to you...... Happy Birthday dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you." You could have heard a pin
drop in that little country church as we finished. The music leader stood up and said "well, I wasn't sure what
they were doing when they started but I believe these little girls sumed it up just as well as
anyone could." I still love thinking about that Christmas even though it has been 35 years since that
Christmas Eve service. Mom and Dad still chuckle about it too. Such a sweet Christmas memory.
Mountain Home, AR
In the days before e-mail, satellite communication, and affordable international phone calls, I, an all-American female, was teaching in a foreign land and looking forward to celebrating Christmas there with other American and ex-patriate teachers and friends of our host country as well. The past weeks had been festive with bright lights and colorful cartoon-type decorations dotting the store fronts. With warm smiles and sparkling eyes, friends and shop-keepers alike greeted us with “Merry Christmas” in their lilting English with native accents.
On Christmas morning, the snow fell softly, steadily, on the quiet city and countryside. I cautiously negotiated the the snowy sidewalks of the silent, sleeping city, and finally managed to hail one lone taxi ambling up the pine-lined avenue where I lived.
“Merry Kressmas!” the taxi driver called out as he swung open the back door of the taxi while veering to a stop. “Church, please,” I requested, knowing there was only one Christian church in this city of two million. He nodded knowingly as he moved the dial on his car radio to an English music station that offered up the mellow tones of Elvis singing “Blue Christmas.”
“American-ee?” the driver inquired with a broad smile. “Yes,” I replied, often being mistaken for a Brit or Swede. For a brief moment my heart skipped a beat and memories of family at home brought tears to my eyes. Quickly, I turned my thoughts to the past weeks of holiday preparation in this lovely, enchanted land….the Swedish Bazzar at the foot of the mountains, offering hand-made tree decorations and warm Wassel; the easy-bargaining with shopkeepers for special, unique treasures soon to be sent home.
“Angels we have heard on high….” From the radio filled the taxi in English voices so familiar to my heart.
Soon we reached the turquoise and gold façade of the Christian church which held its worship first in the native language and then in English. Both, meaningful and reverent, glorified the Birth of the Christ-Child. Majestic music, as always, echoed the international language of Love.
Later in the week, I flew with Armenian friends to the Holy Land where snow was falling again…a rare spectacle in Jerusalem, as the New Year welcomed the dawn. Eager to return to my “home away from home” and the tasks that awaited me there, my heart thrilled with the prospects for new beginnings.
So much has changed since that memorable holiday season abroad…
So much progress in technology, yet so much departure in thought!
My Christmas wish for the world is that one day life can be harmonious again between “old friends and new.”
Silver and gold cannot compare to that year…1975-l976. And “change” cannot remove the memories of that welcoming “home away from home” - the country of Iran! But the Purpose of the Christ Child’s mission lives on in hearts undivided by Love!
This story, like myself, has a bit of age built into the memory. My two sons are now 27 and 29 years of age and the story happens about when the oldest, Jerimiah, was about five years old.
It, as most Christmas stories, takes place on a very cold night of Christmas eve. We live then and now in western South Dakota where the air can be very crisp when the temperature dips below a minus twenty degrees F. This was such a night as I recall. We as a family attended church services at our local church in a town of only 300 electric meters and not all were in actual service. So we are truly small and all aquatinted with each other. After services we had our semi-usual meal with good friends with children of similar age. Many events and instances were discussed by the adults and the children played at something that obviously did not alarm us or cause us to take notice. Therefore, I would have considered it a good night, especially considering the mischief our two boys could manage to bring to the surface. We honestly had a great evening of fellowship and friendship that still exists today. The evening did manage to become exhausted and it was time for us to head back into the cold and a several mile ride into the ‘country’ to our house.
We arrived home and our two car garage was, as most, relegated to only a one car garage and the pickup always takes precedent for cover as who know what the weather may bring in the next few minutes. Myself an EMT and first line of defense for those living in rural America, a vehicle that will always start and force its’ way through snow drifts is a must, so the reason for it being in the garage and the car out.
As I recall I drove, our car was a two door and my wife quickly exited the other side and with her the youngest, Jake and Jerimiah got out on the drivers side. It was so cold that just breathing was hard as it seemed to take your breath away. We moved quickly to the door and as I and Jerimiah reached the door a shooting star blazed it’s way across the southern sky, and it was beautiful with the background of all the other stars. Cold nights seem to make the stars brighter. Jerimiah with all the innocence of a child he was, begin to yell and jump up and down that it was Santa in his sleigh, He’s coming Dad! He’s really coming! He was so excited. Regretfully, all I could say was ‘get inside it is too cold to be out here’. We both went inside to heat. What a fool I was then. I have regretted that moment and what I said for the past twenty-four years. I wish I had recognized the intent of his words and taken the time to be with him for the moment, shared his passion, shared his feelings, and allowed myself to reenter my lost world of childhood and more so be the Dad I should have been at that moment. I think I knew my error instantly but still did nothing to save the moment of good parenthood.
