Growing up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California meant Thanksgiving weekend was the time to get Christmas trees. We preferred silver tip firs with the strong, sturdy, well-spaced branches with their stiff, vertical, silver-green needles. Many of the roads were closed with snow by the end of November, and steaming hot coffee was welcome.
Decades later while living overseas, one Christmas was spent in the Alpine village of Lech, Austria. Our group arrived to find the slopes almost bare of snow; my wife said we all must pray. The next morning we awoke to 18 inches of fresh snow and it was still snowing. It was a beautiful sight from our pension overlooking the village.
We had a one-horse sleigh ride to another village for dinner. After midnight Mass we exited the church to the sound of frozen snow crunching under our boots. Then trumpets began to play carols from the church tower, that echoed across the narrow Alpine valley.
One Christmas was spent in Rome. We were able to attend St. Peter's Cathedral where Pope John Paul II said midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. We had Christmas dinner with two young American soldiers from northern Germany who were so far from their families.
Another Christmas and New Year's was spent in Erlenbach and Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, with a daughter and her family. That season our daughter worked for Kati Walhfart in one of her year-round Christmas stores.
Spending Christmas with family and friends is what bonds us together in our Christian culture.