Finding the meaning of Christmas

December 22, 2018

As a 9-year-old, I saw Christmas as the season of shopping fatigue, a time to frantically clean the house before relatives arrived to make the annual mad dash to Christmas Mass.

I can still remember the stress as my mother shouted orders from across the house one Christmas Eve: “Take-off time in 10 minutes to Christmas Eve Mass! I want everybody dressed, hair combed and loaded in the car! I will wait for no one if you are running late!”

I had never known a greater state of panic, and as I tied my baby sister’s shoes, I heard the car start in the driveway and begged my mother to wait. All 25 of my siblings, cousins, aunties and uncles loaded into the three cars parked outside. I squeezed into the back seat of my mother’s minivan with my sisters.

At church, I said my prayers, but secretly I could not wait for the service to end so that it would be time for my favorite part of the night: getting ready for Santa Claus.

Later, at home, I laid out my note to Santa next to the 12 other notes from my sisters and cousins on the fireplace mantle, then fought with my 7-year-old sister over who would get to pour the big guy a glass of milk. We argued, pulling the carton back and forth until it fell with a splash on the tile floor, white milk spraying everywhere. My mother stormed into the room, picked up the carton and screamed, “You made such a mess! No more fighting or Santa is going to bring you a lump of coal!”

That was it. I burst into tears. Christmas was officially ruined.

“I hate Christmas!” I yelled as I stomped out of the kitchen.

One tantrum later, my auntie insisted that I stop my moping to hear my grandpa read “The Night Before Christmas.” A big frown on my face, I stormed into the living room, refusing to speak to anyone. My grandpa began: “ ’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house …”

I glared at my mother, but she returned my anger with a smile. As she walked up to me, I crossed my arms and turned away with a huff.

“Christmas is not ruined,” she whispered. “Christmas is not about the milk. It is not about the presents. It is not even about Mass,” she laughed. “You will learn as you get older that it is about all these people around you. All 25 of them.”

I watched my sisters, my cousins and even my grandma fall asleep to my grandpa’s bedtime story. My mother gave me the biggest hug as my grandfather finished the last page: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Since then, Christmas has become my favorite holiday. No matter how stressful it can get, I would not trade all the presents in the world for my family, “all 25 of them.”

Sofia Ortiz is a junior at St. Michael’s High School. Contact her at sofiagoesgreen10@gmail.com.

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