We're getting close, y'all. About a week and a half, give or take an office party here and a Christmas cantata there, and we will have celebrated yet another Christmas season in the North Georgia Piedmont. You know, it really is the season we celebrate and not the date itself. There is way too much love involved with Christmas to be contained in a 24-hour period. Unfortunately, too many of us waltz through the lead-up to the grand day with our eyes closed, paying too little attention to what is going on around us. Then Christmas is gone in a flash and we haven't experienced the full joy of the journey.
I've been guilty of that. Not this year, though. This year I am so very happy to be celebrating another Yuletide. I have paid attention to every nuance of the season. I have savored the taste of every chocolate drop and morsel of Chex mix and every note of every carol and look forward, with great delight, to the surprises the next few days will bring to my friends and loved ones. When Christmas has come and gone this year I will not have missed one moment of its magic.
I took an informal survey of some three or four thousand of my closest friends the other day -- translation, I posted the question on Facebook -- about their Christmas traditions. I was also delighted to hear of Christmas touchstones that they associate so closely with the season.
I posed the question as an open-ended statement beginning, "I know it is really Christmas when ... " I hope you enjoy my friends' responses and I hope the list causes the corners of your mouth to draw up in a bow as you ponder the defining moments of your own Christmases.
Personally, I used to know it was really Christmas when my mama set out on her annual quest for the newest Hess truck. First she gave them to me and then to her grandsons. I don't know how the custom got started because we didn't live anywhere near a Hess station. But as soon as lights began showing up on people's houses and Santa started sliding down those hills on TV on his Norelco shaver, Mama would start planning a trip to Athens or "Snellsville" -- she always gave it an extra "s" -- to make her purchase. I treasure the Hess trucks stored away in my attic. I wonder if Hess still sells trucks -- or gasoline, for that matter.
From a friend -- "When my house starts smelling like Granny's house used to." I could relate to that, because my kids' granny's house used to smell really good at Christmas. I haven't seen my youngest child, Jenna, in her red apron with flour all over her face or smelled cookies baking in the oven yet, so we must have a ways to go.
I liked the comment from another friend-- "When my kids start behaving well without being threatened." I remember -- and miss -- those days.
A childhood friend said that she knew it was Christmas when the star on the Porterdale water tower could be seen from all over town. I haven't made the pilgrimage to see it yet, but I heard from a reliable source that the star is gleaming bright as ever this year.
"I know it's Christmas when I have more things to do than there are hours in the day to get them done." I think that person needs to sit down with a glass of fresh eggnog and relax for a few minutes.
"I know it's Christmas when my mother and father start arguing over whether the tree will be real or fake this year and whether the lights will be all white or various colors." No question at our house. For the 30th year we put up an enormous real tree and decorated it with hundreds of colored lights. Color me old-fashioned, especially at Christmas.
"I know it is Christmas when Patrick's puts the "Candy is Here" sign on the front of the store." Hear! Hear!
"Christmas is really here when my husband starts leaving catalogues from Bass Pro Shop all over the house, with certain pages dog-eared and certain items underlined." I'm glad some husbands have mastered skill of the not-so-subtle. I have tried and failed. I still get underwear and socks for Christmas, and no matter how many pairs of panty hose I hang by the chimney with care, Santa never fills them.
"It is never Christmas to me until I get teary-eyed from watching an old black-and-white movie and heard the preacher read the scriptures from the second chapter of Luke." That person and I speak the same language.
"It is never Christmas to me until I have the whole family gathered under one roof for the reading of the story of the first Nativity and The Night Before Christmas." I think that friend has been peeking at our house on Christmas Eve night.
For me, personally, it isn't Christmas until I feel that perfect peace flow over me that reminds me that the greatest Christmas gift was the one given 2,000 years ago. It's almost time, y'all. Hope your final days of the journey are merry and bright.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com. Huckaby will be signing his new book "Yea Though I Walk" at Conyers Pharmacy, Friday from 4 until 6 p.m.