For the past several weeks we’ve been preparing our house for our move to Scotland. There are half packed suitcases and boxes everywhere, and we’re not even planning on shipping many things. Some things are much easier to let go of than others, that’s for sure. I’m finding myself packing boxes, weighing them, and then unpacking them once I discover how much it’s going to cost in shipping. It might sound shallow, but I’ve found the shipping cost really does affect how valuable the contents are, and just how easy it is for me to live without so much stuff.
By far the largest box I’ve packed, and unpacked, and re-packed, contains hand-painted ceramic Santa’s that I’ve had for over twenty years. I have carefully moved these Santa’s with me from house to house and state to state. They came to me as a part of an estate for a beloved family member and they were very dear to the deceased, as many of them were hand-painted by her. She loved Christmas. She died in early December, and when we arrived at her house to begin making funeral arrangements her entire home was decorated in Christmas. It was so typical of her.
Santa’s were her absolute favorite Christmas decoration. She especially loved the Old World looking ones, who had plenty of character and charm, with different colored robes and assorted goodie sacks. She spent many hours scouring through flea markets and antique shops looking for just the right face, and she painted several of her own as well. There were about thirty unique pieces in her collection when she passed away and I still have most of them.
Nearly every year at Christmas I drag out the boxes and carefully unwrap each figure, ensuring the piece is intact and free from chips or damage. I then arrange them neatly along my fireplace mantle or the dining room buffet, and every time I look at them it reminds me of my loved one and how much she loved Christmas time.
Today as I was thinking about the things that we just have to ship over – things that can’t be replaced easily because they have come from our own world travels, and represent places we’ve been and things we’ve done, I found myself lingering over the large box of Santa figurines. I’m told that Christmas in Scotland is far less grandiose an affair than it is in America. It’s usually a quiet day, spent with immediate family. Gifts are exchanged, family dinner is shared, and some folks will even attend a candlelight communion service if they’re so inclined to the tradition. But people don’t saturate every room of their home and yard with Christmas trees, lights, and colorful decorations.
As I was pondering over the box of Santa’s I thought about what Christmas means to me, and the answer was easy and obvious. It means freedom, peace, love, grace, hope, and salvation. It means a night of miracles and wonders that has never been topped. It means a virgin and a carpenter spending the night in a cave, surrounded by shepherds and sweet, gentle farm animals, all marveling at their Creator in the form of a newborn baby. It means a night sky filled with the ethereal songs of the hosts of Heaven, and the light of a billion magnificent stars dancing across the sky, announcing to the world that a Savior has been born. It means love, so pure and holy, come in the most humble of ways, to restore a hurting and broken world to Himself. Just the thought of what Christmas means to me brings tears to my eyes; and a sense of awe and wonder that the God of the Universe looked down on us and said, “Yep, they’re worth it!”
I hope you caught what I left out. There’s not one version of Santa anywhere to be found in what I think Christmas means. I’m not opposed to Santa in any way, but it’s not what Christmas is really about to me. So I know that while I’ve enjoyed these trinkets for years, I don’t have to have them with me in Scotland. I can let them go without regret, knowing that when December rolls around I won’t be missing out on the reminder of what the season is really all about.