I wrote this story for a church Christmas eve program some years back in an effort to make myself feel better. It did not work. However, the reader summed it up at the end, mindful that no one in the church knew the author, by saying it is never too late to say I love you to your children no matter the age.
I put my arm around my adult son’s shoulder and said I am sorry and I love you. I didn't care if anyone in the church noticed or not. He smiled at me. I cannot make up the evening ever, but I have never forgot that profound missed opportunity and each time I speak with him now, I tell him thanks. I really do love him and his brother.
Last year I picked up a job at a Walmart as a cashier. It was a big struggle for me. I'm an ordained minister, and while I knew I could help people and encourage them and be a good friend as well as a minister in any job, I still couldn't help that feeling I should be doing something more.
Well last Christmas God subtly reminded me he could do more through me than I could do on my own, regardless of where I was working, a pulpit or a cash register.
A lady came through my line one day, fairly sober and sad. As a cashier, I make small talk, and so I asked if she was looking forward to a great Christmas. She surprised me by saying, "Honestly, no. My son was in a terrible car wreck this week and he's only just now improving. But we'll be having Christmas in the hospital."
At that point, anyone who's been through rough times can tell you there isn't much you can say to help. Everything sounds empty, because we simply aren't feeling the same pain as they are.
But I said a couple things as I tendered the transaction about how I had a rough Fall that year and how God sometimes lets these things happen to slow us down. Instead of all the wrapping paper and traffic and money spending, they'd be all together and focusing on each other. She said thanks and went on her way.
Two weeks later she came back through my line. I had seen thousands of customers, didn't recognize her, but she picked my lane on purpose. I had just come back from break and didn't have my nametag on, but she said, "Jared, right?" Some of her family were with her, and they said, "What, you know his name?" as I pulled out my tag and said yes.
She then reminded me of my kind words and thanked me for being brave and she told me God had put me in that place at that time just to give her a special Christmas message. I asked her how their Christmas had gone, and with a smile she said, "It was the best Christmas we have ever had."
My wife and children will be surprised by the following confession: I wasn't trying to build memories of Christmas when we used to go trudging through the snow to find a Christmas tree to cut. I do have fond memories of those days, but they were by accident, not on purpose. It was fun to take the tree home and then watch them decorate it with colored paper chains and popcorn strung on a string.
I do prefer to cut my own tree, but cutting the tree is not a particular joy of mine. I prefer to cut my own tree because I am cheap. (When my wife reads this she will heave a hearty "amen!") I am cheap and red cedar trees are plentiful. With landowner permission, red cedars are free for the taking in Kansas. End of discussion.
My Christmas scrooginess has not been without problems, though.
One year we brought home a nicely shaped, pasture grown beauty. I didn't know that there were "male" and "female" cedar trees. This one promptly proved its masculinity by spreading its branches and pollinating everything in sight. It smelled like a whole family of frenzied skunks had panicked and run rampant through our house. But that was a mild stink compared to the one my wife raised. ("Yes, dear. You did tell me that you wanted to buy an artificial tree this year. No. dear. I didn't know that there were male and female trees. Next year I'll cut one with berries on it, O.K.?")
Another time, we brought home a lovely tree. It was exquisite when it was decorated. It was near perfect! As it warmed itself in our cozy home, some tiny creatures that lived in the tree began to awaken from their winter's sleep. Gnats. Thousands and millions of gnats awoke and began to warm themselves.
When we awoke the next day, our living room was one huge cloud of gnats! I thought I was dreaming. Of course Mary, my wife, was delirious with joy! Our children have wonderful Yuletide memories of their fly swatter flailing mother chasing their hysterically laughing father around and around a gnat filled room. She even managed to swat a few gnats in the process. ("No, dear. I didn't know that gnats nested in red cedar trees.")
Then there was the time I decided to trim some branches on the tree with a chainsaw after it was already set up in the living room. That's a whole other story!
And now it is past time to get another Christmas tree. Every grocery store and corner market will have a selection of trees to choose from. Artificial trees will be available at every department store in a wide variety of styles and colors.
My opinion? I say you can pick whatever tree you like, especially a pasture grown, Kansas red cedar.
More than anything, Christmas is the infant Son of God coming to proclaim the release of the captives, and the binding up of the wounds of the broken hearted.
Christmas is the offer of salvation, rich and full, freely offered by the Son of God. Rich and full and free.
Free: just like my red cedar. What price tag can you put on the celebration of Christmas? God sent His only begotten Son. Free!
Jesus gave His life for me. Free.
He died for me, by way of a tree. If you haven't selected a tree yet, choose that one.
Free. A free tree is always good.
We had become 'foster parents'!!! We were asked to provide temporary shelter for girls when they were they needed a safe place and there was no place for them to go. When I proposed this to my family I explained that it would mean a lot of sharing. They would have to share their home, their parents time, the family income, the bathroom time, help with homework; in other words at would not be all sunshine and roses. My family was discussing the situation when my 12 year old daughter said, " if we are "Christians" we will do it.".
