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Unmistakeably Old: Christmas change

Have you noticed the amount of change that’s     all around us? Of course we all know about the electronic revolution, and most of us try to keep up at least a bit—a cell phone here, a computer there.

But for some reason this Christmas season, the enormity of how different things are in all aspects of our lives has really hit me, beginning with how scattered family members have become, many too far away to come home for Christmas. It’s a trend that has built slowly over the years, perhaps someone thinking we wouldn’t notice.

But that’s just the beginning of what’s different. I was surprised to learn how many families no longer hang up stockings. I used to needlepoint stockings for each new family member, only to learn that in some of my descendant’s homes the stockings were seldom pulled out from the Christmas box. It seems amazing to me that they trust that Santa will come with no stockings hung by the chimney with care.

And more than half of my relatives around here have shifted to fake trees, some with permanent lights. “Good for the environment” I’m told, although I read articles about how difficult it is for plastic to break down, once it arrives in a landfill. Of course plastic lacks the pine smell of Christmas, but in some homes, the smell comes out of an aerosol can.

I’ve also noticed that a few relatives seem to have shied away from red and green in favor of designer ornaments. One niece has a white plastic tree decorated in purple ornaments. It’s lovely looking but it’s not very “Christmas.”

And don’t even get me started on what appears on most tables pretending to be Christmas dinner.

As a family member who is Unmistakably Old, I’ve earned the right to be a member of the “I remember when” Club.

•    I remember when the Christmas colors were red and green.

•    I remember when popcorn was strung and paper chains were pasted to decorate trees along with the ornaments tenderly saved from year to year.

•    I remember when we saved the wrapping paper for next year and even ironed pieces that were a bit crumpled.

•     I remember when Christmas decorations never went up before December and a special treat was to go downtown to see how the stores decorated their windows.

•     I remember when baking and decorating cookies, steaming pudding and making fruitcake filled the house with Christmas smells.

•    I remember when someone read The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.

Some or all of those things have given way to fast, convenient, and up-to date. However, I know this as well. I know that time blurs the hard edges of reality, blunting the difficult and glorifying the good. I know that Christmas still caries the message of love and peace, even if it arrives in plastic. And I know that when this generation of children become Unmistakably Old, they will have their own warm memories, perhaps of purple ornaments on plastic trees.

So here’s what I’m planning to do. I’m going to bake something-probably krumkake. I will ask one of my offspring to bring me a bit of pine which I will make into a table decoration with red and green ornaments along with some pinecones, and I plan to read The Night Before Christmas along with the Christmas story to any and all who care to listen. And I will remember that it is people, not decorations, that make Christmas warm and safe.

Just thinking about this has gotten me into the Christmas spirit.

And so, to all of us, old and young, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

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