From the Editor

Christmas Then and Now

From the Editor

Photo: iStock/Andrey_Kuzmin.

Christmas is for me a cherished time, a pause at the end of fall and of the year just before winter and a new year begin. When I was a child, each Christmas seemed a time when, no matter how much had changed during the preceding year, we would step into a brief period untouched by time or change. All would be as it had been last Christmas, as it was every Christmas, and would continue to be—except, of course, it wouldn’t. I know now that while the essence of every Christmas is unchanging, every Christmas is in some way unlike any that came before.

As a parent, I wanted to give my children Christmas as I had known it. My wife and I carried on my family’s tradition of giving the children one present at bedtime on Christmas Eve—new pyjamas to wear as they slept and dreamt of what Santa might bring. They were always thrilled, not just because they got new pyjamas, but because new pyjamas on Christmas Eve was part of Christmas. They wouldn’t have called it a tradition, but they knew it was A Thing That Should Happen. And Santa did his (and her) best to ensure that the morning would abound with wishes fulfilled, and a few surprises.

I don’t know to what extent each of my children will try to recreate the Christmases of their childhoods, but I discovered last year that my elder son is clearly following in the footsteps of his father’s Santa boots. He (and I, his elf) got a wee bit carried away. I spent last Christmas with him and his family, arriving at their home on a suitably snowy Christmas Eve, after having attended Mass. For various logistical reasons, I went to Mass alone. While they lived at the time in an Ottawa suburb, the church was farther out in the country, set atop a hill precisely like a church on a Christmas card. I hadn’t anticipated that everyone west of Ottawa would gather at that particular church and arrived a bit later than I should have. I spent a very unusual and steamy but convivial hour jammed into the small vestibule with about 150 people who also wished that they’d arrived earlier. We heard the Mass more than saw it, but everyone did his or her best to make room for one another, and we smiled a lot.

After Mass, with my two grandsons tucked into bed, Santa and his elf went to work. My son and I wrapped presents until well after 2 a.m. We had divided the kids’ wish lists between us, and each of us had added one or two (okay, a few) more surprises. As Christmas Eve threatened to become Christmas morning, I crawled off to bed, leaving my son to wrap yet more presents. I believe he got an hour of sleep. But in the morning, he and I were beaming as we watched wrapping paper fly. (And we promise not to overdo it again this year.)

I’ll be with my son and my beloved daughter-in-law and my grandsons this Christmas, too, but yet again something will be different. My other beloved daughter-in-law, who lived with me for the past few years while completing her degree, is now in Halifax with my younger son, and that leaves me with a problem. How the heck do you put up a Christmas tree alone? Someone has to tighten the screws while I hold the thing straight!

I wish for all of you a very happy and peaceful Christmas. God bless us all.

Murray Lewis