It was magic. The day after Thanksgiving always was more exciting than the big day itself. It was the day they pulled out the Christmas decorations from the attic. The day Christmas really became a reality.
"Do you remember where we keep them?" the father would ask.
"Are you kidding me? I know exactly where they are!" the young boy shouted. Then, running upstairs, he headed directly to the far corner of the attic. Rummaging through some recently added boxes, pushing aside the bags of summer clothes, he dived into the dim, dark recesses of the storage area.
"Hey, where are you?" Dad asked. It wasn't really that dark. The boy could be seen perfectly well, but Dad played along with the excitement.
Suddenly, the boy popped out with the big plastic Santa face that always hung in the same spot on the porch just to the left of the front door. "Ho, Ho Ho!" he said. "Have you been good?" the boy said in the deepest voice he could muster.
Dad just laughed and said, "Come on, we've got a lot to do today." This was it. This was a time held precious in the heart of a boy and through the years burned in the memory of the man he was to become.
One by one the boxes were pulled from the attic. It was amazing how so many things were added every year. This was the Christmas house. There was no mistake that Santa loved stopping here each year. It reminded him of home. Well, that's what the boy decided anyway.
Lights were hung. Garlands draped. Paper cut-outs adorned the windows and Christmas designs were carefully stenciled to areas surrounding them. ( If you remember stenciling you're probably older than you would like to admit.)
Oh yes, don't forget the can of spray snow, too. "Okay, that's it!" Dad said. "Let's put these back in the box. We won't use them this year."
The boy was stunned. "What...what are you talking about?" he asked.
"We have too many things. We don't need to put everything up," Dad said.
"Come on, that's enough."
"No, wait. You don't understand. This one goes over there, and that always hangs near the back door in the kitchen," the child said.
"Not this year," Dad replied.
He then began to carry one of the boxes up the stairs. The boy rushed to the bottom of the steps and cried out, "You can't put them back. We have to use them. If you don't use them they'll
lose their Christmas!" he said with tears gushing from his eyes. The father surprised to see this reaction, stopped and turned toward the boy.
"What? What are you saying?" he asked.
Sniffling as he wiped the tears away, the boy said softly, "Once you use something for Christmas you have to always use it. If you don't, it will lose its Christmas. Christmas is magic and everything in it becomes magical," he said.
Dad turned around and came back down the steps. Placing the box on the table, he turned and held his son. "Okay, okay, I didn't know that. We'll put them up," he assured him. I can't tell you that it's some old world tradition, but it became one that day and remains so to this very day.
The years passed and Christmas was celebrated in the same way. That is until 1972. That was the year that home lost its Christmas. It was June and a few months prior the boy's mom had suffered what appeared to be a stroke. Later the doctors would discover the previously treated breast cancer had spread. His mom died that June.
He was now 22 and married. Two weeks after her death a flood destroyed much of the memories in that home.
Thanksgiving was nonexistent. Christmas was still a possibility. That is until Dad declared, "There will be no Christmas in this house!"
The son and his wife were now living there. As much as he loved his mother, he believed that her loss had nothing to do with the celebration of the birth of Christ. "Dad, we need to at least put up the tree," he said one day just two weeks before December 25th.
"No!" Dad responded. "There will be no Christmas here."
Then standing near him, the boy touched his hand and said, "But they will lose their Christmas."
An almost unnoticeable smile came to Dad's face. "I lost my Christmas, too."
There was no Christmas in the house that year. Years later, when he sold the house, many of the decorations were tossed away.
I know. I was that boy.
Many Christmases have passed since then, each filled with love, happiness, and memories.
If you are struggling with the idea of Christmas, if you are hurting because of the loss of a loved one, the pressures of finances, or simply can't find Christmas, I ask you to reconsider.
Remember the real reason for it. It is not a party. It is not a package under a tree. It is not a thing. It's a holy day. It is a celebration of faith. And I promise you this: Even if you hide away in your room that day, even if you don't light a candle, hang an ornament, or sing a song, your heart cannot lose its Christmas. It is right there, waiting for you.