I’ve pretty much given up on Christmas. Well, let’s say it has morphed into something quite different from our early Gustafson days. When I was a child, though, my  family observed a spartan Christmas-morning ritual. In many families, the kids would tear downstairs and attack the Christmas treepackages under the tree. By the time the parents got up, the place was chaos and the children either deliriously happy or grumbling about what they didn’t get.
Not the Emmans family. No. We all got up together and were forbidden to go into the living room or even peek from the dining room. No. We ate breakfast. We did the dishes. All things decently and in order.
THEN we made our grand entrance into the living room. Can’t remember if the tree lights were already on or needed to be plugged in. But once aglow, we did our one-at-a-time opening of gifts, stretching out the delicious process of giving and receiving.
As the years piled Christmas upon Christmas, our Gustafson celebrations became increasingly complicated, with baking and entertaining, choir rehearsing, mailing of hundreds of Christmas letters (many with personal notes), decorating, shopping for an expanding family, wrapping . . .  An unclimbable mountain of utter exhaustion. Finally, I said ENOUGH! This is NOT Christmas; it’s a self-defeating orgy.
I stood  on my hind legs and spoke my decree: Henceforth, Jim and I will not buy presents for anyone. Or make them, either. We don’t want any presents. We will decorate Christmas0002only minimally—as in no tree, no greenery, maybe a ribbon on the door knocker, a candle here and there. Grinchy Scrooge incarnate. But WHEW! What a relief! Now our major focus is church events, Christmas letters (relationships remain important ), and just sitting back to watch the hurry-scurry of the rest of the celebratory world.
What are they celebrating, though? Don’t  want to go there. A few do it right–rejoicing in the glorious advent of our Lord and Savior with love and song and festive dining.
Most, unfortunately, focus on the material. Christmas tarnished or broken or thrown away.
But that’s not the end of the story. Stay tuned for Notable Christmases, Part 2.