Long ago, in the middle of the night before Christmas day, I remember distinctly climbing out of bed, the cool feel of the wooden floor on my bare feet, the scent of pine from the balsam set in the corner of the front room, and the quiet pelting of snow on the window. I used the cuff of my flannel nightgown to rub out a circle on the frosted glass to peek out at the sparkly pristine landscape drifting down slowly under the street lamp on the corner of Munroe and Cherry Street-definitely one of those Hallmark moments.

Moving stealthily, I plugged in the multi-colored lights to shine softly on our freshly cut tree, with the inevitable bare spot turned against the wall, and the golden Shiny Brite tree topper.

And under the tree, my much anticipated gift-Sneaky Pete’s Magic Show. I quietly opened the box and spied the Mystic Vanishing Box, Cut the Lady in Half, and the Talking Dice. I played for about half an hour in the light of the tree, then packed it all back neatly into the box with hope that neither my grandparents nor my parents would find out about my little escapade. I didn’t know it then, but my gift from Santa at $6.95 would cost, in 2015 terms, $69.15—very dear for a family with five children.

sneaky pete 2

We were a religious family so, of course, there was a manger with baby Jesus and Christmas day Mass to attend. There was never doubt of the “reason for the season” but, even as a child, I wanted to remember those important to me with Christmas gifts. So, I made homemade items, some in school, some on my own, with pennies saved scrupulously from small jobs around the house.

I followed the custom when I had my own children making a Christmas duty sign-up list that I tacked to the refrigerator the day after Thanksgiving. Tasks, other than normal chores, were listed with monetary amounts for each task. By the end of December, each child had a decent amount of money to spend (which I supplemented) to buy something for their siblings. I was always amazed at the thoughtfulness of their gifts.

Some people fault Christmas time as one of excess and commercialism. I have always thought of it a time for love, giving, peace, and the birth of the Child, one time of year that brings out the best in people—a special time where they look beyond themselves to others. And isn’t that the real message of the Child?




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