When I was growing up, Christmas was always celebrated in Hilton Head, or what my father called “The Old Country”. Santa Clause would always visit in New Jersey a day or two before the 25th and then again in Hilton Head. We would leave before dawn and make that 16-hour car trip, passing all of my favorite landmarks, accompanied by The Temptations, The Whispers, and Donny Hathaway. Everytime I listen to those songs now, I remember our journey to the “Old Country” and it gets me in the Christmas spirit. Christmas was always spent at my grandparents house with my aunts, uncles, and my cousins. All of my cousins. I have a lot of cousins. My grandfather would always ask me, “Was Santa Clause good to you?” and I would answer a shy “yes” and then I would tell him what I had gotten. Prayers would be said over our Christmas feast of turkey, ham, chicken, okra, mac and cheese, red rice (yes!!), salads, rolls, and desserts by either my father or one of my uncles. My grandmother would sing a song in her deep, heartfelt soprano voice. Sometimes we would join in, but most times I just wanted to hear her. One of my cousins was lucky enough to catch her on video that last Christmas she was with us. I’m hoping that he’ll share that with us one day because I would love to hear her voice again. I remember the anticipation we children would feel as we waited for our names for our names to be called by our aunt, who played Santa Clause and she would hand us our gifts. Those were special memories to me of times gone by.
As Christmas gets more commercialized and people beat each other down for a Black Friday sale, I grab the joy where I can but it takes me longer to get into the mood I used to feel during the holidays. I’ll listen out for the Temptations and the Emotions. I’ll sing along with Donny Hathaway, if I’m lucky to catch, “This Christmas” on the radio. “A Christmas Carol,” is my favorite movie this time of year. Soon, we’ll be traveling to the “Old Country” with our own children. My father would have gotten and decorated a big tree and mom will cook a huge dinner. It will be funny on Christmas morning when we hear the floorboards creak beneath the feet of my son and neice as they cautiously make their way to the tree to see if “Santa’s been good to them”. The big family dinner will be at the home of one of my aunts and uncles, and my aunt has passed down her role of Santa Clause. It’s nice but as I get older, I have to look for the spirit of Christmas in the eyes of my children and I’m so thankful that I can still find it there. I hope that my sons have good memories to share just as I did.