The sights, sounds and smells of Christmas

Nothing signals the start of the holiday season for me like seeing the sights, hearing the sounds and breathing in the smells of Christmas.

Ring-ring. Ring-ring.

Positioned outside the entrance to the department stores, Salvation Army volunteers were bundled up in their warmest clothes to withstand the cold and damp fog of the Northwest. Repeatedly they rang their bell in hopes of a small donation to their red bucket. This sight and sound, for me, marked the arrival of the Christmas holidays.

We lived on the outskirts of a small town, down a long lane. We did not go to the “city” often.

In early December each year we would make our annual Christmas shopping trek to the city, 90 miles away.

On this one-day outing with our family, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of the holidays was magical. The department stores were decorated with festive holiday displays. The sounds of Christmas emanated from overhead at Newberry’s variety store.

We wandered from merchant to merchant looking for just the right gift that fit within our budget. We would carefully stash our purchases in the trunk of the car, hoping that when we arrived home nobody would pick up the wrong package and ruin their Christmas surprise.

I would immediately hide away in my bedroom to wrap the packages in colorful paper, attaching a recycled bow and a narrow name tag that indicated who the present was “to” and “from.”

I would position, and re-position, the gifts carefully beneath the freshly cut, silver-tip Christmas tree our home teachers had brought; the aroma of pine filled the room. The light bulbs on the tree bounced off the metal reflectors placed behind them, giving the tree extra glimmer. I would turn off all the lights and sit in the glow of the tree.

I would wind the key on the bottom of a musical, gold-colored bell that hung by a silken cord from the antique chandelier and listen as “Silent Night, Holy Night” filled the room.

It has been over 30 years since I made the annual Christmas shopping trip. Yet hearing the jingle of Salvation Army volunteers’ bells, smelling fresh pine boughs, and listening to the hymns of Christmas bring back fond memories of time spent as a family and of the love that we shared.

Today my favorite holiday pastime is sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree, listening to Christmas music and thinking about my family and the greatest gift of all, our Savior Jesus Christ.