There is new music, some of which will become standard. (Just think, before 1942 there was no "White Christmas.")
The fashion industry comes up with new styles and fabrics. (Thank goodness red polyester ran its course.) The powers-that-be keep changing colors like a chameleon. Grinch Green and pink and lavender dominate store windows and homes. (When we yearn for red and green and gold, we just go down on Highway 92 at night and watch the tail lights and traffic lights and hum a bit of "Jingle Bells.")
There are new Christmas movies and plays, heart-warming stories of Christmas revisited or Christmas discovered. And even new recipes, concocted just for Christmas with new aromas and new flavors.
The new is nice, Nouveau Noel, I call it. But the Christmas in my ear yearns for Handel's "The Messiah" and Gene Autry's "Rudolph" and "Silent Night" and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."
Christmas in my eye longs for real green holly with red berries, red sweaters, green velvet dresses, gold bows, and red poinsettias. My sense of smell and my sense of taste want no part of foreign cultures; old-fashioned cinnamon and ambrosia, peppermint sticks and chocolate covered cherries, cornbread dressing and real spruce pine, are necessary components of a real Christmas.
And as pretty as Barbie and her look-alikes are, and as much fun as it is to touch all those clothes and fancy accessories, nothing quite fills your arms and lap like a life-size baby doll, the kind that cries when you put her down or when you put her on your shoulder for a burp.
Yet Christmas in my heart, with or without the cosmetic changes, is unchanged.
The birth of the Christ child is a given. We cannot add to, nor can we take away from, that event. We can, and do, allow the days of Advent to be filled with preparation for the Big Event, but those preparations often have little if any basis in the Word we've been given. We decorate, we shop, we cook, we party, and the Advent, the "getting ready," becomes our Christmas.
When it's all over, there is seldom a defining moment on Dec. 25 when we can say, "This is Christmas." It's a whole season, but one whose celebrations must end at some point. It will be those memories that will be our Christmas, and a month packed with lots of activities will give that many more memories in the months ahead. By Christmas morning, our hearts should be blessed and our resolve to keep Christmas should be firm.
I seldom share those never-ending e-mails, but this one from a few years ago seems appropriate as the season kicks off. There was no author given:
"If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I'm just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
"Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure."
I cannot say it better. I can only keep the thoughts close by in the weeks ahead. As many enter the season with limited funds, it behooves all of us to seek ways to bring Christmas ... in all its best forms of celebration ... to others.
Our county is blessed in so many ways. We are a caring people, and we will find ways to make this yet another memorable Christmastime, for ourselves and our neighbors, and even for the stranger within our gates.
Juanita Hughes is the retired manager of the Woodstock Public Library.