I had time to consider this past weekend, just how much Christmas traditions have changed since I was a youngster. We attended a holiday party with a group of friends ranging the gamut in age from 19 to 63, and as we shared stories of our Christmas memories, it boggled my mind as each recounted such different and varied tales.
The oldest generation remembered going caroling from door to door in urban Chicago, singing songs and being invited in by neighbors to share in a warm cup of cocoa or a holiday treat. Going caroling in urban Chicago today might have a different outcome. I know I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it in my old stomping grounds on Staten Island in New York in this day and age of drive-by shootings and city violence.
My generation of course remembers those fantastic metal trees with the color changing lamps beneath them and the bubble lights. It was the era of the fake Christmas tree, where women were assured of an easier and less messy holiday experience (No needles to clean up, no worries about watering and spilling liquids on the rug).
The younger -- and older -- crowd were aghast at such a thing, as the older crowd reminisced about going and cutting their own trees, while the younger crowd talked about sustainability, choosing living Christmas Trees that could be planted and the overall rampant commercialism of the holiday by big box retailers.
The younger generation of course is focused on the environment and global warming and how we can all make things better by taking small, simple steps at home -- including not cutting down a Christmas tree or buying a fake one that will only go into a landfill some day.
It was a pretty lively discussion, that ended up with everyone agreeing that buying a living Christmas tree was probably the best option, environmentally speaking, but that many of us live in an area where such a tree, once planted in our rocky Ozarks soil, would probably not live to see the Spring.
I have to admit, that on the drive home, I was a little sad that my childhood's wonderfully colorful aluminum tree had been so disparaged. As a kid, it was almost magical to see the tree changing colors, and the way the different hues would highlight the ornaments and bubble lights.
I didn't see it as a "fake" tree or even a sign of stores just selling us something else we really didn't need -- to me, it was just another aspect of the specialness of Christmas-time, like the holiday lights that decorated neighborhood homes and the beautiful nativity scene erected at our family church.
I guess it just goes to show how things change, from one generation to the next. To be honest, I was envious of the older generation, who grew up in a world less tainted by violence and commercialism, where neighbors knew neighbors and communities were closer and more connected.
I have a feeling I would have enjoyed going caroling back then, sipping hot cocoa and reveling in the fun of providing holiday songs for friends and family to enjoy. Perhaps one day, the world will revert back to a simpler time, and caroling will become a mainstay once more of sharing the Christmas Spirit with those we share our little piece of the Earth with.