Copyright (c) 2010 Bob and Penny Lord’s Site
There are so many stories and traditions surrounding the giving of gifts at Christmas, as many as there are countries in the world. Through a Little Child, God comes to us to bring out the best in us. Who can resist a Baby, no less the Child Jesus?
Christmas in Brooklyn
For those of you who do not know our story, Bob was born in the Bronx and I in Brooklyn. We were city children who lived in a small town called a neighborhood. Customs from different parts of the world filled and permeated our little world. Often a neighborhood became like a little country unto itself, as members of families and friends from the “old country” moved close to each other. My family and most of the people on our block were from Sicily, Italy. Many of our neighbors did not even know the English language, so out of necessity we were a multi-lingual society. Our big family traditions made us one. Christmas, like all holidays and Feast Days was a neighborhood thing, a shared experience, what with doors open, the fragrance of sauce and pizza filling the air, the freshly baked Italian cookies on a plate by an open door for one to bring home to share with the family. We were actually poor, but I never felt poor. I always felt like a princess in wonderful wonderland. Christmas in my life was filled with, you might say, two days of gift giving and receiving. I opened gifts on the morning of Christmas and again on the Feast of the Epiphany. My parents striving to be American, adopted all the customs of their new land and gifts were placed under the tree, Christmas Eve. My grandmother held the customs of her people and exchanged gift on the Feast of the Epiphany.
Early in the evening, Christmas Eve, we were told we had to go to sleep or Santa Claus would not stop at our apartment and bring us gifts. I never questioned why the Santa who visited us, early in the evening, looked different each year. I believed in Santa Claus and that was enough for me. Now, one of my brothers, a sophisticated giant, who was tall while I was petite, with six years on me, decided he would burst my balloon and expose Santa Claus as a myth. Needless to say, this brought about much wailing and torrents of tears in its wake. My mother, who plainly adored him, gently challenged him, “Oh, you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Let us see what he brings you!” Now, although there was no question about my mother’s open affection and preference toward her little boy, a lesson had to be given and brother received coal in his stocking and nothing else. Needless to say, the subject of Santa was never brought up again.
I never questioned why my Nana (grandmother) brought gifts on the twelfth day of Christmas, the sixth day of January, rather than on Christmas Day. No one told me about the Magi; they got shoved out of the way by Christmas Trees and Santa Claus coming down the chimney bearing gifts in his sack. Although in our cold-water flat, we had only a coal stove in the kitchen to warm us in the daytime and a kerosene space heater in the front room to provide heat in the bedrooms in the evening, I never questioned which chimney he was going to climb down.
To those of us who grew up in the North, Christmas and snow were synonymous. How grand is God the Father for placing the Christmas season in our midst amid the gloom of winter. We speak of Spring as new beginnings and it is, especially with the new hope of Easter. But the new beginnings began at Christmas with the Baby Jesus. Our Hope was born into the world. Do you ever meditate on why God chose to come as a Little Baby into the world? Why not a grown Man? What was God trying to tell us? Was the Omnipotent God showing us the way, through His Son Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that the way to know eternal happiness is in becoming as innocent and vulnerable as a little child fully dependent on the Father’s Will?