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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters:Significance of the holidays

Friday, January 2, 2009

The lights are extinguished, the music silenced, church bells again ring only at regular worship times. Christmas is over for another year, but that is not quite as it should be. The true meaning of Christmas should remain in our hearts for the months that lie ahead.

As I turn to storing my Holiday decorations I'm struck by their real significance. I no longer put up a tree, but memories of our traditional one flood back. We always had our own live tree. You see a relative had planted the evergreens in his windbreak too close together.

So we helped him prune them out and each December we would cut one and use its perfectly shaped top for our Christmas tree. The fresh fragrant fir was simply decorated with a homemade tinfoil star at the top, white lights, white satin balls and brass ornaments. The theme was, and still is, green for His eternity, white for His purity and gold for His divinity.

Table tops and any other available spaces were filled with fresh greens, gold balls and fat white candles, with nary a Santa, elf, or reindeer in the place! Well now there is one exception, a jolly little plaid-clad elf given me by a dear friend perches high on my china cabinet. Of late, the theme remains but there have been less candles and greens.

Too, as my hands are no longer steady enough to safely light real candles, they are mostly left unlit. Instead, I have white battery-powered ones with realistically flickering flame-shaped tips glowing from my windows.

Exceptions to my tri-color theme are the Christmas plates we brought from Germany many years ago. A lovely stitchery nativity scene made by a dear daughter-in-law hangs near them, and a Venetian glass Madonna from the estate sale of a special friend colorfully completes the décor for that end of my dining room. Oh, I almost forgot the decorative Bavarian tree-top angel which stands on a what-not shelf nearby, a gift from my daughter.

Now I must tell you the special story of our Nativity Scene as, after all, that is what the season is all about. This piece came from Oberammergau, which is renowned for its wood carvers as well as its Passion Play, but we didn't buy it there ourselves. We had seen it long ago in a Marshall Field catalog and were intrigued. This was shortly after the end of WW II, when that fine store had taken an interesting step in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.

Those lovely little carvings, embodying the true meaning of Peace on Earth, were among the first American post-war imports from Germany, a nation which had, so recently, been our bitter enemy. I sometimes wonder if that kind of approach to an adversary has been lost in our present age, and that gives me an even greater incentive to cherish my precious reminder.

Thank you for listening to another of my not-so-subtle suggestions that the emphasis on Santa, the elves, and Rudolph with his sleigh-pulling teammates, should be reduced. In their place I think more recognition should be given to candle light (the Light of the World) and the green, white and gold of the Word made Flesh.

Give that idea some thought. After all, the way time seems to travel in over-drive anymore, Christmas 2009 will be upon us before we know it. Meanwhile, do have a Happy New Year!