A Cultural Perspective: The art of Christmas

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Silver bells, silver bells,

It’s Christmas time in the city.

Ring-a-ling, hear them ring,

Soon it will be Christmas day.

 

As the Christmas season shifts into high gear, I thought it only fitting that this piece be dedicated to all the people out there who are the artisans of Christmas — past, present and future. From the perfect gift to the perfect tree and everything perfect in between, there is no other holiday like Christmas. There are some who begin to plan their next Christmas the day after Christmas. Then there are those who just let themselves get swept along in the holiday season and, finally, those anti-shoppers who go out on Dec. 24 and do it in one great shopping shuffle. All of them enjoy letting the holiday spirit bring joy to the loved ones in their lives.

We all enjoy the sights and sounds the Christmas season brings, like all the floats in the Christmas parade, the many nativities and, of course, the twinkling neighborhood lights. The many carollers and jingle bells make perfect music for our ears. When St. Nick makes his stop in town, I don’t know if you’re like me — I’m wishing it was still OK for grownups to sit on Santa’s knee!

As adults and parents we take on the role of Santa but, in many ways, Christmas seems to bring out the child in all of us. Perhaps, that is where the art of Christmas is from — getting and giving the gift that will light up the face and heart of its receiver. It’s born of the memories we all have of that feeling — Santa got this just for us! From Grandma’s perfect turkey to Aunt Joan’s perfect sweaters, for many of us those memories just get better … as time passes.

We all have that annual gift that we wouldn’t want to be without; pickles if you are my son, cherry fudge if you’re my mom. Oh, yes, I almost forgot the best — those melt in your mouth Christmas goodies that if I try, I can taste right now!

Don’t we all expect a gift of socks, or a fruitcake that’s as hard as rock? There is also, now that I think, the eggnog sometimes too potent to drink (my aunt remembers that — wink, wink)!

For some of us Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without wrapping presents as we watch Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in such awful pain. As Zuzu says, it is always nice to hear an angel get their wings! I know there’s an angel, maybe two, who place a gift with your name on it under the tree.

Some families have a gift exchange, turning Christmas into one big game that everyone wants to play, because no one ever loses.

I know that Christmas can also be sad; my dad’s Christmas Day heart attack sure showed me that. I spent several years feeling like the Grinch wishing that Christmas would be over fast. I’m thankful that I have (great) grandkids, whose Christmas spirit is like a fever that I am happy to say I caught, making me again want to feel the delight of waking up after Santa’s late-night ride to find out what he left for me underneath my little tree.

We all have our ethnic traditions; some are Dutch, some Scandinavian, some in January, like Ukrainian Christmas. We used to open one gift at midnight before we went to bed dreaming of all the things for us Santa carried in his sleigh. From putting out Santa’s cookies to carrots for the reindeer, there is always a tradition we honor whether it’s our mothers and fathers or from ages past.

I love the Christmas music we hear everywhere we go, and I find I’m always hoping for a fresh dusting of snow. We open our hearts to those who are less fortunate than we are and give to others what we hope will make their Christmas just as grand.

So merry Christmas to one and all is what I’d like to say, and thank you to the artisans of Christmas for making the perfect day.

Lori Wikdahl is a Creston Valley artist and a director on the Community Arts Council of Creston board.