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McCanless column: Christmas memories

By Janet McCanless
for the Salisbury Post
This time of year just lends itself to memories. Sometimes, that is all the Christmas a person has ó memories.
Having had a rather cosmopolitan upbringing, I was reared in several different states, both north and south, I’ve always marveled at the sameness of the Christmas celebration. Well, except for one thing maybe: the length of time the decorations are up.
No matter what state we were living in, my dad put the tree up the day before Christmas, and there it remained until well after New Year’s.
I’m not sure if it was the state we lived in, or the times (’40s and ’50s) that lent itself to such things, but, it wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina in 1961 that I saw people putting up Christmas trees and holiday decorations on Thanksgiving day ó or before. Such a thing would not have been done when I was a kid.
Living in Jacksonville, Fla., Atlanta or Miami, it was difficult to get in the holiday spirit with palm trees swaying outside and perpetual green everywhere. Christmastime to me conjures up snow-covered trees and bitter cold days warmed only by a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
One thing never changed though, and that was the emphasis on family that people everywhere enjoy.
I know that was certainly true in my family, where we all got together for big, noisy, family dinners and exchange of gifts. Once grown, you never seem to be able to recapture that closeness you shared with the other kids and adults in the family.
Everyone remembers the worst Christmas they ever had, and oftentimes the best, but I can remember as if yesterday the most unusual one I ever had.
The spouse and I were alone in our house in a Boston suburb, where we had lived barely a week, and we were expecting our first child. With virtually no time to plan elaborate decorations or buy and place a tree, I improvised, lining our fireplace with the cards we had received and putting lights and pine cones all around the mantel. It was nothing if not bright.
I think we ate meatloaf for dinner, but we were happy and looking forward to our new arrival.
I can also recall taking brisk walks in the February and March air up there and seeing holiday wreaths and some trees still up in neighbors’ homes.
Down here, you can see tossed trees at curbside the day after Christmas, almost as if New Year’s doesn’t deserve any decorations.
Once, in my 12th year, I bought a small tree from a curb market, put it up in my bedroom, and left it there until almost Easter. I really liked that tree, and had made all the decorations myself. I just simply enjoyed looking at it. When the dry needles began to litter the floor, my mother put her foot down and insisted I throw it out, which I did, but unhappily.
One thing I’ve learned in my few years on Earth is this: it doesn’t matter where or how one celebrates the holidays, they are special to all, and the feelings of joy and peace on Earth should be shared by one and all, for all year.
That’s my wish for everyone this year: Joy mixed in with peace on Earth for all.
Forget the material stuff, and concentrate on keeping the spirit of the holidays alive in your heart.

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