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Simple joy, great gifts and ugly sweaters
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December is the month to share joy. It appears to be the only month when people of all religions and beliefs practice kindness toward their fellow men.

For the past few months, I have thought about writing about how some on our American children are stealing and even killing. But I have decided not to write about those crimes, not this month.

Instead, I will share small stories of simple joy, great gifts and ugly sweaters.

Simple joy

Many years ago, I met an older man who loved to tell me about the life he had shared with his family and peers for more than 40 years. We would talk and talk, about his life and my life, and he loved to tell me jokes. Most of the time, I couldn’t tell a joke if my life depended on it, but his jokes were more like stories that made sense. I could remember them.

Each December, he would drive me to a tree farm and cut a Christmas tree for me. I usually picked a tree that seemed to need a little more love than most to become beautiful.

Then one year, before I had even called him about our annual trip to the tree farm, there came a knock at my door. There he stood, with the most beautiful tree I could imagine. I asked him why he had done this.

Each year, he said, when he went to the tree farm with my son and me, he saw that the tree I got wasn’t a beautiful one; it was one I could afford. So, he decided to give me this gift, just to see my face light up.

That tree gave me great joy, simple joy. So do the ornaments I have collected over the years. Recently, as I brought out my decorations, a bulb from 1977 was broken. It was like breaking an old friend. I plan to glue it back together — because I can’t bring myself to trash it.

I love decorating for the holidays. I wish I had more decorations from my childhood, but our family home burned, and the loss of those items was heartbreaking.

However, memories never burn.

Great gifts

As a teenager, I wanted a diary one Christmas. What I wrote on my Christmas list was that I want a diary. My teacher called me to her desk and reminded me to always check my spelling. She knew that a teen girl probably wasn’t looking for a dairy under the tree.

That year, I got a pink leather diary, a gift I cherished. I would enter all my private thoughts inside. I also kept flowers and other cherished items. In those days, diaries came with small keys so that those private thoughts could be locked away and kept safe. I usually wrote in my diary at night.

I was in a club at school, and all the members had diaries. We had our names on the back covers, written in black. When we had slumber parties, each of us would bring her diary, but no one ever read another girl’s diary.

I guess this would not go over so well today, in the age of social media and the Internet. But somewhere in my heart, I like to think that none of my friends would ever have put my private thoughts on the Internet. We were sisters, and we respected one another.

Ugly sweaters

I know a personal story about a family of seven sisters who would receive old, broken toys every Christmas, toys that had belonged to rich children. One of the sisters told me that each Christmas, they also got old clothing, and one year, one sister got a red sweater.

It seemed like a fine sweater, until it rained that Christmas Day, and the red dye from that sweater bled all over everything. I thought this was a funny story, but it wasn’t funny for this teen girl. She never wore her Christmas gift again. Christmas is, in fact, when some folks bring out the most hideous sweaters they can find, men and women. This year I have been invited to an ugly sweater party. Though I already own a sweater that might just be the prize winner, I plan to create my own "ugly sweater." Living in the country has inspired my creative side.

December is the month for good tidings of great joy. Christmas is a special holiday around the world. Even if the weather is warm and the only snow is on television, it is still Christmas.

A special thank you to those of you who have read my columns and emailed to express your support.

Dorothy Frazier Piedrahita welcomes reader comments. She can be reached at