Christmas, the same yesterday and today

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By Bobbie Lanham

This time of year we ache with nostalgia for all things we remember as old and perfect. We wish for a warm wood-burning stove, walking through the snow to get a real Christmas tree and opening presents with an enormous extended family.

When I was young, one of the highlights of this season was the TV show, "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," starring the voice of Burl Ives as the loveable snowman. The show still makes me cry and whimper for a more perfect world. The 1954 movie "White Christmas" always renews my faith in the innate goodness of love and charity. Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney had a picture-perfect ending year after year.

We walked up the railroad track and daddy dragged home a cedar tree from the other side of the farm. We kept the tree up as long as we possibly could and then coated the floor with cedar needles that took until Easter to clean up. The debate was how to turn the tree so that holes in the branches would not show. Today, we debate what kind of artificial tree to get. Do we get them pre-lit, or do we buy strings of lights?

Back then, if we decorated for Christmas, we strung a few lights over the door. By the 1970s, because of a nationwide energy crisis, we were guilted into not putting up any lights. To waste electricity on Christmas frivolities was tantamount to treason. Now inflatables and car-sized snow globes grace many lawns. Our compulsion to decorate seems like a neighborhood competition.

This competition is portrayed in the 2006 comedy "Deck the Halls," starring Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito. Our competition has also moved into gift giving. Now, don't be mistaken, I have been composing my own rather long wish list. However, the search for the perfect gift can become the insanity of the movie "Jingle All the Way," in which Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad come to blows over the last "Turbo Man" action figure in stores. That movie is not far from some of the post-Thanksgiving madness we create. I really cannot picture my dad tussling anyone over a toy.

Way back when, we made Christmas cookies from scratch. Today we are lucky to get time to do slice and bake cookies. Are we that busy? Are we too busy to find the beautiful in Christmas? Do we forget the important stuff?

I don't think so. I do not think we leave out what is important at Christmas. We may not make homemade fruitcakes like we used to, but who ate those anyway? And who is to say that lasagna from a box is not just the perfect Christmas entre?

So many good things are available to us today. Have you tried those new saucer sleds? They zoom down faster than the old rusty-runner sled we kept in the chicken house all year. The church nativities have real animals, real camels, in their nativities. And what adult won't admit Christmas is a lot more fun with Amazon.com?

I think we tend to idealize our good old days. We forget the wood fire went out at night. We forget how scary it was to walk over that railroad trestle in the snow. We forget how some uncles could be hateful or creepy.

So, I will cozy up with Bing and Rosemary and continue to believe in the peace and goodwill in our hearts. And after the movie, I will get on the computer and order a few more gifts.