The Wells' Christmas traditions begin when we get the decorations out of the attic each year. Items are put up in a particular order to decorate the living room. First, my daughter Keli's collection of nutcrackers goes on the mantle above the fireplace. Then, my wife Claudia's manger scenes are placed in numerous locations throughout the house.
My son, who is now married and living across town, still has as he always has, a snowman chime hanging in a doorway so he can ring it each time he passes. This is the beginning, before Thanksgiving.
Each Thanksgiving, we travel to the mountains in North Carolina and select a Christmas tree. For years, we purchased it from the same family-owned tree farm in Highlands, NC. The tree rides home with us on the top of our van to be put up the first week in December.
Decorating the tree is also steeped in tradition. After I struggle to get in the tree stand, move the furniture from its place in the study and get it through the door, my wife and children are ready to decorate.
First, we begin by playing the record (yes, a long-play, vinyl record!) with Alvin, Simon and Theodore -- the Chipmunks -- singing their Christmas Story about a little boy named Tommy who wants a harmonica for Christmas. We decorate the tree by the music of this album, and have since my children were small. They are now 26 and 23 years old. Lights go first, then ornaments, then icicles.
Of course, there are the many activities with our church that we attend: church-wide suppers with caroling and great food, Sunday school parties, a "birthday" party for Jesus, Communion, and choir concerts. All these are wonderful times and remind us of the true meaning of the holiday, that Christ was born as a human to come and offer us salvation through his eventual death, burial and resurrection.
One of our favorite traditions is to go on our annual, what we call, "Tacky Light Tour." Our family, with my sister in law's family, travel far and wide to view Christmas lights all over east central Georgia. We select a night and, with radios in our cars for communication, enjoy the lights of Christmas as much as possible. Later we stop for refreshments and family time together.
On Christmas morning, my wife and I meet the children by the Christmas tree very early to open gifts, share prayers and the Christmas story. Then we pack up to make the rest of the family visits we have that day.
Of course, it would not be Christmas without family time. We gather with my family at my mother's home and have a big lunch on Christmas Day, so we can see all the family members and share gifts. The same is done for the evening meal at my wife's parents that night. The whole family gathers and shares gifts, prayers, food and fellowship.
Our family is thankful we have been blessed to keep these traditions for as long as we have. God has been good to us and has truly made Christmas a special time in our lives.
Darrell Wells is the former principal of Dearing Elementary School and the father of McDuffie Mirror Staff Writer Kristopher Wells.