At Christmas in Alexandria, Ontario, we did not have very much. So, instead of buying a turkey, which would have lasted us a couple of days at best, my father would buy half a heifer from the farmer up the road, and he would keep it frozen in the shed attached to our house.
Every afternoon, my father would head out to the shed with the Swede saw, where he would cut off a piece of frozen beef which my mother would proceed to cook with potatoes and carrots and onions. I used to go out with my father, and watch him sawing the frozen meat. That was the best beef I have ever tasted. It was sweet, and tender, and there was no taste of hormones or other chemicals they put in the cattle these days.
In some ways, that heifer represented the different type of Christmas we celebrated as a family. Today, there is way too much exaggeration on all fronts. People congregate at large malls for sales on items they do not need. They even fight for them sometimes, and yesterday, a man was viciously stabbed at a mall in a fight over a consumer item which was on sale. Imagine bleeding to death on a mall floor, watched by hundreds of anxious and exhausted shoppers, for being a super consumer.
One thing Jesus was not was a consumer. The Prince of Peace did not even have a roof over his head when he came into the world. This is true poverty which I never knew. We were a simple family with little extra, but we did not know poverty as Jesus did; however, we did not have extras either.
It was a happier time. It was a time with less anxiety and less greed. That tender heifer in the shed meant more to us than a big shiny SUV or a house full of high tech gadgetry. When my father unceremoniously brought it into the house on a large plate and handed it to my mother, we all smiled and felt warm inside. We could smell and feel the cold from the shed on my father and his ruddy cheeks glowed with the frost. We knew that supper would be good, and that the fire in the old coal stove would beat out a steady rhythm of heat all night long.
There was no flat screen television to blare out what we did not have and, what we should buy in order to be happy and to have a complete 'holiday'. We were not subjected to a daily routine of Christmas ads which slowly brainwash shoppers into thinking it is normal to want so many things for our kids and grandchildren. We never heard the word "The Holidays" and if we did, we would not know what it meant. Christmas was a simple time like the birth of Our Lord. And everything revolved around his arrival on this confused, greedy and misled planet, and his Good News, which, if we followed, would change the world forever.
All we had was the greatest story ever told to think about, and because of it, to thank God for all we had, for, like Mary, the Mighty One had done great things for us, and Holy was His name.