Deck the Halls
It would begin the morning after Thanksgiving, while the wonderful smells of turkey, dressing, and gravy were still in the air. A stack of Christmas records would go on the record player and would be played all through the Christmas season. These were those vinyl records made for Goodyear and Firestone. They would usually cost a dollar. The artists were Andy Williams, Andre Kostelanetz, Doris Day, Diahann Carroll, Steve Lawrence and Eddie Gorme, Gordon MacRae, Roberta Peters and the Columbus Boychoir. They sang the old Christmas classics: O Holy Night, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, Caroling, Caroling, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Little Drummer Boy, We Three Kings of Orient Are, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, The Twelve Days of Christmas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silver Bells, Good King Wenceslas.
Right after breakfast we would drive to Peltzer Pines Tree Farm all bundled up against the frequent Santa Ana winds. The three of us would walk through the rows of trees looking for just the right tree: perfect shape, perfect size and perfect price. When we found it, we would mark it to pick up later and then go back home to continue the fun. Out would come the boxes from the garage and we would first of all pull out the crèche and put it on the hearth. The felt doorknob cover would go on the closet doorknob and the advent calendar would be hung. The pictures would come down and counted cross stitch pictures I had made would go up. A decoration from a friend would go on the front door. One box reveals a candy house made by Kay and the kids in the neighborhood. We carefully put it on the hutch and surround it with tiny toys and objects accumulated over the years. There is the little wooden soldier with colored pencils inside, the Swedish rooster, the little Mr. and Mrs. Santa and all the other things so precious to us.
We would polish the brass plate from Mur, put five candle holders on it, fill it with evergreens and holly from our yard and add four red candles and one purple candle. This was our advent wreath. For four weeks before Christmas, each evening, after dinner, we would light a candle and then read about the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each week another candle would be lit. By the fourth week all candles would be lit and the fifth candle, representing the Messiah, would be lit as well. This, of course, is a wonderful way to teach the Scriptures about Jesus Christ. I am afraid that Kay and I would unmercifully tease Mmmm about his pronunciation of certain words, especially Zechariah.
About two weeks before Christmas, we would go to the Christmas Tree farm and cut down the tree. Of course, every year, we thought it was the prettiest we ever had. We would set it up, put on the lights and then carefully put the decorations on. There was a little glass horn from Germany that we bought the first year we were married as well as the little glass bird that clipped on the tree. There were ornaments that symbolized what the important event of the year had been. Our little Jewish neighbor boy brought his ornaments over and watched us trim our tree with them. I gave them back to him this year. We would put tinsel on, arrange the skirt, then turn off the lights admire the tree as the music played and the advent candles burned.
Each year I try to read a chapter in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp. It is chapter four, An Austrian Christmas. I love to read how Maria Von Trapp introduced the children to what a real Christmas is about. I also love a book by a Swedish author telling how her mother baked the Christmas cookies. Unfortunately, I lent the book to someone and it was never returned.
The empty stockings would hang on the fireplace. Gradually the little pile of gifts under the tree would grow. The gifts were never the important thing, it was always the wonderful month of preparation. . . the preparation of the heart for the incomparable gift of Jesus Christ.
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