By Megan Erbacher
I don’t remember what gifts I received for Christmas when I was 4, 7, or even five years ago.
But, I can still smell holiday goodies baking in the kitchen and the hushed whispers of my mom and dad trying to enjoy a little peace with their morning coffee before my brother, sister and I awoke from our slumbers and dashed down the hallway.
I remember the three of us kids leaving shoes outside of our bedroom doors the evening of Dec. 5 and waking up to find treats, trinkets and small gifts stuffed inside from St. Nicholas. I’ve always loved this tradition. As a church, we celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, a bishop who had a reputation as a secretive and generous gift-giver, on Dec. 6.
I can still feel the adrenaline I had as a youngster that kept me awake on Christmas Eve, knowing all of the magic that awaited me the next day.
I remember the happiness I felt before a gift was even opened. Then, my mom swooping in to get pictures of her sleepy-eyed children, and my dad saying, ‘Oh, what do you have there?’ while wearing his signature hunter orange sock hat and matching zip-up sweatshirt. Inevitably, we kids would immediately ask for his help to assemble something, and without hesitation, he obliged.
I have fond memories of my mom pulling down the wooden attic stairs and climbing up into the dark abyss to fetch garland, lights and ornaments. The smell of our family’s real Christmas tree and trying to avoid the fallen needles as Christmas morning approached.
One of my favorite holiday memories is reading “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg with my mom. Our set was complete with a silver bell from one of the reindeer harnesses on Santa’s sleigh. There was nothing more special than reading that book and ringing the magical bell. It can make a believer out of anyone.
My granny’s delicious homemade pumpkin cake and icing was always a hit around the holidays, and the pizza rolls we chowed on at my grandpa Joe’s was such a welcome change from the traditional foods we dined on all day. My grandpa even sent extra bags home with us.
I remember the excitement of a new outfit for Christmas Mass and the five of us rushing around trying to make it on time.
This year the holiday season is – without a doubt – going to be very different. I didn’t realize back in March that the world would still be battling COVID-19; but unfortunately, that’s our reality.
If we focus on all we’re missing out on, it’s a huge bummer; I get it. Instead, let’s try to focus on all of the good and what we can do that is safe for everyone. Technology makes it possible for us to video chat with family members who can’t travel home for the holidays, gifts can be opened together while talking on the phone, or send a good morning text over coffee.
If you’re not comfortable with technology, you could plan to make a few family favorites and know that as you enjoy dinner, your siblings and parents are also enjoying the same meal. You can start new traditions at home with your children and spouse, like watching a holiday classic and popping popcorn.
While it doesn’t look promising that all of my family will be able to gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can still make memories this holiday season that we will fondly look back on. After all, it’s the moments and feelings shared that make the holidays so special.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
It seems to be a time in our lives when we could all practice a little more patience with one another and be constant in our prayers for all as the world continues to navigate this unprecedented time.
This year, our celebrations will change. While it can be easy to dwell on that, I’m determined to make memories that are safe for all of us.