by Rain Trueax
What does Christmas mean to you?
In my life, it has changed from the beginning, the first time I was told what it was, to today. I have had times where Santa Claus was what was important. Those were the years, when Santa came Christmas Eve. We would be sent to our bedroom because Santa was coming. Then, the excitement was to come out and see what had been left under the tree. No matter how great the gifts were, Christmas Day meant the whole Trueax family gathering for a big dinner, more gifts, and much cousin fun.
Holidays change their meaning through a lifetime. My own is an example of that. From childhood, to parenthood, to empty nest, and old age what Christmas means to me has changed. Is there one right thing for it to mean? If someone looks at it religiously, probably there is.
Religiously, I could have reincarnated multiple times for the different ways I have seen Christmas. Most years when I was young, it did not mean going to church. When I reached young adulthood, I became a Catholic and Christmas meant a midnight Mass. I loved the ritual of the Catholic Church at Christmas. I loved the procession of the priest down the aisle, the candles, the nativity, the smell of candles and incense, the beauty of being there with all the fragrances and age-old rituals.
Religiously, I also experienced what being in a small rural community meant for Christmas. When we first moved to this farm, 40 years ago, our children went to a two-room schoolhouse, where the Christmas program meant a nativity. Having come from a city school, where it was a 'holiday' not Christmas, this was exciting. Christmas out here was very traditional.
We also became involved in the local church, where adults and children put on a Christmas program for the congregation, with music and small scenes. That meant December was about Christmas practices. Such fun to plan what it would be each year, what music, what skits.
The most vivid one in my memory was a mix of that and tragedy. We were inside, practicing, when we heard the crash of an automobile outside the church. We kept the children inside, all the men, including Ranch Boss, ran outside to see what had happened. Power lines were down, as a car had crashed into the only power pole that could have stopped its momentum short of the church. Determining those lines were live and the person inside was not moving, they waited for the police to arrive. Later we learned that the young man, who had been drag racing his brother on our narrow country road, had been killed. Tragedy and ritual side by side.
Through my lifetime, Christmas meant parties, dinners, luminaries, dinners that required three tables, family/friend gatherings, church, rarely snow, and now today it's mostly just Ranch Boss and me. Sometimes it has been spent on the road between our Oregon farm and Tucson house.
What we do for the day has changed a lot. I do not send out cards (economics and the dwindling reason to do so). I only sparsely decorate. This is from a woman who has a sizable Christmas Village. Who used to decorate the whole house with greens and a big Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments that went back to my and Ranch Boss' childhoods. It makes no sense to decorate since nobody comes to see them. I don't feel sad about that but just an acknowledgement of what is and changing times.
Life changes and I feel, given my age, in my seventies, that is okay. I remember all those earlier years but have had to release them, not dwell on them, be glad I had them, to avoid ruining what is. Would I like all my family under one roof for Christmas Day? Yes, I would, such is not my choice. Those days are gone. I can feel nostalgia for what was and release it for what is yet to be.
All images from Stencil