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Friday, December 4, 2009

Countdown to Christmas with Sharon Donovan

Too Tired for Christmas
“So are you all done with your Christmas shopping?” a friend asked, quickly adding, “Mine are all wrapped and tonight I’m baking my cookies.”
“I haven’t even started yet,” I replied, wondering why people were always in such a hurry to rush the season. But even before the words were out of my mouth, a surge of panic shot through me as that little voice in my head warned me that if I didn’t get out there, all the “Must have” gifts would be gone. With a sinking heart, I recalled last year when all those gifts that were supposedly so easy to find sent me on a wild goose chase all over Pittsburgh. I spent hours surfing the net only to find that every gift on my quest was either sold out or out of stock. No way was I going through that again. What choice did I have? It was time to hit the sales.
Has the world gone mad or are we robots programmed to do battle until every hard to find gift is found? Outrageous price tags come down for one day to their original value only to cause complete mayhem and utter chaos. Nonetheless, countless shoppers are willing to stand in line for hours in the bitter cold to get the hottest computer games and the latest trend to hit the market. No kids -- no problem. Buy it on sale and sell it for three times its worth on eBay. The clock is ticking. The race is on. It’s time to get swept up by the commercial vacuum of Christmas.
For a solid two hours, adrenaline pushed me from store to store through the mall. My mind buzzed with turmoil. Will Aunt Joanie be terribly disappointed with the dead ringer knock off bag I fought two other women for? Where can I find those gourmet coffee beans everyone wants and no one has? Not one store I’ve been to has one DVD on my list. Did I get enough batteries? And now that every single person on my scratch off list sent me a card, I have to reciprocate. Another stop at the card store. “Bah! Humbug!”
Just as I sat down to compose myself, the train whistle blew, sending a cargo of giggling children racing around the Santa village. Their joyous laughter was contagious. Before I knew it, I was filled with nostalgic memories of my own childhood when the spirit of Christmas was brought in with the putting up of the Lionel train set.
Around the first week of December, my entire family trooped down to the basement where we proceeded to make a village into a Christmas spectacular. We pulled out box after box, remembering exactly what was stored in each one. After that, we got busy, and like little elves helping Santa, we all had a job to do.
The first thing my dad and brother did was set up the platform on two wooden horses while my mom and sister and I unpacked the Lionel train set and accessories from yellowed newspapers. We squealed with delight when we came across all time favorites.
“Here’s the duck pond with the wooden bridge,” I yelled over the pounding. “Remember last year when we froze water and made it into an ice skating rink?”
“I found my favorite house!” my sister held up the snow-covered cottage with the bristly pine tree nestled against it. “I can’t wait to see it light up!”
A quick glance showed the platform was up and the track was being nailed down. As we waited impatiently for it to be secured, our dog Spark yipped around in playful circles, dragging around whatever he could sink his teeth into. As snowflakes fell and the village went up, the aroma of sugar cookies wafted through the house. With Christmas carols playing in the background, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Everyone was so busy no one noticed when our mom disappeared, but everyone noticed when she came back with a plate of freshly baked cookies and mugs of hot cocoa. “Time for a snack.”
As the hours unfolded, our little village was just about complete, and the anticipation for “Light up” night mounted.
“Put this capsule in the engine,” my dad told my brother. “Once the train heats up, steam will come out.”
“I’ll be the conductor,” my brother took his place at the control station as we all gathered around for the big moment.
Turning out the lights, we stared in awe at the village we created. Charming cottages glowed in the dark as the train rolled down the track and through the two tunnels. As it made its way around the town, a puff of cherry wood scented smoke billowed out of the engine. Lugging its cargo to the other end of the village, the freight train whistled as it took a sharp bend, “Woo—woo,” proving it was the little engine that could.
Snapping out of my revelry, realization dawned. What happened to the spirit of Christmas?
Suddenly, fighting the maddening crowds at the mall took a back seat. With all the rushing around, standing in line and worrying about a million things, the spirit of Christmas had been sucked up by the savage hunger of commercialism. Like Scrooge waking up from a dream, I was struck with an epiphany as I realized too much emphasis is placed on the commercial value of Christmas. Reflecting on simpler times, better times, I left the mall with a much lighter heart. Christmas isn’t about how many gifts we give or receive – it’s about the magic of the season. And if you need a reminder the next time you’re at the mall fighting the crowd, take time to reminisce. Take a break from the madness. Grab a hot drink, take a seat and remember when the joy of Christmas was contagious.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

22 comments:

Sharon Donovan said...

Hello and welcome to Day 4 in my Countdown to Christmas Blog. Isn't it terrible when we get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas? This year, let's all take a moment to reflect on the joy of the season and remember when...
Have a story of being bullied in the stores and outlets? Comments are most welcome.

Oliver has just set out a tray of hot coffee, tea and hot cocoa, along with nut rolls, gingersnaps and chocolate chips. Have a seat with us and relax by the fire, won't you?

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Oh, Sharon, you're a woman after my own heart - but you knew that anyway, didn't you?! I too get thoroughly depressed at the commercialisation of Christmas, ugh! We've tried so hard with our children to impress on them that it's not WHAT you get for Christmas that counts, it's the fact that you exchange gifts that matters, and I think (I hope!) we're succeeding. :) You know, I'd never heard of the tradition of the train before (I'm in the UK) but I think it's quite lovely. Your story made me smile so much, the sort of family Christmas I love. Happy Christmas!