We had two girls that had been with us for several months and our two children. This was our second year as foster parents. We had had one older girl in our home. Dee was a silent withdrawn girl. She had been placed in a home when her mother died. She was under two and her father could not take care of her and work. There was no family to care for her. Her other brothers and sisters were old enough to stay with their dad. Dee was one of the system 'throw always' before she was two. She was sheltered in an institution. She was never held unless it was necessary and never 'bonded'. She never looked you in the eye and her answers were monotone and short. She wore the uniform of the time; torn jeans, sloppy top and hair in her eyes. She had no place to go when the foster care system age limit came, so she signed up for military duty. (She was never going to pass all the tests to go, but the system did not tell her.) While she lived with us she never would touch or let us touch her. No hugs!? no sitting and watching TV all together crowded on the sofa. Knowing her time was limited she talked one of our long time girls into 'running' with her. They ended up over a thousand miles from home. They were picked up as juveniles since Lynn was under age. Dee was given 90 days for influencing an underage girl into running away.
It was Christmas Eve morning and Dee showed up at my door. The judge gave her time off since it was Christmas. She wanted to get in touch with her sister. I did not want her in my house, she was a bad influence and I did not trust her. I told her as much but let her call her sister under my watchful eye. Sister not home. We lived in a moderate climate at the time so I told her she could wait outside and call later. This procedure was repeated several time throughout the day. It was time to eat before Christmas Eve service. I asked her if she wanted to eat with us and in her signature monotone she said, “that would be nice".
It was time for church. Dee had always fought going to church with us. I told her she could wait outside or come with us. He flat-toned reply was, "I guess I'll go". My husband was working the afternoon shift, as usual when there was a problem. We came home from church and still no sister. I called my husband and told him I didn't know what to do. I did not want her with the other kids. I finally had to ask her if she wanted to stay and dot her usual, "that would be nice" reply.
Bedtime and I am panicked. We would all be opening our gifts the next morning. Even if I did not want her there I could not face everyone opening gifts and she would have to watch. So at midnight I am switching gifts out of other packages. A pair of socks, a tablet, a little gift here and there. Each was wrapped separately. They last longer that way.
Christmas morning: Everyone is in the front room waiting for the gifts to be handed out. One at a time they would be opened so we could all share the gift. Everyone had gotten their second one except Dee who did not expect one anyway. When I handed her the package she looked at me and asked me, "what was it for?". I told her it was from 'Santa' even if she was way too old for that story. She finally opened her little gift and was amazed when another came her way. After the gift opening she tried once again to call her sister. When it failed to provide an out, I asked her if she wanted to eat with us. Her "that would be nice" reply came. After Christmas dinner we, , all cleaned, up and as I was going into the family room she met me in the doorway and reached out and touched me! she gave me an awkward hug(never learned how to do it) and said, " Nobody every did anything like this for me before. Thank you."
The next time she tried, she got in touch with her sister who came and got her. Wow! The few little things we did and gave, under protest, were real gifts to her.
Dee went her way and I never saw her again but I just found that she died this last year of cancer. She did have someone in her life that she loved and he loved and took care of her. But when I think about the real meaning of Christmas I always recall her joy in getting so little.
Thank you for the honor and privilege of being able to share my Christmas story with you. One of my most memorable Christmas stories was also one of God’s greatest Blessings of my life. I am 56 years old and I have a 53-year old sister (Leanne) who has Down Syndrome. In 1964 when I was 11 years old, my parents (Steve and Rosemary) had enrolled my sister in a special needs school in Pueblo, Colorado, and I was invit, , ed to play a piano ‘Christmas concert’ for them. I had only been taking lessons for about 3 years and I was terrified at the prospect of playing to a captive audience.
After I finally mustered the courage to embarrass myself, and after I blundered through my rendition of several Christmas Carols, my entire audience of developmentally challenged kids literally swarmed me in a loving embrace of gratitude and appreciation. I will never forget that moment in time. Their universal outpouring of unconditional love was complete with hugs all ‘round and endless streams of “thank you” and “Merry Christmas”. It was as if these kids had known me all their lives! They had no hidden agendas, no egos to satisfy, and no restraint whatsoever in their expressions of love and deep appreciation for my efforts. They accepted me and genuinely loved me just as I was - - complete with all my stage fright and deficiencies in the piano-playing department!
It wasn’t until later in life when I began to invest time in my personal study of the Bible that I came to realize that what I experienced that Christmas Eve day so many years ago was the manifestation of precisely the kind of limitless unconditional love that Jesus Christ wants each and every one of us to be able to express and receive every day! That realization also saddened me because so many of us spend our whole life never getting even one opportunity to experience that kind of innocent heartfelt love and acceptance. Isn’t it interesting that we have the audacity to consider ourselves the so-called “normal” element of God’s human creation!
