Honour Christmas in your heart and keep it all year

It used to be that families gathered around the fireplace at Christmas, enjoying a wassail or two and the company of family and friends.

By George Brown, editor

It used to be that families gathered around the fireplace at Christmas, enjoying a wassail or two and the company of family and friends.

Today, families are more than likely to be gathered around the television at Christmas, playing the latest video games or worse yet, watching the televised fireplace, complete with carols.

After the presents have been unwrapped, and then again when the turkey carcass has been stripped of its meat, which is destined for days of leftovers, families today often gather to be enspirited by Hollywood’s version of Christmas.

And I’ll be one of them.

It’s up to each of us to observe Christmas in our way, to paraphrase one Christmas curmudgeon. I think you can learn a lot from the classic Christmas heroes: Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge, George Bailey and of course reluctant hero Det. John McClane.

The best of all presents at Christmas is the presence of family and friends. It’s not easy for parents to accept that their children are grown up and creating Christmas traditions without them. Life changes. My son, Michael, is going to school in Germany and will be spending Christmas with his girlfriend and her family in Berlin. He’s excited that they may have a turkey dinner this year.

For many of us, Christmas is about children. I remember one Christmas when Michael, 5, was drawing a picture of the Nativity. The picture was very good, including an assortment of farm animals, Mary and Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus.

However, there was a fat man drawn standing in the corner of the manger who just did not seem to fit in. When I asked Michael about it, he replied, “Oh, That’s Round John Virgin.””

People complain that Christmas has become too commercialized, too materialistic. Get over it. Life is material, and even the three wise men, Gord, Frankenstein and Murray, brought presents for the baby Jesus at the first Christmas. Being the original last-minute shoppers, they probably went to a drugstore, hardware store and a grocery store to get their presents; starting a tradition carried on my men to this very day.

As a newspaper reporter, I have often had the misfortune to spend the days leading up to Christmas covering court cases. One Christmas the judge was in a particularly merry mood as he asked the prisoner, “What are you charged with?”

“Doing my Christmas shopping early,” replied the defendant.

“That’s no crime,” said the judge. “How early were you doing this shopping?”

“Before the store opened,” answered the prisoner.

Christmas is also busy time in my family. My spouse’s birthday is Dec. 26 and instead of the Feast of Stephen, we celebrate the Feast of Julie. And as a child, I was surprised to learn that Jesus wasn’t the only one born on Christmas Day.

My grandfather, Merle Brown, was a twin born on Christmas Day. His brother’s name was Berle. No kidding. Merle and Berle. Anyway, my grandfather lost his leg when I was just a kid so to me he was always the old guy on crutches. As a little kid I never knew what to get him for Christmas. Some people are really tough to buy for.

A few years back I wrote a poem about Christmas shopping for Grandpa:

For Christmas I bought my grampa

A brand new wooden leg

I had it special ordered

It used to be a keg.

You may think it’s not a nice gift

You might think that it’s a killer

It wasn’t his main present though

It was just a stocking filler.

Enough Christmas humour. I didn’t host a Christmas concert this year so I had a few left over jokes to get rid of before the new year.

It’s not too often anymore that I’m on the road at Christmas. And the best part of that is not having to shovel the driveway to get out. If you can’t be home for Christmas, have Christmas in your heart.