Essays on Faith: Why does Christmas lose its magic?

While sitting around after our Thanksgiving feast, trying to fight off the effects of the natural sedative some believe turkey contains, my grown children began talking about their growing up years — in this very house. One of them said, “We loved Thanksgiving, but the best part was — it meant that Christmas was not far away. Still, it seemed to take forever! We thought it would never come.”

“And there were all those threats,” said another. “Mother would say, ‘Don’t forget; Santa is watching you.’ We were afraid to do anything!”

“We were blackmailed into going to bed early, eating all the food on our plate and not fighting with each other. If one of us even thought about misbehaving, all Mother or Daddy had to say was, ‘Remember, Santa is watching.’ We were model children during the weeks between the two major holidays.”

“With all the shopping and baking and decorating, our excitement was hard to contain! Once each year, Mother took us downtown to one of the large department stores where we were awed by elaborate decorations, people bustling around and Christmas carols playing continuously. We all enjoyed some time in the toy department and then the younger ones got to talk to Santa Claus.”

“Hanging ornaments on the tree was great fun, although we were allowed to hang only the unbreakable ones. We mostly watched, oohing and aahing each time a new ornament was added.”

“Helping with the dozens of cookies Mother always made was special, too. We looked forward to spending a whole day in the kitchen helping her cut fresh-made cookie dough into different shapes — Santa, a star, a reindeer or a Christmas tree — and put them in the oven. After they were done, we’d shake red and green sugar on some and place chocolate pieces on others. Getting to eat a few along the way was nice, too.”

“When Christmas Eve finally came, it was like a long-awaited dream. We were almost overcome with excitement,” the eldest daughter remarked. “Soon after breakfast, we got all dressed up and went to visit relatives.”

“Yeah,” her sister chimed, “we visited grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that we didn’t often see. We also visited some special neighbors. Everywhere we went, people gave us goodies and Mother and Daddy feared we’d be sick on Christmas morning.”

“When we got home, the neighborhood was glowing!”

“Everyone participated in the lighting of luminary candles. Remember how awesome it was? It was magical — every home on every street was aglow! It was even more beautiful if it happened to snow.”

“Just before midnight, we all piled back into the car and went to our church for a candlelight service. None of us will ever forget the final few minutes of that service. We were each given a small white candle. One candle was lit by the pastor and the rest were lit, one by one, from the candle of the person sitting next to you. When all of the candles were burning, the lights were turned off, and, with dozens of candles flickering in the darkness, we sang ‘Silent Night.’ It was the most beautiful sight ever. I still get chills just thinking about it.”

“When we got home, we were so tired; we had to go right in and get ready for bed, but not before hearing the threat one last time: ‘Santa is watching; he won’t come until you’re all asleep,’ we were warned.”

“After leaving milk and cookies for Santa, Mother planted kisses firmly on our foreheads and tucked us in — to fall asleep and dream of the treasures we’d find under the tree when we awoke.”

“What happened to those great years?” said one daughter. “Why is Christmas not that exciting anymore?”

“We grew up,” another answered. “Christmas is never the same after you’re grown.”

Nodding in agreement, everyone laughed and headed toward the kitchen for dessert.

Why do we care about the rapid passing of time?

I suspect the child in each of us longs to be set free at Christmastime, but as adults, our lives are different. We have responsibilities: jobs or careers, or are homemakers. We have many things to think about. There is no time for childlike expectancy. Therefore, instead of savoring every minute of this beautiful season like we did as children, we find ourselves rushing to get everything done so we can put it behind us.

And sadly, Christmas is never the same for us again.

However, it’s not about us, is it? It’s about loving and giving.

It’s about the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Listen. Can you hear it — the hallowed silence that envelops the earth as The Holy Night draws near?

Have a blessed Christmas.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro. Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com. Find more Essays on Faith at www.wvgazettemail.com/life/religion.

Funerals for Monday, January 27, 2020

Davis, Valerie - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Hamrick, Leonard - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Hughes Jr., Denver - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keen, Cora - 2 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Lazear, Elizabeth - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Masters, Delores - 1 p.m., Glen Ferris Apostolic Church, Glen Ferris.

Milroy, Miller - 11 a.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Petro, Edith - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Phelps, Herbert - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Stanley, Gary - 1 p.m., Pryor Funeral Home, East Bank.

Stewart, Donna - 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, South Charleston.

Walker, Iva - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilkinson, Catharine - Noon, Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.

Williams, Joseph - 3 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.