I imagine that I would be challenged to find one person reading this expose that can't relate to it's theme. We all must experience the same sad, sinking and blue kind of feeling that creeps up on you sometime between sundown on Christmas Day and daybreak of December 26th. An emotion that sweeps over you like a brisk late December wind. The stark realization that the weeks of anticipation and preparation, the entire Advent process has culminated. For those of us in the middle years of our lives, we reflect on the comfortable feeling that the holiday provided, maybe the intimacy and closeness to our Savior that we experienced at a candlelight service celebrating the ultimate Christmas Gift given to us by God. To a youngster, the climax of the Season is marked by a heap of colorful wrapping paper and torn box tops strewn throughout the family room. Whatever the age, most of us experience what can best be labeled as a bit of "post-holiday letdown" around this time of the year.
This Christmas the usual day after Christmas blahs were tempered somewhat by the excitement and anticipation of a holiday visit from my sister and her family from West Virginia. Our holiday preparations and decking our halls with Christmas finery took on a whole new meaning this year thanks to a planned and sadly, too rare, house full of "family from out-of-town" here in vacation land. Since moving South to the Land of Palm Trees five years ago, we had never had the pleasure of Christmas visitors, which in many ways is very surprising. In each of the previous four years we would pack up our car on the day after Christmas and brave the snow and cold temperatures of wintertime in order to be with those we love the most at Christmas. Needless to say, when we floated invitations to all of our West Virginia relatives during the late months of Summer and announced that this year our plans would bring us "home for the holidays" at Thanksgiving time rather than Christmas, we were thrilled beyond belief when my sister accepted the offer and scheduled a trip to the "sunny South" for the week between Christmas and New Years.
The usual excitement of the days and weeks leading up to Christmas this year was kicked up a notch or two and we were excited to finally have members of our family see and experience our home decorated for Christmas. When we lived in West Virginia we always enjoyed the time that we hosted Christmas eve parties and visits from Michelles parents and sister as well as the holiday visits from my sister and before my parents passed away, my parents. But each year at Christmas there was always some degree of sadness that the ones we love would once again have to rely on a picture of our beloved Christmas Tree. Other than having warmer and usually drier weather, Christmas in the Lowcountry isn't any more special than Christmas in the mountains of West Virginia, but we have noticed some subtle differences in traditions and celebrations.
Also, the Southern traditions surrounding Christmas decor are significantly different from what we were used to from our childhood Christmas's at home. In the Lowcountry tasteful decorators make use of more greenery in decorating their homes, with magnolia, pine and mistletoe paired with beautiful and dazzling ribbons and bows. Facades of pastel-colored southern homes decorated with greenery, bows and ribbons are lit more with spotlights than icicle lights, and you see many more homes that employ the use of the larger, old-fashioned, colored lights that my wife likes to refer to as "Charlie Brown lights." Another peculiar contrast that we have noted when comparing Christmas here in vacation land with Christmas at home in the mountains, families arriving at Christmas Eve services on the family golf cart rather than the snow-covered SUV.
Of course everything that has resulted in Charleston being included as one of the top three tourist destinations in the World makes Charleston a great place to come and "play" during Christmas break.
The South Carolina Aquarium is always a favorite stop.
The beautiful Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge provides an interesting background for a family picture.
JD and Noah learn how to use the Joggling Board to "court" Charleston style from a veteran Charleston tour guide.
Needless to say, this was a Christmas to remember, thanks to a much appreciated visit from my sister along with her husband and daughter. We know all to well what a sacrifice it was for them to pack up and head out on the road just hours after celebrating Christmas around their Christmas Tree to come and be with us in our home at Christmas. But that's what makes families family, those little sacrifices that we do for those that we love and care about. Sadly, as I put the finishing touches on this blog post, that old familiar empty and slightly sad feeling is permeating my core, even though I escaped the usual day after Christmas blahs it is now apparent that I will still get to experience that post-holiday letdown after all. As I sit here in the quiet of the morning, humming to myself, Another Auld Lang Syne, (auld lang syne is a Scottish noun meaning "good times past") I am sad, but grateful and I remember a phrase that my brother often repeated to my father when it was time for family visits to end, "if I never came to visit, I wouldn't have to leave" and I am reminded that the time spent together with your family, however limited, is priceless and more valuable than gold.