One by one, the candles on the tree where beginning to light and the tiny bubbles by the figures of the scene of Bethlehem began to shine in the otherwise dark room while we, children waited at the glass-paneled door in line, the youngest, first, the oldest last. Only my dad had access to the room to talk to the Angel who brought the gifts for us in the name of the Little Lord Jesus.
I was sure that this lights that my father was disposing on the tree was the Angel, and I (in the middle of the line of five kids) was trying to watch over the heads of my younger sisters to see if I could catch a glimpse of how he looked. I imagined him beautiful, happy, smiling because, no matter what we, the children did, my father sure have been good, very good. But I never could answer to my great question: Was he blonde or dark-haired?. It was my big doubt every time I tried to paint him. I preferred a dark-haired Angel, maybe because all paintings I have seen were golden-haired and I loved difference. I imagined also that the happiness from the Angel and my father where the reason of that beautiful lights rising every Christmas Eve in the main room of our apartment in a foreign Country we where living, in after my family had to fly from the Communist side of Central Europe.
When dad opened the door, we all entered the room only illuminated by the candles, and we could see all presents perfectly wrapped in shining paper, but we knew there was no time yet to go to them. First, my mother read the Gospel of the Nativity, and then we prayed all together, then we all sang carols in our language from our land, Croatia looking at the figures of Bethlehem that my dad had disposed in the Nativity Scene working the whole day, with a cave for Mary and Joseph and a cradle for Little Jesus, and a path for the shepherds, and grass, animals, a white clothed beautiful Angel, and the three Wise Men, coming down from a distant mountain.
Then the lights of the room where turn on and we all run to open our presents from the Little Child Jesus. Simple presents, but at my eyes, priceless, because they were surrounded by all that beauty and love
In the same room my mom had prepared the table for Christmas dinner, and when the excitement by the presents was manageable we went to dine that marvelous and delicious recipes she knew from a magic red book she managed to take with her when she left the Homeland.
Then, we play, and play with our new toys and with our imagination if there where no too much toys and more practical things, making time to the midnight Mass at the Church in the opposite side of the quarter where our building stays. Then we celebrate Christmas with our neighbors, but they didn’t have had presents like us, because in this Country all kids had to wait for the Three Wise Men and they are coming riding dromedaries so they don’t arrive until the 6th of january. It was so different from other times of the year, or while being in school when other kids made jokes because of how I talked or how I behaved, or when I didn’t understand anything. It was really great for once to be a Croatian out of our homeland, because we were the Angel business and he came flying so he was always in time for Christmas Eve. Not need to wait for the Wise Men.
Now, I look back at my childhood Christmas and all that love my parents out on them to teach us love Christ, love each other and despise all that they suffered, never make space to hate in our lives, and only can say thanks. Thanks to God for my family and thanks to my parents for teach me what Christmas really means. I only hope I would be able to pass this teachings to many people.