The Heart of Christmas by Sandra Magsamen

December 2, 2016

Written by author Sandra Magsamen.

When I was a little girl on Christmas mornings, whichever sister woke up first would wake up the other four sisters. We then lined up at our parents' bedside to wake them up so we could all see if Santa had come. My father would rub his eyes, pull his legs out of bed, and put his feet on the cold floor to begin his journey downstairs to check. My mother wrapped her robe around herself asking, "I wonder if Santa came?" My sisters and I were firm believers in Santa. When my father finally hollered from the living room, "OK, you can come down now," we all ran down the stairs, thrilled to see the lights twinkling on the tree and the mounds of brightly colored packages. We would each pause for a second to take in the magic of the moment.

Then, utter chaos began, as my sisters and I searched frantically to find our pile of gifts. Once we found them, we tore through the paper and into the boxes. Sometimes two of us reached for the same box and pulled like it was a tug-of-war game, until we saw a tag bearing one of our names. We dug through and uncovered gift after gift. We were giddy, almost to the point of intoxication, by this frantic dance. Occasionally, the tearing of the paper was punctuated by a voice: "Mom, look! A new doll!" or, "I love this!" The blur of activity continued until we collapsed into our bundles of new socks, books and underwear, puzzles and dolls, games and chocolate candies. It was over. We were delighted! Our mother and father were exhausted, and we still hadn't had breakfast.

Christmas mornings unfolded this way for many years in our childhood home. I have such fond memories of these Christmas years. My parents rounded up all of my sisters and I every year to assist in transforming our home into a festive hive of Christmas cheer! We decorated the tree with sparkling light and carefully places strands of silver tinsel all over its green needles. We filled each window with a candle and decorated the lawn with reindeer and a sleigh. As a family we baked lots of cookies, made paper chains and ornaments, sang songs, wrapped gifts for friends, send holiday cards and we laughed a lot. The effort and time my parents put into creating the magic was enormous. As I look back I am awed and grateful to them.

Our parents gave us the most priceless gift of all. They gave us their time. And in giving us their time and attention we connected as a family and we felt loved. We loved discovering the packages under the tree but came to understand that the real magic and heart of Christmas lived in the moments we shared and made together.

Sandra Magsamen as a child

There are so many ways to share the holiday with the people you love. Here are a few tips and suggestions for creating treasured holiday moments.

  • Have a cookie-baking party. Supply ingredients and make cookies with your friends to give as gifts.
  • Create a breakfast tradition for your family, and repeat it each year: banana–nut pancakes, or cinnamon French toast. Make something that warms the heart and the tummy.
  • Adopt a charity or cause and give a gift that helps it succeed in its mission.
  • Donate gifts to a family in need. Make a Christmas dinner and deliver it to a family less fortunate than yours. Local churches often have a list of families who need a helping hand and a giving heart.
  • When it's time to trim the tree, play carols, serve cookies, and make it a party. Do the same thing when it's time to put the tree and the trimmings away. Turn a chore into a pleasure. It's all in how you see it.
  • Instead of placing gifts in the stockings, put clues in the stocking about where the gifts are. Have the kids (or adults) go on a treasure hunt Christmas morning.
  • Purchase puzzles, card games, and craft kits as gifts that you can have fun doing with the kids. You can even have your family photo made into a puzzle.
  • Have a gift-making day with your kids and family. Knit a bright red scarf for grandma (this only takes a few hours), turn old CD cases into frames that work as coasters, make personal stationery by cutting a special someone's initials from magazines, or using a stamp on colored pre-bought stationery. Teach your children and remind yourself that, when it comes to giving, it really is the thought that counts.
  • Three weeks before the holiday season, plant paper white narcissus bulbs in big terracotta pots. Plant and water so they will be in full bloom, and their sweet fragrance will waft throughout the house. As the tall shoots begin to sway, tie them together with silver tinsel for a festive look

Happy Holiday!

Sandra Magsamen

Get Sandra Magsamen's personalized books 35% off on 12/4/2016 - 12/5/2016 with code SANDRA at checkout. Find all of Sandra Magsamen's books here:

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