I have often said I grew up during the best time in our country’s history. WW2 just ended, and our fathers and uncles and even some of our moms and aunts were home for the first time in a long time. We had the golden age of TV – the best and most creative shows in the history of the little box ( 6 inch screens that grew to today’s 50+” screens). We had Channels 2,4,5,7,9, 11 and 13 were all you got, but there always seemed to be something you wanted to watch. You played outside on the street until Mom called you in, or it got so dark you couldn’t see the ball. And if you were lucky enough to live near some woods, you played Robin Hood, and could drink from any nearby stream. And it was so safe, you never had to worry about an adult interfering in your games. We were kids and learned from other kids how to play baseball, football and basketball. The funny thing is – just about everyone who wanted to… played. Supper time was family time. Mom made one dish for everyone, and we talked to each other.
Christmas was wonderful then! Most kids only got one or two presents on Christmas Day, but you were grateful. Your parents, “The Greatest Generation,” lived through the Great Depression, rations for everything from gas to milk during the war. They had it rough and wanted to make sure our lives were better than theirs. Santa Claus, although he was around well before I was born, became more popular, and nobody worried about letting us sit on his knee. The holiday seasons started regularly – Halloween prepared for Thanksgiving, and Christmas started when Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was over. Of course, everyone said Merry Christmas and whether you were Christian or not, it was a joyful greeting no one seemed to mind. The religious aspect of Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men (meaning everyone) was the prevalent theme.
Slowly, all that changed over the next 70 years. The art of communicating – talking to each other – is losing ground to texting – even when that person is sitting on the other side of the table. TV’s got bigger, the number of channels is in the hundreds and now we have to pay for the shows we watch! It’s not safe for kids to play outside after school now, so adults are always around to teach kids how to play correctly. It’s a shame – not everybody is allowed to play now. Playing the games we played are now done on the computer, and some of those games are more violent than any cowboy movie I ever saw. Christmas sales start before Halloween! People cause riots in stores getting gifts for each other and instead of one or two gifts, there’s a competition to see who gets the most. That spoiled kid in Harry Potter has nothing over us! For a while there, people were actually killed on Black Fridays in parents’ rush to get gifts for their kids. Now it isn’t a matter of making sure your kid has it better than you. It’s an obligation to make sure no one else’s kid gets more than your kid.
We pay a lot of lip service to the true meaning of Christmas, but it seems few of us pay attention to the real magic of the day.
When my aunt moved back to New Jersey, Carmen and I drove down to Toms River to share Christmas with her and her children and grandchildren every year, . It was an opportunity for me to be an uncle and play with kids. Two of the children, now adults, tell me those are among their fondest childhood memories. I’m glad we had that time together.
My sweet tooth is legendary in my family. My food of choice is birthday cake – butter cream icing, fruit filling (pineapple) and plenty of sugary flowers (now THAT’S a birthday cake!). With all the good food available on the Christmas table, I always wondered why a birthday cake to celebrate the birth of Jesus was always missing (SOME birthday!).
So, one Christmas, I decided to bring birthday cake as part of our contribution to the goodies.
LET THE FEAST BEGIN!
Everyone enjoyed everything and there was a lot of food to be had that Christmas. Within an hour most all of the food was gone…
Except for the birthday cake.
Maybe it didn’t help that I thought His name wasn’t needed on the cake. Everyone looked at it and passed it by except for me and Carmen. Finally, during the cleanup afterward, my aunt pulled me aside.
“Ted, I know your father’s birthday was yesterday, but we’re all wondering why you brought the birthday cake? Who’s birthday is it?”
I was kind of shocked. She was one of the nicest people I have ever known, and these were the people I had loved my entire life, but they had no idea whose birthday it was. I didn’t answer the question. I just figured if they didn’t know, there was no use in my telling them. Besides it was embarrassing.
So many of you were kind and generous throughout the past year in remembering Carmen and me in your prayers. You are the perfect example of living the Christmas Season throughout the year you have been an inspiration to me.
But it’s easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the season. I hope, in the days between now and Christmas, you’ll spend a little time thinking about why we have Christmas and what the day is supposed to mean. Maybe you’ll even buy a birthday cake!
So paraphrasing a guy named Bob, “Here’s to Jesus! The Founder of the feast!”
And a kid named Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”
Happy Birthday Jesus!
From my Ohana (family) to yours, May the Joy and Wonder of Christmas be yours today and always!
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Carmen and Ted