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On holiday time (12/09/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Those things this new millennium generation no longer takes time for is a nostalgic litany of "'remember when." Maybe we celebrated frugally and gave only gifts that we had money for at the time. Maybe we didn't entertain with imported wines and fancy foods. Maybe we didn't spend holiday time shopping and decorating. Maybe preparations were simplistic and brief. Maybe, back then, that was enough.

A young man had a vivid dream about giving food and gifts to the poor in his city so that their Christmas could be a happy celebration. As he visited the nearby monastery, which was his regular habit, he eagerly described his vision to a monk he had befriended. Said the Master, "When do you propose to make your dream come true?" The young man answered, "As soon as opportunity arrives!" "Opportunity never arrives," mused the Master, "It's here!"

Time is a precious commodity we never seem to have enough of. We're all up to our wool scarves and earmuffs in holiday hustle and bustle right now. My mind wanders back to more easygoing days of my youth, to things adults of that era did that most of us don't take the time for anymore.

Personal, handwritten letters in Christmas cards were a welcomed pleasure, usually reciprocated. As parents who held down jobs had time off from work during the Christmas season, they'd be less inclined to go on numerous shopping and bargain hunting sprees. Adults back then could be seen sledding down fluffy, white hills of Winona County or skating on their personally groomed rinks with their children.

Our mother was creative and made Christmas tree ornaments with us kids. We wrapped gifts in used wrapping paper and bows saved from years past. Cutout cookies were crudely decorated but tasted heavenly. There were no lavish light displays on yards and all over houses that appeared to be mansions. It's not that this is a bad thing.

Family time was somehow much more prevalent in the fifties and sixties. Now, holiday entertainment is much more extravagant! Adults only! Endless shopping lists! Top shelf liquors and gourmet foods, linen tablecloths and napkins, immaculate formal attire, dΓ©cor perfectly arranged and adorned for Christmas, and luxuriant gifts professionally wrapped keep the grownups on the toes of their designer footwear for weeks.

Family get-togethers feature a delectable feast, hours of gift giving and unwrapping, friends dropping in for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and children watching DVDs and playing in bedrooms equipped with every electronic gadget imaginable. There is no time for the family to arrange their schedules to attend church services together. Mom has to bow out altogether with so much to do. Christmas programs were obligations endured the week before.

It all goes back to time, what we choose to do and how we do it. Holiday traditions have been greatly altered down through the generations. No matter what, it seems the true Christmas message prevails. Doesn't it? We all know the story...are we in tune with its meaning?

Many folks continue to carry on traditions of old while on holiday time. It's touching to hear carolers' voices fade in and out despite the drone of snowmobiles and plows. Church bells still ring-in the hallowed Eve of Christ's birth, though less may be heeding its welcome. There are some who can give no more than the widow's mite for a loved one's Christmas gift, but they give wholeheartedly.

Caregivers remain in nursing and assisted living facilities over Christmas and New Years to be there for the ill and lonely. Soup kitchens for the homeless have sprouted up in many cities, with countless volunteers willing to help out. Those serving in Iraq sacrifice the gift of spending the holidays with their families.

"Opportunity never arrives. It's here!" Holiday time can be an ideal occasion to share our bounty with those less fortunate and in need of kindness in their lives. Maybe the Christmas message still rings loud and clear.

If you quiet your mind and put down your shopping list...you can almost hear it toll. 


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