Throw away December calendar

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature, Kitchen Table Talk

When is Christmas?

The calendar, and Santa, say Christmas Day is Dec. 25. I find sometimes that is simply not true.

Growing up rooted in a small town where my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived within 15 miles of each other, I was a December calendar-watcher. We lived for two dates: Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

Dec. 24 was Christmas Eve and the Ward Family Christmas Party. Even before the grandchildren got old enough to bring boyfriends and girlfriends or spouses, we could fill a house. There were five Ward children with nine grandchildren plus four to five others who were family in every way except by blood. In the very beginning, the party was at the home of my grandparents, but it soon outgrew their modest house and began rotating between three of the children’s houses, including my mother’s.

My cousins and I marked off the days until Christmas Eve because the present count was always high! When times were good, everyone got a gift from each family. Later, all the grandchildren and grandparents got gifts from everyone, and the five children and their spouses drew names.

After Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was simply a night’s sleep away while we dreamed of Santa’s visit. Christmas Day was reserved for the smaller family units in the morning and cousin visits to examine Santa’s generosity in the afternoon.

As families grow and change, things can get complicated. I found I could either stick to the calendar or listen to my heart. This year, Christmas Day will be multiplied by two – one on Dec. 25 in Nashville with Trey’s family and one on Dec. 26 in Seattle with Brett’s family. There have been years when a second Christmas Day was in January or February.

Friends often have the same experience. One dear friend had a wonderful family Christmas on Dec. 8. Another will delay half of the Christmas Day festivities until a family visit to Denver in January.

“Christmas Eve” for me is always a week or two before Christmas when longtime friends come together at my house for an always-too-short evening of catching up, marveling at how the grandkids have grown and remembering why we all still love each other when our day-to-day times together are rare. It embodies the spirit of the Ward Family Party for me, so, it’s Christmas Eve!

I guess it is kind of strange that one of the few holidays we have left that hasn’t been moved to a convenient Monday is one that moves around the most on my calendar. But, Christmas has never been about a date. It’s always been about family, friends and the love that fills my heart when I can share time with them.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Fits right in with the love and gift that are the true reason for celebrating.


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