Once fresh pine trees, decorated with colored lights and home made ornaments, adorned the center of the home. It didn't matter if the tree was crooked, the decorations a bit tattered, or the tinsel a bit thick in places where little hands helped. It was the symbol of family time, of giving, of remembering baby Jesus. Moms and dads and kids would sit around it in the evenings, dreaming of days to come, praying for good health, and whispering quiet thanks for what they had been given.
There may not have been a lot of presents beneath the tree, but what was there was treasured and appreciated for a long time.
And always, yes always, there was a star placed on top. Shining in all its tin-foil glory, or sparkling with glue and glitter and simple unadorned love.
Now days the tree must be perfect. Live or artificial, the ornaments must match, hang uniformly and placed precisely. The lights must be small and bright -cool and thickly wound - shining brightly in front of the window so the neighbors can all see how pretty it is... And how much time and money you spent to make it impeccable.
Families seldom gather round the tree anymore. There's a Santa or a giant bow -or Frosty's hat- adorning the top, and there's barely enough room for all the gifts. They overflow into the dining room or onto the side table. And they are mostly taken for granted.
Years ago, one of the greatest joys of Christmas was not knowing was Santa would bring you. No idea.
Sure, you would write letters or go sit on his lap in the little elf house on the square, and name a doll or a game or special item you wished for. But you never really knew for sure what Santa had given you until that wrapping paper was peeled off.
It all had to be magic. Most families couldn't afford toys and games -or even candy. So once a year, at Christmastime, dreams and wishes came true.
Now kids make lists as long as their arms, on paper and on Amazon, telling mom and dad what they want and need and then add the famous guilt trip line, "I'll just freak if I don't get it".
Let's go back. For just a little while, forget about the misplaced ornament, the pine needles in the carpet, the string of lights half burned out. Forget that you couldn't afford the gift they asked for, couldn't find their favorite dessert, couldn't pull off that beautiful tree like your neighbor did. Forget the TV, the computer, the iPhone, the other things that distract from what is important. Don't worry that the cookies burnt, you've got a pile of laundry waiting, and your hair is a catastrophe. For just a little while, turn off the house lights and turn on the tree lights. Sit around it as a family. Take some quiet time to think and dream and pray. Remember to be thankful, no matter what may come. Remember that " for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord".
Let's go back. To the sprit and joy of a true Christmas. To things that matter.
Let's bring back the magic.