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IF WE HAVE learned nothing else from this overly politically correct era, it is that Christmas means different things to different people. This being America, there is no nation on Earth where the holiday season is celebrated in so many ways for so many reasons. Or not.
America was founded as a live-and-let-live country. It's fine with me no matter how you celebrate or what you believe in or if you choose to believe in nothing at all. So I'm not sure which is more ridiculous--that some people feel the need to call a Christmas tree a "holiday tree," or that Congress feels the need to pass a resolution deploring such political correctness.
What's important about the holiday season is what's important about it to you, whether it has anything to do with religion or not.
Christmas to me means two things. First is the spirit of the season--expressing love for others no matter who they are, remembering the less fortunate and the hurricane victims, appreciating the troops overseas who won't be home for Christmas, and sharing gifts with friends and family.
Second is the joy I derive from watching my kids on Christmas morning. My wife and I are celebrating an 11th anniversary of sorts this year--our 11th Christmas as parents. For pure, unadulterated satisfaction, nothing--aside from the actual moment of birth, perhaps--rivals the feelings that I've gotten from watching our children's eyes widen as they come down the steps, and seeing their unbridled happiness as they tear into the bounty under the tree.
Then comes the moment when I wish it could be this way for all children and for all families. I even feel a pang or two of guilt that we are so lucky, but I can reconcile that knowing that this is the secure and happy home that my wife and I have worked so hard to provide.
We know that the holiday season experience will continue to evolve. It helps that through the magic of videotape we'll always remember those Christmas mornings when the boxes held more fascination for our kids than what was inside them.
Now that my son Michael is 10 and daughter Megan is 9, there's still a measure of giddy jumping around as the day approaches, but it is slowly being replaced with expressions of genuine appreciation for what is headed their way. And with each year of maturity they seem increasingly interested in what they will be giving to others.
They tell me that they've put some special things under the tree for me, and that no amount of tickling will get them to spill the beans about what those things might be. Fine, I'll just have to wait, right along with them.
I've always enjoyed movies that follow the passage of time, looking on as generations grow through the good times and bad. As a parent I love looking back as much as I enjoy wondering what the future holds. Ten years from now, will we be celebrating Christmas homecomings as we did with our parents? That would be nice. I bet that Christmastime sparkle will still be in their eyes.
RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor for The Free Lance-Star.