Leanne was never expected to live beyond the age of 4, and my parents were strongly encouraged by her Doctors to put her away in a sanitarium or institution. By the Grace of God, my parents had the courage to just say no. Along with my other sibling Steve, we all grew up together as a complete family unit. It was challenging at times, but rewarding in so many ways that I cannot begin to articulate here. Leanne became and still is a productive individual in society. She works at Pueblo Diversified Industries and is actually transitioning into a ‘semi-retirement’ mode there, focusing on her personal independent living skills.
I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a contest request to write about your “Best Christmas”, and for some reason that stuck in my head trying to figure out which Christmas I would consider the best. After hearing the contest ad several more times over several days it finally hit me, it was so obvious but at the same time not so obvious.
I spent time running many Christmases through my head, from when I was young and Christmas was like the most anticipated and exciting day in the world, to an adolescent when I would sneak around and find out all my gifts before Christmas and then pretend that I was surprised Christmas morning, and then I thought about when my wife and I had our first Christmas together, and of course when our children were young and seeing the same magic in their eyes I had when I was young.
Now my wonderful wife and I are empty nesters with our son living in California and our daughter living about 2 hours away. So you would think that the obvious answer would be that the best Christmas was one when our children were young and we would be up early, after a late evening wrapping each gift knowing that the paper would be ripped to shreds within moments of being seen, and those sleepless nights by the kids only to get up early and start ripping open gifts in our pajamas, taking bad pictures and hearing a hundred “thank you, thank you”s said. But none of those Christmases are what I decided was the best Christmas. I considered the first Christmas my wife and I spent together, we had our own tree, we had our own decorations, we still got up early and exchanged our gifts before heading off to our parent’s homes. But no, I didn’t choose that wonderful Christmas either. Ok so you may have narrowed it down to when I was young and Santa was very real to me, and I could not wait to see what he left me under the tree, but no even though that was a very special and magical time in my life, I did not pick any Christmases from my childhood as the best Christmas.
So which Christmas is the best Christmas? As I said, after much thought it became so obvious, the best Christmas is always the next Christmas, why? Because the next Christmas can be anticipated every day of the year, you can look forward to giving and spending time with those you love, you can look forward to seeing the magic in the eyes of the young family members and the joy in the eyes of everyone else as they give, receive, and express their gratitude, and you know you will spend time together eating a wonderful Christmas dinner. There will be many laughs, smiles and hugs; Christmas can heal the wounds from the past, even if only for a day, and Christmas strengthens the love between family members, as it is the one day of the year it is easiest to say I love you. The next Christmas is the one you can hope all your family is together for. The next Christmas is the one that you can wonder and dream about.
In the recent Disney animation film “Polar Express” there is a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh, who’s bright ring, is able to be heard only by those who believe in Santa Clause and the true meaning of Christmas. We have one of those silver bells from the movie as one of the ornaments on our tree, each year now I unwrap it and ring it just to make sure I can still hear it. For me it’s always the hope and anticipation of that next Christmas that makes me still hear the bell, and it is the one that you can hope all year long will be the best Christmas ever.
West Richland, WA
Several years ago, my son and his wife Betsy, were visiting us in Arkansas for Christmas and staying in our cabin. Betsy's children and grandchildren were driving down from Alaska to join them. A snowstorm had slowed their planned arrival.
Finally getting to town midday on Christmas Eve, this left almost no time for the planned gift shopping trip. As they hurried through the small town square in Salem, a pretty party dress in a window caught the eye of five year old Rachael. Her father tried to purchase it, as it would be her only present. Being short on cash this would be a good time to use the credit card, only to find out the store POS machine was not working. He hurried on the only banks ATM machine to get some cash, but to his misfortune the ATM machine was out of order and the bank already closed. Time had run out and Rachael did not have a present.
A little disheartened that evening the families in the cabin were at least enjoying being together in the spirit of the season. The remote cabin was atop a hill overlooking a river bottom with an access road that came across the river.
While Rachael's Mom was looking out the window, a car had stopped at the bottom of the hill unable to climb the deep snow. A man in a suit got out and trudged the last eight of a mile on foot to the cabin.
Lo and behold he was Mike Richardson from the Bank of Salem, carrying a beautifully wrapped package for Rachael containing the pretty little party dress.
When word had traveled through town about the visitors from Alaska and their predicament, our small town banker took it upon himself to be a real Santa.
A small town with a big heart was keeping the spirit of Christmas alive and well.
