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The countdown is on until Christmas Day. When our children were home, we had a cloth advent calendar that Jane made, and they took turns looking into the pocket of each day for a special treat. Every Christmas has been special in my lifetime and seems more so as years fly by.

As a young boy, my family had a special dinner on Christmas Eve, and then Colleen and I put up our stockings on the fireplace mantel with dad’s help. We left some goodies by the Christmas tree for Santa to eat when he came then went to bed and could hardly sleep. When we awoke on Christmas Day, my mom insisted that we eat something before we went into the living room to see what Santa had brought us. The gifts were some playthings during our younger years then mostly new clothes as we grew older.

After my parents built a new house in another part of Magna, Colleen and I were still at home, and I slept downstairs in an unheated basement (my bed had lots of blankets on it). Most presents were wrapped then, and if a gift was something large, as with some clothing, then it was just placed on a chair or hung on a floor lamp. We ate a nice breakfast and then went to our older sister Elaine’s home to see what their children had received. Elaine and her husband Heber Garside lived not far away in a newer section of Magna, and next oldest sister LaRue was in Iowa where her husband Lee was working on a doctoral degree in horticulture. Colleen and her husband Norm Bangerter lived in Granger with their children. We made visits to both the Garsides and Bangerters and often ate lunch or snacks at both homes. I had fun with our nieces and nephews.

Christmas was about families getting together and celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Jane and I carried on with these traditions with our family for many years, and I hope our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren have special memories, too. We aren’t having our annual Monson Family Christmas Party this year due to the coronavirus, so gifts will be sent, phone calls will occur, and of course we’ll all be in touch with computers and another Zoom gathering as we did on Thanksgiving. Thanks to today’s technology, we will still visit and see all of our growing family.

This pandemic has surely altered our lives in countless ways, but Christmas IS coming and as a very old song states, “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do. If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God Bless You!” I know no one carries pennies around any longer, do they? In fact, the use of all coins is getting rare. Credit and debit cards are used worldwide for almost every purchase.

Kudos to the many groups and individuals who donate to the Cache Food Bank and the other nonprofit groups who comprise “Toys for Tots,” Deseret Industries, and Goodwill. Bless them. Money is still tight and scarce for many families.

We enjoy getting Christmas cards and especially those with letters in them giving an update about their families. We love to read Christmas messages on greeting cards received in the mail or those placed on our doorstep — messages of hope, love, and remembrances of interactions.

We enjoy driving around the valley and looking at the Christmas lights and other decorations that families have put on their homes and yards. We bought some new things this year, and with our son Jared’s help, we have them all “on” each evening at dusk. It was funny to see JJ (our little dog) bark at

the lights when they came on the first night. He now looks and growls a bit, but he no longer seems too concerned.

Pondering past Christmas times brings lots of happy memories. The two years we spent on our mission together, our home base was BYU-Hawaii. We decorated a small artificial tree we bought at a store there, and we still use it now as our “Christmas tree.” The decorations are mostly little Hawaiian mementos, hula dancers, pineapples, and little signs that say “2005” and “2006” — the years we were there. Most of our children came to visit us during those two years, and that made it very special.

As I write this, I hear the strains “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” being sung on our TV. We have music playing from different music channels when not watching anything on it. The screensaver shows some Christmas puppies climbing in and out of wrapped Christmas boxes. Fun stuff. There are lots of Christmas shows on TV stations at present. Some we’ve seen before, and many are new. “White Christmas” has both the old black and white version and a newer colorized one. These songs bring memories of past Christmas times and sometimes wondering what this Christmas will be like. I doubt we’ll make the rounds of “the local” families and see what they received as presents.

With the COVID pandemic still rampant, we’ll be using our phone, Zoom gatherings, and just staying inside. Longtime friend Janet Thompson just gave JJ a gift by ringing our doorbell and asking if JJ would like to join her for a walk. That’s a gift for him, for sure. He loves being outside and literally jumps for joy when he goes for walks.

With all the decorations, beautiful music, special goodies, and gifts, we need to stop and consider what Christmas is all about. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of humble birth in a manger in Bethlehem. And in that land, there is hope for peace on earth.

Jay Monson is a former educator, and also served on the Utah State Board of Education, Cache County Council, and Logan City Council. He may be reached at monson.jay@gmail.com

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