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By Ruth Carson

Childhood memories generally evoke the fondest visions of Christmas, cheerful Carols, decorating the Christmas tree, writing letters to Santa, and the uncontrollable excitement in anticipation of what St. Nicholas may bring.

I remember as a child the exhilaration on discovering that the big man had devoured the cookies and Christmas cake. Unfortunately when I reached the age of eighteen, Christmas appeared to me as nothing more than a symbol of material wealth. The T.V. was laden with commercials consistently targeting young children -- which meant added pressure on parents at an already stressful time. Dublin City was chaotic -- crazed shoppers filled each street. My hometown exuded agitation and commotion as shoppers, in a frenzy, tried to stock up for Christmas.

To react against such latent consumerism -- and being an impoverished student, I decided to buy my siblings whimsical Christmas presents. My brother Paul received a ludicrous wall hanging, my sister Martha was given a pet stone with a booklet of care instructions and my older brother Luke received a vibrant red Fireman's hat.

The opening of all presents was customarily done in the morning, followed by a ceremonial lighting of candles. As a family we would then give thanks for each other and then remind ourselves of those less fortunate. Yet the magic and pleasure I had always felt in these deeds seemed to have vanished. It appeared to my adolescent angst ridden mind that this was nothing more than benign routine exempt of any festive meaning. I felt as though it were just any ordinary day with a surplus of food and 'things'.

We proceeded to the dining room for our big Irish Breakfast. I began to feel more jovial as my brother Luke donned his shiny fireman's hat. He began cracking jokes about putting out fires, saving cats from trees, and joking of his superb expertise and control with a fire hose.

The phone rang and on answering it my sister began to squeal. Often referred to as the "Drama Queen", we all shrugged until her screeching became a howl. Falling over each other we trundled towards the sitting room to be greeted with black smoke. We had forgotten to blow out the candles that had burnt into the cabinet causing the whole room to be immersed in black ash.

All the presents except, of course, for Luke's fireman hat, which was safely secured on his head -- were covered in soot. The doorbell began ringing and outside appeared our neighbors accompanied by worried faces. They had seen the ominous black smoke seeping out our front windows and were terrified for our safety. Sheepishly, the Carson family explained our foolish blunder.

The next two hours were spent cleaning our sooty sitting room. The laughter and jokes that occurred amongst the family, the care our neighbors had demonstrated towards our well being renewed and heightened my Christmas spirit.

All our neighbors had offered to help clean the sitting room but with my household of six all working together, it seemed to return to it's original state in no time.

I knew then that regardless of the incessant commercialism which is often displayed via the media, the main essence of Christmas, of loving sharing and giving was alive and well in my home and neighborhood.

Aristotle once said "Without friends, no-one would choose to live though he had all other goods."

On my 18th Christmas I learned that regardless of the emphasis in Western Society on consumerism the words of this ancient Greek philosopher hold true. I received my favorite gift that year, it wasn't tangible but it was a revival of Christmas Spirit and goodwill.
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» Recent Comments
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by Alnagon on 08-19-2014 10:38 PM
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