December 23, 1971 I put in my last day of work, my 11month old son and I was making plans to travel to spend Christmas with our family. At that time our family was my parents house. My husband was in Vietnam. Everything was packed out and we would leave early the morning of the 24th. I was excited for my son's first Christmas. I was couldn't sleep so when the phone rang at 10:30 I was still up. It was My husband! His first words were "Honey I'm coming home." I ask when he replied as soon as he could get there. He stated that he was flying stand by and had no idea when he would arrive. He told me to go ahead and go to my parents house so that I would not be alone on Christmas. He went on to say that if he could get close to West Plains, Mo. or Mtn. Home, Ar. he would call me at my parents and let me know of arrival plans. I was so excited that I for sure couldn't sleep. President Nixon had started the early outs for troops from Vietnam. My husband and I had both been praying that he would get the early out and would be home before his scheduled date in March to come home, it was going to happen. It was so late when I received my husband's phone call I couldn't share the good news with anyone. Phone calls were made early the next morning. My son and I went ahead and went to my parents. Everytime the phone rang I jumped and ran.The long awaited phone call didn't come until 11:45 p.m. It was my husband! He was going to be in Springfield, Mo. at 7:00 a.m. That was a two and a half hour drive under good circumstances. The circumstances were terrible. My father was on patrol as a policeman, he advised us not to go due to extreme poor visibility due to fog. My Mom said we are going! My brother and his friend was out on the town, my father was able to find them, he advised them to go home and drive us to Springfield. We started out sure enough it was a a dangerous drive. At times we had to roll down the window to look at the yellow line to keep the car in the lane, five hour later by the grace of God we made it! My husband arrived on time. So there in that airport, on Christmas day my Bronze Star decorated war hero had arrived home! His welcoming party consisted of his wife,son, and the three who had got use there. I was overjoyed with my Christmas present that year.
My favorite Christmas memory occurred in 1990. I had been very busy and was unable to take my son to the mall to see Santa until the weekend before Christmas. I sat Andy in Santa's lap and backed up to snap a picture. As he spoke, Santa got an odd look on his face and he called me over. Santa asked me, "Who is Juan Carlos?". You see, Andy had been very worried that his friend Juan Carlos wasn't going to be getting any presents and had asked me several times, "What are we going to do about Juan Carlos?". When it was his turn to sit on Santa's lap and Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Andy replied "Don't bring me any presents this year. Bring mine to Juan Carlos. His mom doesn't have any money to buy him any presents and he can't even play outside anymore since his little brother died. My mom and dad will get me something."
Santa wanted to know about Juan and his family. I didn't know much. I knew that he was from an immigrant family consisting of a single mother and several small children, and that while in the care of a young sitter, Juan's brother and another toddler had followed some of the older children who were walking to the store and they were hit by a train.
Santa told me to find out about the family and to call the Marine Corp Reserve Unit and ask for Doc. I went home and called around to find out about the family. When I called Doc the next day he asked me to come and pick up gifts for the children. My mother and I added a few more and we delivered them on Christmas Eve. The family wasn't home, so we left the items with their neighbor. We stopped by the next day to make sure that they got the gifts and Andy was right. The only toys the children had were the ones we had delivered. Juan's mother was so grateful. She had tears in her eyes as she repeatedly thanked us. I have never been more proud in my life. My son, a first grader who wholeheartedly believed in Santa, thought of his friend before his self. This will always be my favorite Christmas memory.
The year was 1975, my brother was six years old and I was eight. It was the first Christmas I can remember and it was indeed a very special one. At that age, my brother and I didn’t have money to purchase our parents Christmas gifts; in fact we probably couldn’t even count money yet. But this is the one Christmas that has always lived in my memories for the last 34 years.
My brother and I searched the house to make something for our parents that Christmas. We looked and looked and finally decided on making a knick knack shelf made out of cereal cardboard boxes and lots and I mean lots of scotch tape. After it was completed, we found some figurines (maybe some small play toys) and placed one in each small compartment in the shelf. We then wrapped up the gift to present to our parents on Christmas day.
We anxiously waited for Christmas so we could watch the impressions on our parents face when they opened up our Christmas gift. And of course they were all smiles when they opened up the gift; they cherished the gift so much that they placed it on their bedroom cabinet to proudly display. My brother and I were so excited to see our parents so thrilled with our handmade gift.
As the years went by we eventually started working and had money to purchase our parents Christmas gifts. They were happy of course to open and receive those gifts, but I still think they best gift they ever received from my brother and I was that handmade gift we made 34 years ago made out of old cereal boxes and lots of scotch tape.
Now years later when our parents reach their retirement age, they now have to live on a tight budget to make ends meet. So one year when things were very tight for them financially they made us a scrap book picture frame made out of old pictures of my brother and I growing up with them. I have to say, that gift they made for us out of old faded pictures and a cardboard frame was the best Christmas gift my brother and I received. It brought tears to our eyes.
Christmas indeed is not about how much we spend for our loved ones and friends, but it is the true love expressed in trying to show them how much we care for them. In today’s world it’s so easy to click a couple of buttons to purchase anything especially with the use of the internet. But those good old days, of hand crafted gifts make a far better gift that shows our true heartfelt love for our family and friends.
South Lebanon, OH
My best Christmas ever hasn't happened yet. My best Christmas ever will be this year. My son was 10 on September 11th, 2001. He said then, as we watched in horror on our television that one day he would join the service. As time went on when something big would happen he would say that again. On February 27th of this year, he was sworn in. He left for basic training on the 18th of August. He did not have a basic graduation because he was stationed at the same place he would take his AIT. On the 18th of this month, exactly four months to the day, I will see my son. He is coming in for Christmas. I can not wait to see him come off that plane!
