Janet Hommel Mangas: 1,209,600 seconds before Christmas

I just realized there are only two weeks — 14 days to be exact — until Christmas 2021.

If you want to get a little more specific, that breaks down to 336 hours or 20,106 minutes. But be heartened, I’m not here to spark Johnson County into a panic mall dash or last-minute Amazon deliveries. You’ll feel a complete calm knowing that deciphers into 1,209,600 seconds. You have well over a million seconds left.

Every year Christmas is different, yet the same in many ways.

Christmas recollections:

1960s

We put our shoes outside our shared bedroom doorways on the eve of Dec. 6 — St. Nicholas Day — and that morning our shoes would contain a pack of gum and a tangerine.

I always anticipated the lighting of the four Advent candles that sat atop the live green wreath hanging from the church ceiling each Sunday leading up to Christmas at Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church. (I confess I secretly awaited the green wreath that hung horizontally from the ceiling to go up in a blaze, but it never did.)

After attending midnight mass, we would awaken to gifts like baby dolls and new clothes and a living room full of presents for a growing family of five children that would soon grow to seven. I didn’t have to be Nancy Drew to understand the obvious fact that Santa was real since I knew there was no possible way that Mom and Dad could afford all those presents.

1970s

Now a family of nine (seven children) that took up an entire pew, Dad would help lead church playing guitar at masses. There was ever-present caroling from the William Knabe and Company upright piano and Dad’s guitars in December and throughout the year.

I asked for and received a microscope and stuffed animal among many other presents one year for Christmas. Around this time, I also woke up on Christmas Eve and found Santa Claus playing my brother Kevin’s new drumset in the living room!

1980s

Christmas was always a welcome time, going to church and celebrating with family. Later, there were many work Christmas parties at country clubs around the area. And at the end of the ’80s, a marriage and shared Christmas Eve and Day at church with the Hommel and Mangas families.

1990s

Mt. Pleasant Christian Church Christmas plays and children’s choir rehearsals were an ever-present blessing. Watching the hubby tussle with huge plastic toddler playgrounds, bicycles or other seemingly impossible Christmas toys that needed assembled was always a highlight to watch as I sipped my hot tea. We would often celebrate at our church’s evening service, then accompany Mom and Dad at midnight mass.

2000-present

Christmas is always fun to celebrate, but it’s funny what you remember. There was the year the hubby surprised me and our daughters with a huge Barbie boat for Christmas (insert my eyeroll here) was a … surprise. We later gifted it to another family whose Mom and girls liked Barbie dolls.

The playhouse Steve had delivered in the dark of the night so he could surprise the girls was another memory. The go-cart the hubby had my younger brother Chris drive to our house one freezing Christmas morning so it would remain a surprise to our girls stands out.

And then there are the grieving Christmases: the year Jack Mangas passed on Christmas Eve with his sons and wife at his side as the girls, I and future son-in-law attended Christmas Eve church.

Every year Christmas is totally different, yet the same — the hope, love and faith remains constant.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected]