When I was a little girl, my parents fought a lot. My brothers and I were constantly on eggshells, particularly around my mother. Christmastime was no exception. We may or may not have gotten the tree up and lit before Christmas day. Same thing with lights on the house or Christmas shopping. I'm sure there were years when I feared not getting to celebrate the holiday at all, but I have pushed a lot of bad memories out of my mind.
I may not have felt much of the "Christmas Spirit" before the 25th day of the month, but I knew it was out there. I would often play in church the Sunday before Christmas with the choir. We did the same program every year, and I looked forward to it. People who hadn't been to church all year long would attend that day, some even joining the choir at the very last minute. Which made me think, there's no escaping the Christmas Sprit.
When my husband and I got engaged and I began spending Christmases with his family, I came to know the spiritedness of the holiday quite well. I couldn't believe how beautiful a simple holiday could be. Or how long it could last. My mother-in-law found joy in every aspect of the season. Her home became more beautiful, her food more delicious. I loved being there with them at that time of year.
Now that I have children, Christmas has a completely different impact on me. I am focused on how they perceive everything and the message they receive this time of year. I want them to think of Christ, not presents. And I want them to feel like they've already received the greatest gifts of all. It dawned on me the other day (as it has over and over in my life) that the key to happiness truly is living a Christ-centered life. So we've read scriptures of Christ's example and gifts to us, and we've looked for opportunities to serve others just as he did in preparation for his birthday.
I've noticed that the feeling of the Christmas spirit hits me at a different time each year and in a different way. I've also noticed that some years, it's harder to feel it than others. The passing years have brought more children, more shopping, more class parties, more responsibilities, more distractions. Somehow, though, Christmas day arrives and our home and hearts are always transformed. Even as a child, not knowing what December 25th would bring, that feeling of peace would arrive just in the nick of time.
So, do I believe? Oh yes, I do. In magic, in the Spirit, in whatever you want to call the change that comes over everything. Birthdays and many other holidays are subject to bitterness, but Christmas somehow survives every year. No matter what.