Many years ago when I was four years old, we made our usual trek to my maternal Grandparents for Christmas. The Trip from Jefferson City, Missouri to Kirksville, Missouri wasn’t as easy then as it is now and because I was young it always became a grand adventure.
There was no snow on the Ground in Jeff City but I knew there would be snow when we got to Grandpa’s house – there was always snow there every Christmas.
We arrived in the early evening on the 23rd. The house sparkled with the colors of Christmas, the porch, and the tree glowed with the season but, there was no snow.
And snow didn’t come the next day either, so just before bedtime I crawled up on Grandpas lap and snuggled into his chest and began to cry. He lifted me gently and said “what’s the matter with you boy?” With great sobs I replied “There’s no snow, how will Santa get here tonight?”
With that he gave me a hug, wiped away the tears and said in his best Grandfather voice, “don’t worry little man, he’ll get here even if he has to drive his old ’34 Ford.”
That happened 72 years ago but it always comes to mind every year at this time when I remember the good things of my life.
It was about 1962 and I was seven years old:
Our household had four people at this time (I was the youngest of nine children – most of them were married by then with families of their own) – my mother, my youngest brother, my youngest sister, and me. My father was an alcoholic and had left just prior to my birth. At the time there were very few social service agencies – no food stamps, or WIC programs, to say the least. We lived in the housing projects on a single welfare check of $74 a month. Mama took in washing, ironing, and sewing, and sometimes babysat for neighbors. We really didn’t have a lot, but somehow we managed. We didn’t own a car, so we had to walk wherever we went, or catch a ride with a friend or neighbor, or take a cab (which cost $0.25 each way/each person). It was about 2 weeks before Christmas and my Mama had taken me and my brother with her to the grocery store downtown. It was about a mile from our house, so we’d walk to town and buy groceries, and then take a cab home. After carefully selecting our “necessary” items (there were NO extras), we headed to the checkout line where Mama became visibly upset when she learned that she didn’t have enough money to pay for all our groceries and the cab ride home. She was short about $3.50. We stepped out of line and moved out of sight while she decided what was not absolutely necessary. Without hesitation, my brother, Billy Joe (he was 6 years older than me) told Mama that she didn’t have to put anything back and shyly pulled out a one dollar bill and a handful of change. Mama was shocked, to say the least, and immediately asked Billy Joe where he got the money. He was a bit hesitant, but then quietly told her that he’d been saving his money to buy her a Christmas present. That didn’t explain where the money came from – so she asked him again. We were poor, and as children, we all had to take our lunch from home, usually a sandwich or leftover biscuit from breakfast. We couldn’t eat from the cafeteria (there were no free lunches, either) but she’d always give us “milk money” – which was $0.05 per day. He’d been saving his milk money, along with collecting coke bottles for deposits, and sometimes selling some of his marbles. He had a grand total of $5, and gladly gave it to her so that we didn’t have to put back anything. Mama stood there in the store with tears streaming down her cheeks. She was so humbled by the grand gesture of a small boy. That’s a Christmas that I will always remember.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is when money was tight and it didn't look like we children would receive much in the way of presents on Christmas morning. But that didn't stop my mom, after the first couple of weeks of the month with no presents under our tree; I awoke one morning to see the floor covered with gifts wrapped in beautiful paper with bright bows. Suddenly I was all excited inside with the anticipation of Christmas morning and opening all those presents!
Then as Christmas approached, there would appear another present or two or three adding to the excitement.
Finally, Christmas morning arrived. As usual, we kids probably woke up around 4:00 a.m. or so and hurried into the living room to see what Santa had brought. Yes, the cookies and the milk were gone; and, under the tree there was a doll for sis and a few toy trucks for us boys. Not much, but enough to say Santa had remembered us.
Then came the opening of all those wrapped presents. Some socks in this one, underwear in that, maybe a pair of gloves and even a hat.
But, what I will never forget is the boxes with rocks or old newspapers to weight them; and inside I found clipped pictures of my favorite wants taken from the "sears wish book" with a note from mom saying maybe I would get them in a few weeks.
She tried and succeeded to make our Christmas happy by providing presents to open. Whether they had gold or rocks, we had the joy and thrill of opening something.
And no, as the weeks did pass and as we gradually forgot; the pictures were trashed and the gifts never got!
On a Christmas Eve in the early 1960s, when I would have been 6 or 7 years old, I got up at what seemed to me at the time, the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Keep in mind, the bedroom that I shared with my sister was at the opposite end of the house from the bathroom (now that we finally had one inside!). To get to the other end of the house, I had to walk through the kitchen. As I walked through, I saw my mother at the kitchen table -- in the dark -- wrapping gifts. Neither one of us said a word. When I came back through, she was gone along with everything that had been on the table.
