I love the holiday season – the music, the energy, the bevy of activities that occur at this time of year. But most of all, I like the sharing and caring that takes place just because it is “the season.”

I love to see the excitement on children’s faces when the word “Santa” comes up. I love to see the joy when people share their plans of spending time with loved ones. I love the fact that I hear from and reach out to people I care about, but I may not talk to as often as I would like, but this time of year a connection is made by the exchange of a Christmas card, a “catch-up” conversation by phone and, on rare occasions, in person.  The gift of a renewed memory always draws a smile.

It makes me remember that once upon a time not so very long ago, I couldn’t wait until it was time to get a Christmas tree and decorate it. Right after Thanksgiving, I would prompt my younger brothers to join me daily and start asking mom and dad, “When can we put up the Christmas tree?” It always seemed like whatever date they told us was an eternity away ... even if it was a week away.

The moment daddy pulled out the Christmas record by Nat King Cole and began playing “The Christmas Song,” we knew that season had arrived. The soft and beautiful crooning of Nat King Cole singing … Chestnuts roasting on an open fire … Jack frost nipping at your nose … was like magic to my ears, for it set the mood for the holiday.

Sometimes the Christmas tree in our home was a real living tree which smelled wonderful in the living room. At other times it was artificial and I would spray pine freshener from time to time to experience the smell of a real tree. Between the handmade ornaments made at school and saved through the years along with the beautiful shiny ornaments that came out storage yearly, the tree, no matter how small or unperfect, was always beautiful with a little help.

In fact, decorating the Christmas tree was a weekend thing because there was a lot of work that went into it. After the tree was anchored in its spot so it wouldn’t fall down or be easily knocked down by a household of busy kids running and playing throughout the house, the first order of business was the popping of popcorn. My mother popped oodles of it so that we would have enough to eat while we were stringing it to make popcorn garlands to decorate the tree. Once that was done, we would then be treated to making popcorn balls, which we did every year. Bless my mother for having the patience and love to let the five younger children play in the gooey, syrupy mess as we got creative and built popcorn towers along with the odd shaped popcorn balls. It was a delight to be able to nibble on the freshly made creations while still gooey and warm.

Every year in my youth, I remember participating in the annual Christmas program at church. It was not an option and today I am so glad to have those memories. How I wish I had pictures of the “Johnson 5” singing all three verses of “Silent Night” that we had memorized. The best part of the program was toward the end when all the kids came up front together to sing the fun songs such as “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” We were animated and would sing with such passion and joy while all the parents would be smiling. At the conclusion of the Christmas program we would race down to the refreshment hall and have hot chocolate and other sweet delights. Before leaving, each child would be given a brown paper bag filled to the brim with apples, oranges, various nuts and candy. Sometimes Santa himself would be the bearer of our precious goody bag.

I also remember learning that Santa’s significance was secondary to the child that was born in a manger long ago. That birth of that child is the reason for the season. Hopefully, you know the story. It is a beautiful, meaningful and exciting story. It is one of the reasons this season causes many to think more about caring and sharing with others.

These days, I don’t really fret over receiving store-bought gifts, although they are nice. For me the best gifts I receive cannot be bought by anyone. The gift of true friendships and true love exemplifies what this season means to me. How about you? Merry Christmas to you!

Always,

Regina Gale

Regina Gale is a singer, poet and speaker. She is the author of “Sometimes He Buys Me Grapes,” a touching and candid perspective of a seasoned woman’s heart that will speak to your heart. www.reginagale.com.