TGI staff reflects on meanings, memories of Christmas

w Editor’s note: Following are stories from some of TGI’s staff about Christmas and its meaning in their life.

Joy of Christmas comes from family

For me, Christmas is a special time to spend with family and friends, letting them know how much they are loved and appreciated. My family would decorate the tree with sentimental ornaments, some we designed in school with our photos and the date created. We set up a small nativity scene in the house and played a ceramic musical box that lit up like a Christmas tree and played “Frosty the Snowman.”

One time, my dad harvested our own Christmas tree from the forest. We chopped it down with an ax and mounted it on top of our old station wagon. When we got it to the house and barely through the door, we realized it was too tall. So we chopped off the top to keep the star from touching the ceiling.

It was the most reverent occasion of the year, attending candlelight church services and singing Christmas carols, feeling the joy of the festive season. My mom would bake fresh breads, while my sister and I would help decorate cookies in the shapes of snowmen, angels and stars. The aromas filled the kitchen with baked goods and sweet smells.

As a child, we always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, which didn’t seem that unusual. But we did have one unique tradition. Santa would hide a dill pickle in the Christmas tree, and the first kid to find it would receive a special package, usually something made of chocolate.

As a child, I always enjoyed receiving colorfully decorated presents, ripping open packages with excitement and anticipation. Sometimes I received a new toy that I would play with day and night. But every year there was one gift under the tree that took some time to appreciate. I was always a little disappointed to open the boring present of socks or underwear.

As an adult, I still enjoy singing carols and admiring lighted decorations at a joyous time when people are feeling happy. The best thing for me is letting friends and family know how much they are loved and appreciated. I still enjoy the occasional holiday cookies like I did as a child, but now I could really use some new socks and underwear!

— John Steinhorst

Community counts

Coming to a realization that God has a different calling on your life isn’t always easy, but there comes a point during your walk with the creator that you must listen to that still, small or even booming voice, that like in the story of Jonah says, “Go,” and “go.”

As someone who no longer celebrates Christmas the same way I did prior to my new faith journey, I will always hold the Christmas traditions of my family close to my heart and will never shy from wishing a member of another faith “Happy holidays.”

As I walk along this new path, the greatest gift I’ve received is the gift of community. It’s been a blessing getting to know on a very personal level a community that is both polarized and marginalized in the Western world.

Throughout the years I have witnessed grace in the face of hardship, dignity in the face of adversity and beauty in darkness.

Being a member of this community is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

— Bethany Freudenthal

A Boy Scout surprise

I am from a family of nine children.

We always had a lot of presents under the tree, but it was rare for one sibling to have lots of presents.

One Christmas, I was sure I was the favored child, because there were around six or seven presents with my name on them. One of them looked and felt like a wrist watch box, and I was super excited (of course I pawed, shook and otherwise checked them all out).

My excitement quickly melted somewhat on Christmas morning when I joyfully ripped open the several presents and found they contained different parts of a Boy Scout uniform.

It was still a Christmas to remember.

— Paul Curtis

The waiting game

I still recall the feeling of absolute delight being a boy and looking at our living room on Christmas morning, the tree surrounded by what seemed to be a mountains of present. My parents were not wealthy, but they wanted the morning of Dec. 25 to be magical, and for their seven children, it was. I count myself as fortunate to have a dad and mom who worked so hard for their kids who were often far from angels.

But what I remember, even more than the presents, was the waiting on Christmas morning. My brothers and I, sleeping in the basement rooms, were usually the first up. The sisters, upstairs, somehow slept in and how this was possible on such a day, I’ll never know.

We were not allowed to just wander into the living room. All of us were corralled into the back room, or behind the closed door leading upstairs, where we waited with joyous anticipation. The excitement was so thick, so heavy, it seemed we were not survive the minutes. Could we go? Now? Could we? Finally, mom, dad, or both, would open the door. “OK. You can go now.”

And go, we would.

We charged wildly with a roar, racing through the kitchen (except my oldest sister, Mary Louise, who was always the last), following by a frenzy of ripping open what seemed to be an endless pile of gifts. We excitedly showed each other a present, then moved on to the next.

Later, as we got older, the waiting was not as thrilling. It became casual, almost. Almost a nuisance. The magic was gone. I never regained it.

But I will never forget huddling with brothers and sisters on those stairs Christmas morning. I still see that door opening, my mom smiling. If I really listen, I can hear those feet flying across the floor, too. I never ran so fast again.

— Bill Buley

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