Driving home from my parents’ house Christmas Eve felt different than in years past… the car was quieter than usual, and my youngest daughter stated she felt like something was missing. At 16 and 19, my daughters’ days of wearing red velvet dresses with matching bows and leaving cookies out for Santa are a distant memory, but for me it was just yesterday. They used to ask daily when Santa was coming, begging to stay up late to catch a peek and see if his reindeer had landed on the roof.
As they nodded off on the car ride home, falling asleep to Christmas music coming from the radio, it was much quieter than I remember. It was in this silence that I also felt it. Something WAS missing… the Christmas magic of long ago. And I realized at that moment, in all the hustle and bustle of buying gifts and wrapping them, making truffles, sending Christmas cards, planning menus, getting ready for church, and packing the car with all of the gifts, we had forgotten the one thing we truly needed… remembering the true meaning of the holiday and the reason for the season. Yes, we were on our way to Christmas Eve mass, and had the car packed with gifts, but many of the traditions we started when they were younger had started to fade away. We seemed to be busier and have less time for doing what brought us joy.
Long ago, we used to sing Christmas carols around the neighborhood with friends, ending with hot cocoa at the house. We started going to my grandmother’s convalescent home singing and bringing to joy to everyone who lived there. Some years friends joined us, and some years it was just the four of laughing and bringing the Christmas spirit with us as we handed out candy canes and hugs. We delivered cookies to our local fire station and police, and one year created a Kindness Calendar, with 25 days of giving back to the community. We left cookies for Santa, carrots for his reindeer and made magic “flying powder” for reindeer, delivering it to unsuspecting neighbors, ringing the bell and driving off while we waited in the car down the street to see the excitement on their faces as they opened the door and found this magic powder. And for many years we put together bags of homemade sandwiches, fruit and Christmas cookies and handed them out to those without a home in a local park, meeting so many wonderful people, year after year.
Covid changed much of what we did and could do, and of course delivering reindeer magic powder and singing carols fell by the wayside long ago. This year, we watched only one Christmas movie together, I made chocolate truffles alone, and if I’m being completely honest, I miss the days when my girls were younger and walked down the aisle in our Church’s Christmas pageant, with their crooked halos and wings from Party City.
Christmas Eve mass was beautiful this year, and it was fun to be together with all of the grandparents and cousins, of course, but I think I have been so busy trying to make sure we have the right gift for the right person, I haven’t given the most beautiful gift we as parents can give our kids, no matter how old they are… not presents beautifully wrapped and tied with a red ribbon, but the gift of time. Time together, not rushing around in the car, but telling stories, laughing and time spent giving back to others. That’s what I think has been missing. It’s no wonder they are not feeling the Christmas magic… I miss it too.
As we pulled into our driveway Christmas Eve, I asked them what they felt was missing and what were some of their favorite Christmas traditions from over the years… from driving around and seeing the beautiful lights, wearing matching pajamas, warm cinnamon rolls Christmas morning and playing with a manger set when they were little, to watching holiday movies and giving back to others. We talked about how they used to wait in anticipation for us to wake up, snuggle on the couch and just being together.
Christmas morning, we talked about how we felt and decided we would make and hand out sandwiches next weekend, stay in our pjs the day after Christmas and watch movies all day long, and just be together. Maybe this will be our new tradition… and maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late to bring back some of the magic, remembering the real reason for Christmas.