Jane x

Sharon Donovan said...

Happy Christmas to you, too, Jane! Yes we have so much in common and place value on what we hold near and dear to our hearts. And right you are, the train tradition is a beautiful one and one that will always make me smile. Let's all spread the cheer this year and make our world a better place. Happy Christmas to one and all!

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Sharon and Oliver. And yes, I'll have a cup of your wake-up coffee. Like Jane, I had not heard of the tradition of the Christmas train before. But it is lovely. And I really related to your statement of being sucked up by the commercial vacuum of Christmas. How very true. How did Christmas become all about buying and selling? But we can all do our part to change it, can't we?
Happy day. Linda

P.L. Parker said...

Christmas was so fun when I was young. We weren't rich, not even well to do, but we didn't know that. So much love in our family. Had no idea how much my parents struggled to keep us clean, dressed nicely, cared for. Good people, still are. We never slept all night, waited up to see Santa (might have drifted off sometime), but I have just so many wonderful memories.

Kathleen said...

This things have gotten entirely too commercial and too rushed and Sharon what a nice blog to remind us what the season really means

Sharon Donovan said...

Good morning, Linda. Of course you can have a cup of wake up. Oh Oliver! I'm happy to share the tradition of the train set. For many years, it was a forgotten memory. But in the past several years, the tradition is making a major come back. It's a nice change from all the computer games and commercialism of the season. Taking an imaginary trip through an old fashioned village, stopping to visit the manger and being thankful for family and friends is what truly matters. Cheers!

Sharon Donovan said...

Patsy, you said it all. That is so much the voice of my heart echoing yours. We had no money growing up but we were so rich in blessings and traditions, who knew? Our parents struggled to make our Christmas memories ones to remember and pass on to our own.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Kathleen, again, well said. When indeed? Let's all go back in time to a time when Christmas was about the joy of the season and the spirit of giving.

Mary Ricksen said...

Sharon you paint a lovely picture that brings one back to their own childhood. The first time that the tree lights up it creates a solemn atmosphere that takes over ones heart. It's a feeling and a memory tucked inside to last forever. Even if every Christmas isn't perfect, we always have our memories.

Sharon Donovan said...

How true,Mary, and so eloquently put. That's a lovely way of looking at the Christmas memories we hold near and dear to our hearts.

Judy said...

I hope my children and grandchildren enjoy Christmas as much as I did when I was young. Things were not so hectic as they are today. I do my Christmas shopping early, so I do not fight the malls, and I can enjoy the grandkids and baking without much hassle:)

Sharon Donovan said...

You really know how to celebrate Christmas, Judy. Those are lovely traditions to pass onto your family. Don't get bogged down by the hub bub of all that rushing. Take time to enjoy the season and make every year a memory.

Skhye said...

Just stopping by! I typed a big message but lost it. So, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I'm off to scroll through the older posts. ;)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hey Skhye! Thanks for dropping by to wish us a Merry Christmas. Oliver is counting the days until he gets to be your helper in the kitchen! Wink wink

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon

What a lovely post. I love theidea of the Christmas train, it sounds beautiful. I suppose my own equivalent is trimming the tree and bringing out old treasures, and placing them fondly on the branches, and the delight in finding an old favourite I'd forgotten.

I do so agree about the commercialism of Christmas. I try to avoid hitting the shops as much as possible and buy most of my gifts on-line from Animal Charity shops. So many animals are thrown away like discarded toys at this time of year, so I feel by buying gifts this way, I'm helping them and still have the pleasure of giving to friends ad family.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sharon,
A wonderful Christmas post. I agree with you entirely, Christmas has lost its special meaning due to rank commercialism and gree of the shops, and this is very sad.
Sadder still that we, have let them do this. Tell Oliver, I'll have some ginger snaps, thanks

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Lyn and Margaret. Lyn, putting up the tree each year with old and new ornaments is indeed a rich tradition, and passing ornaments down to our loved ones are family heirlooms in our own rights. Lovely. Margaret, sad indeed. And isn't it time to change that by taking out commercialism a little each year until the joy of the season is uncovered. Dig into the gingersnaps and have some Earl Grey, both of you. Oliver has the old fashioned spirit!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Sharon, that memory sounds absolutely perfect!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Stacey, thank you. Yes, putting up the train station each year is something I hold near and dear to my heart. Wishing you a "Joy ous" Christmas!

Sharon Donovan said...

One more thing pertaining to your comment, Lyn. I agree about the animals and all the abused pets out there in the world. For anyone looking for the Christmas spirit who have gotten so tangled up in the hustle bustle, a great way of revitalizing oneself is a trip to an animal rescue shelter. Who knows? You might walk away with the best Christmas present ever, giving a home to a needy pet. And if that isn't possible, make a small donation. Even if money is tight, they are in constant need of food and so much more. This year, give a little of yourself or time to a sweet pet. I promise, it will make you smile.

Julie Robinson said...

That was absolutely beautiful, Sharon! Thanks for reminding me to be glad that I'm staying home right now and not getting sucked into the whirlwind of madness that Christmas has become.