We are nearly midway through my favorite month of the year! December! I sometimes wish there were months of December, not so that I could get everything done, but so that I could enjoy the feelings, the giddy wonder and excitement of this month of all months for a lot longer. I wait the entire year for the wonderful surprise-package month at the end of it. Thanksgiving came so late in November this year that it was like a cheat because it made December seem shorter. I vow that next year I will have my house decorated before Thanksgiving even comes. That way, I can enjoy the anticipation and the joy and beauty even longer. I was listening to Christmas music as I canned peaches in September this year. We have a little ongoing, unannounced competition every year in our family to see which of us starts listening to Christmas music first. I was the clear winner this year.
I come from a long line of Santa believers. My maiden name, Clawson, proves it. In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries if a man’s name was Claus (our name apparently got a new spelling when it immigrated), his son was Clausson or Claus’s son. As further proof, every year at Christmas time, my daddy was the voice of that jolly old elf as he read and ho-ho-hoed his way through every letter children sent to the radio stations where he worked. As a young child I sat rapt on the floor in front of our radio listening to his voice that magically became Santa’s voice. He read my letter every single year and as I heard him read it, it was Santa’s voice I heard. I kept that delicious secret from all my friends, who excitedly told me that they heard Santa read their letters on the radio. As a teenager, I reveled in the same delicious shivers of belief as he read the letters from children in the small town where we lived. My daddy was Santa personified, not only with that beautiful voice he had, but also the tremendous generosity of heart and spirit he possessed. I think of him every Christmas, his deep voice reading the real Christmas story from the Book of Luke: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…..” I can sill hear his voice, for which I am grateful. Over Thanksgiving, I took some Christmas videos to my genius son, who managed to have them transferred to DVD. I can barely hear his voice, but it is there. We whooshed ourselves, my son and I, back to that Christmas of 1987. And we wept. And wept. Memories can do that. They are those bittersweet things that both delight and break your heart.
There is a song by Mannheim Steamroller called “Traditions of Christmas” you can listen at here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPbs4Lf-CKw). That music transports me to another time and place. In my mind, I stand outside the window of our home and I watch as my Daddy decorates the tree, putting on the colored lights (those big old lights with the pointed ends) and wrapping the branches with thick gold tinsel, hanging the ornaments so carefully and placing the star atop the tree. Snow falls softly and candlelight flickers in the front room. He smiles, content in what he’s doing. I watch every movement, catch his smile, study the concentration on his face, the thick brows framing his twinkly eyes (I remember them twinkling….he was Santa after all) and the halo of his gray hair reflecting the multicolored lights. I long to hug him. Smell his aftershave, feel his sandpaper cheeks on mine. During that whole song I see him. And then I hear his voice reading the story from Luke. That voice of his is still with me in my mind and heart. I hope there never comes a day when I don’t hear it.
I have my Daddy’s Santa Clawson coat. When I was a little girl, he wore that coat to brave the cold and snowy Idaho winters. He worked the night shift and on Saturdays went to the station to read the letters. He always wore that coat and I really truly did think of him as one of Santa’s best helpers. The wool coat was holly berry read with big broad black stripes that ran around it. The coat fastened with loops around square black leather buttons. It also had a hood. I can still see him wearing that coat. It is mine now and when the weather is cold and frosty, I put that on and am twice warmed.
I am giving you little snippets of our Christmas Cottage. The pictures are wonderfully dark, mostly because I shot them with my phone at night. Because we have a wraparound porch (that I so love), even in the daylight the pictures are dark. I like to think of myself as a little chipmunk tucked away in my cozy nest during the winter. I love it here. I love that it dresses for Christmas so perfectly. I adore the dark days that lead to a lot of “moodling” as Sarah ban Breathnacht calls it. Just hunkering down with a book or movie, a fire, candlelight, something to nibble on and I am good. Aah, December.
One big huge thing that I insisted on when my husband and I married was tradition. His family had no traditions. I remember my first Christmas as one of the worst. We had no money, I needed a coat at the end of November and that was my Christmas present. My mom made a quilt for our wedding and finished it and that was their gift to us. My husband’s mom and dad gave us sleeping bags and we knew they were also under the tree. I made decorations. Mr. Farnia and I both worked the entire day before Christmas. He was in school and had a part-time job. I knew…..I so knew that Santa Claus would come down our stairs that night, miss the bed as soon as he opened the door to our basement apartment, and put something under that tree. I knew it.
And when we got up on Christmas morning, the same presents were under the tree. Not a new thing at all. I was pretty much devastated. Call me the original BELIEVER. In my utter disappointment, I determined that I was going to be Santa’s best helper for the rest of my life. I was going to be the Queen of Christmas Cheer. The second Christmas we spent at his parent’s home. On Christmas Eve night I waited for Tradition. Um…..Mr. Farnia and his dad and mom watched a game on TV and I half-heartedly pretended to, holding back the tears and thinking that it might just as well be another day. I walked upstairs and looked out the window at the lights, watching the snow fall and thinking that this Christmas Eve was completely wasted. I read from the book of Luke, missing my father’s voice. I finally went downstairs and the game was over and they all went to bed. I still wanted Christmas Eve…my family’s style of Christmas Eve: the dinner, the caroling around the piano, the pajamas, setting out the cookies, laughing and being so excited. I turned on the TV and watched the Bolshoi Ballet dance “The Nutcracker.” Thank goodness for that. There were no cookies for Santa, no carrots for the reindeer and after the ballet, I sang Christmas carols to myself.
Sniff. I was a sad lump of Yuletide humanity that night. I promised myself that Christmas would never be like that again. We would have the greatest and the grandest traditions! And over time, I did just that! We had so many beautiful traditions with our children. So many. And most of those traditions are still kept by them now that they have their own families: cutting down the trees and a tailgate picnic of doughnuts and hot chocolate with candy cane stirrers afterwards; The Nutcracker ballet on Christmas Eve; eggnog Christmas bread and sparkling cider tailgate-picnic style after the ballet; our Savior Supper on Christmas Eve; cookies for Santa and reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn to guide the reindeer; Christmas books read every night of December; Christmas movies watched on weekends; moving the little bear around his house on the advent quilt; new pajamas on Christmas Eve; reading 3 books on Christmas Eve: The account from the Book of Luke, The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas; stockings placed in strategic places; doing service with our family throughout the month; opening the gifts from each other on Christmas night, rather than losing the meaning when Santa’s gifts are tucked into in the morning; ambrosia for breakfast (my Daddy’s tradition) and so many, many more lovely traditions. December was a month of joy and wonder and excitement and nearly breathless anticipation for all of us.
If you have time during this wonderful season, I would love to hear about your family’s traditions. Christmas is about giving. The Savior was Heavenly Father’s gift to the world. The shepherds and Magi brought gifts to the Christ child. The Savior gave us his life as the ultimate gift. Christmas is a time to draw your families close or to find someone to share your Christmas if you are without a family. You can share your love and joy of the season with everyone you meet. Sometimes we are blinded by the trappings of Christmas and that places undue pressure on us and makes for expectations that we feel obliged to fulfill. Simplify your lives. Know the Reason for the Season and give from your heart the simple things. Remember the joy. Sing. Smile. Tell people, “Merry Christmas!” Leave a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle. Pull your family tighter and tell them you love them. Believe in the magic. Create that magic.
Merriest of all Christmases, my dear friends. Thank you for following along with me on the blog. I hope that your every Christmas wish comes true and that you keep Christmas with you all year long. God bless us, everyone.