There is at least one Facebook conversation going on about what was it like to learn that Santa was not exactly a real person. I do not have strong emotional memories about that bit of enlightenment that came to me via a grade school classmate. I think that was partly due to the fact that my mother loved Christmas and everything about it, down to the last little bit of tinsel. She would never let Christmas be anything less than a time of wonder and joy.
The memory that was sparked for me, however, was when I learned that my maternal grandmother’s name was not Wowa, as I had called her all my young life, but rather it was the very dignified name of Ora. My cousin, always the bastion of common sense (which meant he was perpetually a source of irritation for me)
was the one who informed me of my error. We happened to be at her house, so we marched into the kitchen. This time, I knew my cousin was the one that was wrong. I even had cards and notes from her signed Wowa. My grandmother simply responded that I was welcomed to continue to call her Wowa, but yes, her “real” name was Ora. However, by the time this conversation happened, I was old enough to actually pronounce her name correctly so there was no going back. I suspect we both lost a tiny bit that day.
I seldom wish people “Happy Holidays!” The trend started for me one year when I walked into a tea shop a day or two before Christmas. I overheard the owner wearily, but in a beautiful English accent, tell another customer that he simply could not abide one more person wishing him a happy holiday. “It’s Christmas,” he moaned. As I paid for my tea, I boldly wished him a merry Christmas. We smiled at one another, and I think we both reclaimed a lost part of ourselves in that moment.
So, dear friends, I do indeed wish you all a merry Christmas. I know that not all are of the Christian faith, so please do not take this greeting as some nefarious move on my part. I am simply wishing you much love and light. I also pray that you always know that you are deeply and permanently connected to something more than your credit card.
By the way, my grandmother’s full name was Ora Naomi, a name she did not particularly care for, but as I learned to let go of Wowa, I came to love her name. Her sister’s name was Augusta Pearl, but as soon as she was old enough to do so, she had it legally changed to Virginia lest anyone dare to call her Gussie Pearl again. My great uncle Sherod was blessed to have Semper Fidelis as part of his name. I regret that I never talked to my great grandmother, known to us all as Gran, to find out how she came up with such large names for her tiny babies. Perhaps like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, or Simeon and Anna who recognized the baby Jesus as someone who would change the world, she held each child and simply knew they were more. May such knowledge be yours this Christmas, and always.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
for the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
May the world know the blessings of peace at Christmas, and always.