On Christmas morning I questioned her about what she was doing and she denied ever have been there or seen me. She suggested that I must have had a dream. My dad quickly reminded me as I had heard him tell my other brother and sister -- "Anytime you stop believing that there is a Santa Claus -- there won't be one anymore". To make a long story short -- I'm 54 years old and I STILL BELIEVE!!
On our way to the River of Lights display at the Albuquerque Bio-park, my husband (Ron), son (Ryan) and I stopped at a local McDonalds for a quick dinner. A man in ragged clothes stood 2 people ahead of us in line. As we pondered the menu board, I heard him order 2 small cheeseburgers and a large fries. The order rang up to under $5. I didn’t pay much attention until I over heard him ask the cahier how much it would be if he changed the order to medium fries. Then asked about taking a hamburger off. I turned to Ron and asked him if he had a couple of dollars on him. He took out his wallet and handed me 2 one-dollar bills. I walked to the head of the line handed the man the $2 and asked him if that would help. First shock and then a huge smile and a “thank you very much” crossed his lips. I went back into line and waited our turn to order. As I stood waiting for our order to come up the man can up to me again. He thanked me again and said, “I will pay you back. I will see you in here again and pay you back.” I smiled at him and said, “Just pay it forward.”
In the "not so long ago" past; Christmas was quickly approaching. I had started going to college. This meant we had cut our income to about half. With five children eagerly awaiting Christmas, my husband was pretty bummed about the prospect of no gifts under the tree. We just didn't have the extra to spend. He wouldn't put the Christmas tree up. I was saddened by his reluctance to put up the tree. I tried to tell him that the kids wanted the tree more than what was under it. He just wouldn't understand. Yes, I could have put it up myself, but something prevented me from doing it. I gently tried to get him to put that tree up, but he resisted. His pride had walked over his heart and lodged itself in his throat. Finally the day before Christmas he swallowed his pride and put the tree up. The children were so excited and eagerly awaited Santa all day. Each mention of Santa made my husband's heart drop. We had a few presents from the local church and the tid bits we got for the stockings. As normal, I got up around two to put what we had under the tree. I got up before my husband and went to the tree....I took one look at the tree and took off into the room were my hysband was at. I said "Come see under the tree...." So reluctantly he came. I said, "See...look." There, under that tree, were five of the most beautiful babies...all snugged...together....sleeping. All glowing from the lights on the tree. Shinning in the light of his glory. We both stood there together. I saw the tear run down his face and said "And THAT is what Christmas is...NOT the gifts you received but sharing and loving the gifts you already have." May your christmas be blessed as ours is...with the ones you love.
My story happened many years ago during the holiday season in a country across the pacific. I was in the Philippines courtesy of the US Navy in 1984. I had 3 days leave and decided to go into Subic City for some well needed R&R. I left the base and caught what they refer to as a jeepnee in Alongapo city. These were nothing more than left over military jeeps from world war 2 that have been converted into taxi"s. Its was about an hours drive to Subic City and there were lush tropical jungles to enjoy on the way so the ride went by pretty fast. We pulled into Subic City and everyone left the Jeepnee. First I met a vendor selling BBQ Meat on a stick, but was reluctant to take any for fear it was monkey meat, which they considered a delicacy in the Philippines. Instead I went to the nicest hotel in the town and sat down for a fruit salad. At least eating a fruit salad I could be reasonably sure what I was getting. I ate till I was stuffed then left the hotel for a site seeing tour of the beach. I walked across the street and proceeded down the beach looking at boats which duplicated exactly the canoes at the beginning of the TV Show hawaii 5-0 if your old enough to remember this far back. I watched local fisherman bringing in their fish nets and surveying what they had caught. Children were playing in the surf, and floating coconut shells that had been carved to look like boats in the ocean. I continued to walk and enjoy the view. It became late in the day so I decided to head to the hotel to get a room and get ready for some night life out on the town. I took a cold shower as they didn't have any hot water available at any hotel in this city. I got dressed and headed out to go to a club that was close by. It was around 9 o'clock at night and little did I know a chance meeting with a young lady was about to change my entire outlook on life forever. I was about to enter the club entrance when a young woman with tears in her eyes, who's age was probably around 25 years old, came up to me with a baby on her shoulder and asked me if she could have some money to feed her child. I was kind of surprised when it happened, and I didn't quite know how to react. I thought of what my father had told me many years ago growing up in Texas. Always take care of people less fortunate than yourself. We didn't have people begging for money to feed their children in Texas so this was all new to me. You know how you can look at someones facial expression hear the pain in their voice and you just know they are telling the truth. This was this lady. I took out $50 US dollars which was around 1 1/2 months wages in this country and handed it the the young lady. She began to cry and tremble all over. She continued to hold the child on her shoulder draped with an infant blanket covering the child. She began to thank me over and over again. She tried to give me her address through her tearful voice and told me if I ever needed anything she would be there for me. Anything at all she said. She turned to walk away and what I saw penetrated the very core of my being. It cut deep into my soul. Her child was dead and had been dead for some time. Its face was completely blue. The young woman was in shock and continued to carry her dead infant around. Tears filled my eyes! I was overwhelmed as I watched her walk away. I watched her walk down to the corner and stop for traffic that was coming. I saw two Policemen walk up to her and start questioning this young woman. After about a 3 minute conversation I watched this young woman take out the $50 dollars and hand it to the policemen. The police men turned and walked away and offered no assistance what so ever to this woman. I saw an alley next to the club and I quickly ducked into it so no one would see me cry. I stood there a minute with all kinds of thoughts racing through my head. I dropped to my knees and thanked God for allowing me to be born in America and I thanked him for my Family and Friends. I stood up after a bit , cried a little more then wiped my eyes and headed back to my hotel room.
