Woodstock’s Park at City Center is a photographer’s delight. After Mother Nature blew all the leaves off the trees, Woodstock’s finest Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments turned the park into a nighttime postcard, wrapping every limb with white lights, adding a tree inside the gazebo, and throwing a switch to give us a memory that won’t soon be forgotten.
Across the street, the leafless trees on the new StreetScapes sidewalk sport a new and different look, not white lights, but balls of all sizes and colors, straight from the biggest box of Crayola crayons … red and blue, aqua and orange, purple and gold, chartreuse and fuchsia.
They bring back memories of Christmas trees from my childhood when the lights were never white, and when the ornaments were real, breakable, glass balls. It’s somehow comforting to know our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a memory of such Christmas scenes in their hometown.
Add to that the memories of manger scenes depicted in church and on TV and movies and even live nativity displays. The great-grands posed once again for our Christmas card, this time with a real baby boy instead of a doll.
And then there are the sounds of Christmas. I love the music, the traditional carols and the new songs. The Woodstock parade featured high school bands, a nice departure from violins and organs.
I love hearing the King James version of the Christmas story. I love hearing folks greet each other with HoHoHo or Merry Christmas.
And I love hearing the little ones as they seriously relate to Santa Claus the items on their wish list. Dean’s Store has hosted Santa twice, and the sight of parents as they take turns for photo ops is both heartwarming and comical.
Once upon a time, the ding-dong sound of cash registers was a happy part of shopping. Nowadays those registers are silent, and if you listen closely, you might hear, instead, the swish as plastic cards slide through a slot in the machine at your fingertips.
Today’s generation will never understand the impact that radio had in the past, and although we heard the traditional music sounds of Christmas on radio, it was the comedy shows like Jack Benny and Amos & Andy that gave us laughs during the holidays. And always in the background were those ringing cash registers. TV is the norm now, but Christmas-by-radio was a real treat.
The smells of Christmas whet our appetites and send us to the kitchen. Thank goodness some of us want to cook. There’s nothing like a whiff of sage when Grandma opened the oven door to check on the dressing.
The aroma of pine and cedar provide incentive and motivation to decorate, and real smoke from chimneys brings visions of snowfall and Jingle Bells.
And the fragrance of some of those packages under the tree gives great clues to the contents. Once, it was “Old Spice” and “Evening in Paris” that made the wish list.
Today’s brand names are somewhat more sophisticated … and more pricey. Scented candles are everywhere, and that cinnamon-laced hot punch says Merry Christmas just as well as wassail.
Side-by-side with smells are the tastes of Christmas. Just thumbing through the new Service League cookbook makes my mouth water.
But this is the one sense that gets us in trouble. We seem to think that Christmas somehow excuses our tendency to eat too much, too often, foods that are too bad for us.
We know that God forgives, but our bodies are not so forgiving, and January will find us paying the piper. But, oh, how wonderful are those tasty snacks and calorie-laden casseroles and yummy desserts.
And who among us can deny that the sense of touch is perhaps the best sense of Christmas. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a hug or handshake.
To a tiny child, the sensation of comfort and love is wrapped up in a cuddly teddy bear. To an older child, it is perhaps the touch of a button on a new digital device. And to this little old lady who often resembles Albert Einstein, it’s that few minutes I spend weekly with my hairdresser and her magic touch, especially at Christmastime.
But all these physical senses, as comfortable and desirable as they are, cannot compare to that special sixth sense, that sense of wonder and awe, as each year we experience the reality of the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the author and finisher of our salvation.
Although our celebrations fall short and our humanity is obvious, our desire to worship and be thankful is sincere.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.