Christmas Expectations

kathys-christmas-wreathsI remember one Christmas my parents gave me four or five board games. The difficulty was, I had no one to play them with. My parents didn’t play children’s games; we lived in the country and there were no kids in the neighborhood; and my schoolmates lived in other towns. Gas being dear—this was during WW II–people did not drive their children around for play dates. My usual Christmas presents were clothing or things I needed. Great Aunt Alice gave strange presents—one year she gave me a wood burning kit that was difficult for me to figure out how to use. I looked forward to stocking presents; they were more fun. Best of all was when I got old enough to play Santa along with my parents and participate in filling their stockings.

I had a small book of the poem by Clement Moore that I always enjoyed rereading at Christmas. Eventually I knew most of the poem by heart. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” These verses have given us all an image of Santa and how he does things that has remained with us through many generations. We expect that he will wear a red suit, come down the chimney, arrive on a sleigh with reindeer, and so on. Cookies and carrots for the reindeer are part of our expectations for his Christmas Eve visit. Presents under the tree on Christmas morning are another. Does Santa always wear a red suit? Or can Santa dress in ordinary clothes?

“Santa Claus is coming to town,” as the song goes, and, some warn you’d better be good or else. “He’s making a list,” as the song goes. There used to be talk of Santa leaving a lump of coal or something else that is undesirable in the stocking of children who were not good enough to deserve toys. One of the original Santas—St. Nicholas, provided dowries for young ladies who otherwise would not have been able to get married. Some cultures used to include a kind of negative Santa called Black Pete, who tagged along to punish or otherwise be unkind to those whose bad behavior merited it. Must gifts be a reward or can they simply be a sign or love from the giver?

The advertisements on television create enormous expectations. The shining allure of the latest toy or newest communication device creates desires that may lead to major dismay if they are not forthcoming. What may be lost in the light of all these expectations is the unexpected, unadvertised gifts that this time can bring: the peace of loving hearts gathered together and the good will that comes from sharing. The opportunity to participate in the love and merriment that is part of the holidays is the real blessing, the actual present to be gained at this time. Those who are too focused on their expectations may well miss out on this, the real gift of this season.

Tasha Halpert



The Gift of a Smile by Tasha Halpert

bigsmile          One of my happy childhood holiday memories is of my father sitting by our fireplace near Christmas time, wrapping cartons of cigarettes, boxes of whiskey, ties and other items that he distributed to the various individuals he did business with. There was always a big pile when he was done. Then he would load them into his car and the next day he’d hand deliver them. Occasionally I got to ride with him. This was always a great treat.

Christmas memories are in themselves a gift of the season for me. I delight in recalling the images from my childhood: my mother playing carols on her violin on Christmas Eve, the table at my Great Aunt’s set with gleaming crystal and shining silver, the tree, all decorated with the carefully preserved ornaments and the foil tinsel that was always saved from year to year. I cherish these and other memories. It is always a treat to hear those of others as well.

As I was shopping in our local market a grocery wagon drew up next to mine. The sweet faced older lady pushing it beamed in my direction. “I just loved your last column in the paper,” she said. She went on to tell me a special Christmas story about her son when he was a child. I was very touched and thanked her, not only for the compliment but also for sharing her happy story.

To me that kind of experience is the same as receiving a gift from Santa Claus. Santa, whose origins go back hundreds of years to St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaas, and the Christkindl that became Kris Kringle, is seldom seen without a smile on his face, and no wonder. His job is to bring joy to the hearts of those who celebrate Christmas. The glee of young children who cherish Santa is not misplaced. Santa is about love. He does not spend money, just time and effort.

The smile of love cannot be purchased nor must it be paid for. Smiles and friendly words are to me more precious than anything money can buy. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a baby. How appropriate! The smile of a baby is perhaps the most special of all gifts. Those who are privileged to receive such a gift know what a treasure it is.

To me a gift at the holidays whether given or received is a kind token of affection. When I give, it’s not because I feel under any obligation to do so, rather I like sharing something I believe the recipient will enjoy or appreciate, and if not that he or she will pass it on to someone who might like it more. When people give to me I am always delighted because someone has acknowledged their fondness for me. In other words, I feel blessed.

It is said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Perhaps that is true. For myself I feel equally blessed whether I am giving or receiving. It does not matter to me whether I am the recipient or the donor. What does matter is the smile I see when I look into the eyes of my friend, family member or even a stranger and the exchange of kind regard that I feel free to accept.