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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Warm Christmas

Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.

Dale Evans

Our first Christmas in Atlanta, it was nearly 70 degrees. Where has this man brought me!?!

Christmas was always a special holiday for us growing-up. My parents were separated so this was the one day of the year when my dad stayed overnight. My mom would get us to bed and when we were asleep, call my dad to let him know that the coast was clear. It was also my dad’s responsibility to help put up the tree a few weeks earlier. We had the wonderful aluminum silver tree. Each branch fit in a paper sleeve for careful storage. We would decorate the tree with dad and then turn on the rotating light that sat about two feet away. It would send a beauti

ful shade of blue, green, red and yellow on the tree. We would just marvel at the changing colors. We also had personalized stockings that were more for decoration than for gifts. All of this created wonderful memories because it was the one time of year that the whole family was under the same roof.

My dad would work dutifully putting together dollhouses or bikes or whatever else we had for gifts during the wee hours of the morning. No wasted time and expense wrapping things. Wake up and play, play, play. Inevitably, as soon as he fell asleep, my sister and I would wake up with the excitement of a full night’s sleep. My dad would suffer through it, fueled by our excitement, but he was one whipped puppy at the end of the day. One year something happened and dad wasn’t going to make it on Christmas day. We were older then. He told us we can celebrate Christmas any day we want. That was the most wonderful thing because it so coincides the fact that Jesus was actually born in December, it’s just the day that the world celebrates his birth.

Dad wanted to share his grandchild’s first Christmas so he flew down to visit with us for a few days. Knowing that there would be a church service sometime during his stay, he packed a turtle neck sweater and a tweed jacket. My dad was dapper like that! The poor man was sweating bullets in those hot clothes and all I could think of was, where in the world has this man brought me that you can’t even wear a turtle neck sweater on Christmas!

We didn’t let that stop us from having a joyous time. I try to incorporate special celebrations in our Christmas to make sure we focus on the importance of the day. I never taught my children to believe in Santa Claus or elves. I always wanted to maintain a level of credibility that they could trust. We

used to hang stockings but in their later years we haven’t done that either. My youngest son started public school in the second grade. He and one little Jewish boy were the only two who knew the real deal so I had him promise he wouldn’t ruin it for the other children. They could make it just their little secret.

We do enjoy a tree (usually a live one) but make sure there are no Santa images in our giftwrapping, cards or practices. There are lots of ornaments that the fellas made as they were growing up. There are also some retro ornaments (from our original tree) and lighting that resembles some tree lighting we had as children. We started a tradition of baking a birthday cake each year. We call it the Jesus cake. It is usually a yellow cake made with real butter and homemade buttercream icing. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t get his happy birthday song and completed cake until the day after Christmas because the cook is exhausted, but the celebration is not complete without it.

Nowadays, I don’t have the early morning wake up to look at presents. Whenever we get up, it’s early enough. I have always made it a habit of cooking a full meal from scratch on the holidays. I wanted the fellas to know that they were worth all of the energy that goes into making holidays special. Whether it’s just the four of us or if we have guests at the table, holidays are worth going the extra mile.

Now that my guys are adults, it delights me to see the thought and effort that goes into each of them selecting gifts for each other. It is never the gift itself that excites me, but the look on their faces as the appreciation is exchanged. We have been one short around the tree these last two years but we are connected through this wonderful world of technology.

As the east coast braces for a warm, and in Atlanta, wet Christmas, keep the importance of the Savior’s birth in your celebration. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus.

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