COLUMN: Christmas is still magical to me

Published 2:46 pm Friday, December 11, 2020

You would think as I near the age of 60 and have a daughter who just turned 27, that Christmas would have lost some of its magic.

Not a chance.

If I had my way, Christmas would be celebrated every day of the year. I know that sounds silly to a lot of people, but when you think about it, the holiday season makes us all a little nicer to each other. We have a little more pep in our step. We take a look around us, and we see the needs of others and we do something about it.

I do not know if it is the holiday lights, the sounds of the season, or the fact that we all remember what it was like to be a child again on Christmas morning when we would race down the stairs into the living room to see what Santa Claus had brought us.

Like all families, some Christmas memories are better than others. Some tall tales revolve around family gatherings, which have grown into almost urban legends. Regardless of whether the facts are as correct as they once were, they are sure to put a smile on our faces when we think back to those days.

I have plenty of fond memories and stories from our traditional family gatherings. Some are from the days leading up to the big day, some are from Christmas Eve, and some are from Christmas Day.

Through the early years, my Christmas memories revolve mainly around family members and close friends. As we grew up there were new faces added, and sadly, some subtracted. My brothers all got married, so I had sisters-in-law, their families and eventually nieces and nephews to celebrate the holidays.

Christmas became a two-day affair in our household as the night before we would gather at my parents’ house, while on Christmas Day, they would all head over to their in-laws’ homes to celebrate the season. Of course, the best thing about those days was all the delicious homemade treats that we devoured.

I do not know about you, but when we were little, the rule was that you got to open one present on Christmas Eve. Sounds like a great plan. Rarely did it work out. But there were still gifts under the tree the following morning no matter how many we got to open the night before. No matter what year it was, my parents always made sure we felt special on Christmas Day.

There are some classic Christmas stories that I have heard over the years. Some are funny, while others leave you scratching your head wondering, “are they true?”

I want to share three of my favorites with you.

Somewhere I hope there is still photographic evidence of the time my parents made the mistake of allowing my three older brothers — Lance, Chris and Carl — to go out and cut down a Christmas tree for the living room. As you might expect, it was a big deal to be allowed to select the family tree. They were pretty proud of themselves, as I recall, when they got home.

We got the tree in the stand and stood it up. It was only then that everyone realized that it was way too big. A good portion of it was bent at the top across the ceiling. But after some alterations, we had a beautiful tree for Christmas.

This next story also involves my three brothers. Apparently, their belief in Christmas had been disappearing for some time. As I recall the story, they were living out at Lake of the Woods in Decatur. On the night before Christmas, Santa Claus showed up. My parents had not arranged for anyone to come and play Santa Claus to prove a point, and to my knowledge, they never knew who it was that showed up to renew their Christmas spirit. Maybe it truly was the “jolly old elf” himself.

The final story I will share with you is my personal experience with a Christmas miracle.

I was dating at the time, and my fiancée and I had spent Christmas Eve at my parents’ house with family and friends. It had been snowing much of the day and into the evening. But by the time we had started back to Dowagiac, it has stopped.

I dropped her off at her parents’ house, and I was heading back toward town and noticed that the skies had cleared and a big bright moon was illuminating the landscape so much that it was easy to see everything around you.

It was truly a beautiful sight to see the moon lighting up the fresh-fallen snow. As I drove down M-62 between Sink Road and the bridge that crosses the Dowagiac Creek, there was an open field to the right. That field stood empty as we went by it the first time.

But on my way home, I noticed something unusual. There were what seemed like at least 100 deer standing in that field. I had never seen such a sight in my life, and I have not since. I know they were deer and not old cornstalks or anything of that nature due to the brightness of the moon.

I have no idea why they had all congregated there, just 15 or so minutes after I had passed that same spot. But there they were. When I went back on Christmas Day to celebrate with my fiancée and her family, I could see no evidence that anything had been standing in that field. There was nothing but fresh, white snow.

Perhaps that was my sign. Maybe the spirit of Christmas had begun to disappear from me as it had with my brothers. But I can tell you this, it rekindled that spirit and I have carried it in my heart to this day.

The past few years have been tough for my daughter and me. But we hold Christmas near and dear to our hearts. She believes, like I do, that Christmas should be celebrated every day. It would make the world a better place to live.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at