Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The everlasting joy of Christmas gifts

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 21, 2017

In my early years, I lived in New York and recall opening a window in an upper-story apartment on Christmas morning, sticking my head out and gobbling down snowflakes as they poured from the sky.

I expected them to taste like ice cream, which they certainly didn’t—but they still made a nice impromptu treat.

When we moved to Miami, we left the snowy days behind, but Christmas still had the thrilling allure of shiny packages beneath the tree.

And if I could no longer eat snowflakes, I indulged happily in melt-in-your-mouth cookies covered in white confectioner’s sugar, which reminded me of frozen delicacies falling from heaven.

My father found it hilarious and satisfying to pose for Christmas photos in Bermuda shorts, while standing near a looming banana palm tree—and then sending this picture to the uncles in New York, who were battling mountains of snow in their driveways.

My sister and I were excited because we had somehow managed to save up five dollars, enough to buy diamonds for our mom, a nice tie for our father and gifts for each other.

The diamond jewelry at Woolworth’s five-and-dime store radiated a luminous light, as we stood pondering our purchase. Should we get deep purple, romantic red—or blue, reminiscent of the robe the Madonna wore in the pictures on our holy cards?

After a short debate, we selected a necklace studded with generously sized stones in a luminescent azure. The saleslady carefully placed this magnificent treasure in a small box upon a nest of white cotton, and then collected a handful of change from us.

Selecting Daddy’s tie didn’t take as long, since these staples of men’s wardrobes looked basically alike to us.

You either had a solid maroon tie or a dark navy with stripes. It’s highly possible my father received an identical tie each year, but if so, he never complained.

We did all our shopping in that simple little store, which also had vials of fruity cologne, tubs of fragrant powder and spicy bubble bath. While my sister obediently turned her back, I hurriedly purchased a bottle of scent as my gift for her.

I loved seeing the presents beneath the tree Christmas morning, because they held promise and possibility. Anything could be hidden beneath the wrapping paper—toys, games, dresses and stuffed animals.

When I was 9 years old, I received the best gift ever, the love of my life, a blue-and-white parakeet that I named Tweety.

In my diary there’s a small envelope containing a few of this beloved bird’s feathers, which seemed important to preserve for posterity.

Many people complain about the commercialization of Christmas, and like anything else, it seems a good idea to avoid extremes when it comes to gifts.

But as children, my sister and I easily connected the dots between gift-giving and the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world.

We knew God sent his only begotten Son to us as a precious gift. We knew Jesus showered us with blessings and grace, and the promise of everlasting happiness.

Joy was the heart of Christmas—the snowy white cookies, the sparkling jewels, the excited rustling of wrapping paper—and the happy chirps from Tweety Bird.

Joy was seeing my mother’s face as she donned her necklace and my father’s bemused smile as he tried on the tie.

And all these years later, joy radiates from the cache of memories imprinted on my heart, which last forever.

Lorraine’s email address is