An early memory from childhood in California was the Christmas decorations in downtown Sacramento. As I look back on the web at pictures, I am struck by the simplicity of that time. Decorations were basic. Street lamps were decorated as if they were candy canes. Wires were strung across the street between the lamps, wrapped in silver or gold tinsel with one main ornament in the center. I remember the ornaments as being lit. The pictures remind me that there is much to my childish imagination that was true.
As I consider Singapore’s Orchard Road, I am struck by the changing decorations every year. Each is complex and overwhelming! Bright Christmas colors, winter themes, and the sounds of Christmas songs seem almost out of place in a tropical Asian city. At the best, it is a celebration of a holiday that has transcended faith systems. At its worst, in contrast to the needs of people around the region, the city is “pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness.” (Psalm 73.7) Perhaps it is a little of both.
My childhood memories also include the anticipation of gifts under the tree. Rarely did they appear until just before Christmas day. My dad knew we would be shaking, weighing, and wondering at all hours of the day. While keeping us on edge, looking back I can see how we embraced the spirit of Christmas as one. Christmas day was filled with presents that always had our name on them. We knew each had been specifically matched to us. Even when the best present was a restored toy that had disappeared months earlier, it was heart warming.
Life reminds me that decorations serve a purpose. Each reminds us of what is to come, nurturing our anticipation of endless possibilities. At times they go over the top. A tree too tall, tinsel that covers instead of highlights, and street ornaments that hide storefronts. As bad as they can be, each in their way points us of the Spirit of Christmas. They will touch my heart and my pocketbook.