This is one memory of the holiday season I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Even today as I type this I have tears in my eyes, and I can still see the events like they happened yesterday. Its unfortunate that people in America today have no understanding of what it means to be an American. I Hope this story gets published and it touches peoples hearts enough to get them to call an old friend, call your parents, brothers, sisters, or sons and daughters just to tell them you love them. This is one honorably discharged veteran that is extremely proud and happy to be an American.
I am from a small city in western NY. I moved to Fort Lauderdale for more sun. While there, I had a bleeding brain tumor - fused to my pituitary gland! Mom and Dad arrived as I was in surgery. Well, after I was released from the hospital, we were all sitting up...just talking. I felt very terrible that our family would NOT be together for Christmas for the first time ever!. Was I really responsible for that? Well, at 12:30 am, there was a really loud and obnoxious knock at my door. It had happened oce before, but I didn't want to explain that to my parents. You see, a guy who loved to have parties lived two stories above me. At one time, two drunk guys were going to his party, but they pressed the wrong button on the elevaotor and knocked on my door instead of his. I thought this was just another epidsode, so I got up and went quietly to the door. I could NOT beelieve what I saw! It was my two brothers!!! They had driven 27 straight hours to get there. My older brother had a van. They took the back seats out, replaced it with an air matress, and just took turns driving. They didn't want me to feel badly because I was bald, so they each had a surgical glove on their head. They did look a bit bald, but the fingers of the glove ran right down the center of their heads - like a mohawk haircut. It was absolutely AWESOME!!! Our family was together and we kept our record.03! They really are the greatest!
My husband, Jack and i made our first home in San Francisco. He was still into his apprenticeship as an electrician when November of 1958, our first daughter, Janie, was born. As proud new parents, we were anxious to take her to Idaho at Christmas time and meet her kin in my hometown of Homedale.
December 24, the day before Christmas, Jack went to work that morning and i loaded up “ol’ blue”, our ford station wagon. By the time he came home we were packed and ready for our journey.
Getting somewhat of a late start, by the time we reached the Sierra Mountains, we started to feel the impact of winter weather. Jack chained up as snow was starting to stick and pile up on the road.
It would soon be Christmas Eve. We passed through the snow gate and began our slow trek over (old) Donner summit. Half way up the mountain, snow was falling so hard one could barely see and the windshield wipers were almost motionless trying to sweep away the heavy downfall.
When we reached the summit, our car started acting up and jack pulled over to the side of the road just as it quit completely. He, our new baby, and i were alone in a snowstorm atop Donner summit. The snowgate had closed behind us meaning no other cars would be let through.
Jack got out and raised the hood to check spark plugs and engine wires, trying hopefully to find the mechanical problem. He would motion to me and i would turn the key trying to get the car started but to no avail. Meanwhile, large snowflakes were still falling
Steadily as vision became more impaired.
Suddenly, from out of the swirling snow and fog, there appeared a bearded man walking directly towards our car. A man with full beard was not as common then. He spoke few words and told jack to get back in the car. We couldn’t see what he was doing because of the raised hood but with an almost instant gesture of his hand, he beckoned for jack to go ahead and give it a try. As the key turned, to our overwhelming delight, the engine started right up. The stranger closed the hood, waved, turned and walked back in the direction from which he came and disappeared. We continued on to Idaho without any problems.
As we later recalled our “Christmas experience” on old Donner summit, we tried to remember in our minds just how the stranger was dressed or if he might have said something that would be an indication of where he came from on that cold, stormy, foggy Christmas eve. We still question what he did to make our car start right up. And the biggest question: How did he even see us due to the bad weather conditions?
Since it was Christmas eve and the mysterious stranger, being a bearded man who just happened to appear on the lonely scene and came to our rescue, we like to think of him as (maybe) our “wise man” or even “our guardian angel,” or perhaps he was a ghost of one of the Donner party victims from the terrible tragedy that befell the pioneers of 1846. But then, there are no definite answers to our questions. One last thought does come to mind – maybe it was old st nick himself who just happened to be flying over Donner summit at that particular time and came to the aid of a young couple and their infant baby.