The holiday season fills us with warm memories. Grandma’s butter cake. The smell of cinnamon. The sound of laughter. But not every home experiences the joy of the season. Not every family gathered around the dining room table on Thanksgiving experienced unity. Not every house knows peace. And although you and I cannot fix every family, we CAN make a difference in what a child remembers about this season. How? By helping to make a memory. Because holiday memories are made by design.

As you know, holiday celebrations differ, depending upon a family’s heritage and faith. Inside our homes we all have the right and the privilege of expressing our faith or lack of faith, with conviction. But outside of our homes, the space is reserved for the children. For every child’s eye should delight in the joy and happiness that the holiday season brings.

Inside our home in 1957 – the year the Soviet Union launched the first orbiting satellite, Sputnik – my Aunt attached a small gold covered gift to every box she wrapped. She said it was our “Sputnik.”

But outside of our home – the space which was dedicated to neighboring children – my father built a life-sized manger and nativity scene. Whole families would make the trek through the snow up to the grove of hemlock pine to view the holy scene. Under the low-hung branches stood a concerned Joseph, while Mary knelt at the baby’s side. Animals were scattered in strategic spots peeking out from behind the hay.

Across the street, a sleigh waited for gifts while next door, blue stars were suspended to light up the landscape. Up and down the street, candles glowed in windows, flags flew, and snowmen proudly stood at attention. And in this rich and diverse heritage of celebration, our neighborhood thrived. So this year, I decided to carry on the tradition of memory-making …

In September, I converted an old pair of jeans and a red flannel shirt into a scarecrow. His pillowcase head and straw hat, placed low on his brow, gave him the relaxed pose of a man in deep thought. Sitting on the bench in our front yard, he reminded passers-by to slow down and enjoy the season.

Last week I rehabilitated the sleepy fellow into one jolly old elf. Santa’s pose remained at rest, with his feet on the bench and his eyes closed. As I decorated the cedar tree next to him, a city employee stopped and offered a few decorating tips. “Looks like he needs a reindeer reading a newspaper,” he shouted. “Or maybe a list of good boys and girls!” His enthusiasm spurred me on.

After he left, I wrote the first names of all the children and pets from our neighborhood directory and hammered the sign next to Santa. A few gingerbread men, some wrapped gifts, and it was done. Our front yard was officially … gaudy.

Now, families walking around the block stop to acknowledge Santa’s list, including pets Cricket, Tex, and Katy. Children ride past on their bikes, making sure their names are recorded for all to see. And minivans slow to check out the North Pole scene. It’s true that the garish display lacks the polish of Rockefeller Center. But we are joyfully celebrating the season with family, neighbors, and friends. And we are making memories.

If you have not yet added the holiday spirit to your front door, consider sharing the joy of the season with those in your midst. Add a little bit of who you are to the scene. Be creative, eccentric, even unconventional. And in the process, you may just be making a memory.

~ The End ~

( A Holiday Classic )

Editor’s Note: If you need a little help explaining Santa to young children, here’s a letter from the man himself that will do it for you.

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