Keeping Christmas all through the year

We had a Christmas tradition when my sons were little that used to make me crazy.

It was a holiday custom my husband brought into our lives from his family, where Santa always delivered the family Christmas tree.

Apparently, along with all the other gifts Santa Claus had to deliver all around the world, the big guy also had the room on his sleigh to carry around a fully-decorated tree for my husband’s family.

That meant when the DeLuca children went to bed on Christmas Eve the living room would be dark and empty. When they woke up on Christmas morning the room would be ablaze in twinkling lights. In the center was a giant tree, dripping in ornaments, looming over piles of Christmas gifts. It was an in-your-face holiday miracle that thrilled them right down to the toes of their footie pajamas.

So, at my house, the next generation of DeLuca boys also had their Christmas tree delivered by the jolly old elf.

As any mother can imagine, this added some hours to my last-minute to-do list. And also deprived me from enjoying a Christmas tree in the weeks before the big day.

But, the faces of my boys as they came tearing into the living room to find a glowing tree and a pile of presents, helped me understand why my husband loved the tradition so much.

I mean — I honor “the reason for the season” and God bless us everyone, of course — but helping to put that crazy joy on my boys faces was kind of like “mommy crack.”

I wanted them to have more of that. But, as we all know, life does not oblige in providing massive quantities of wild-eyed Christmas joy.

There have been a few years when the Christmas season seems to begin with a sigh. It’s a holiday that in the worst of times can seem to loom over everything, stretching to near-breaking schedules, “to-do” lists and budgets that are already extended. Then there’s all that baggage from Christmases passed that adults carry into each season, sometimes  joyful and sometimes incredibly tragic.

But, despite all of that, or maybe because of it, the holiday season seems to inspire little miracles and lots of them, no matter what your faith or what you  believe.

People are kinder, they do more good deeds, and they donate to good causes simply because, “It’s Christmas.” I cannot count the stories I’ve written as a newspaper reporter about people reaching out in so many inspirational ways to those less fortunate. At Christmas, that kind of behavior multiplies exponentially.

That is the side of the holiday season that I want more of in my life. There have been holiday seasons I’ve left my Christmas decorations up far longer than is typical. The tree goes down mid-January, but the rest of the stuff, the lights and the Nativity scene and the bookcase Santa Claus figure, they go back into the basement boxes a little more slowly. I always try to hang on as long as possible to all the good ways this season makes me feel.

When I don’t have time to send Christmas cards, I sometimes try to make up for it by sending New Year’s cards … as there is a far bigger window for those. And, because I don’t always have as much money as I’d like to place in that red Salvation Army bucket during the Christmas season, I always try to make up for it in the New Year.

Because, the greatest thing we learn from giving gifts this time of year is that the pleasure goes to the giver.

This very morning, I intend to be sitting in the warm company of my little family, including my husband, my two lovely adult sons and my very young 83-year-old mother. My plan is to count my blessings. And then I hope to pay them forward until Christmas comes again.

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