Cyndy and I decided to bake a few gifts this year. Among other things, she wanted to bake mini fruitcakes using her mother’s recipe. I looked for candied fruit in the neighborhood grocery store. I asked for the candied fruit for fruitcakes and was told they did not have it. The last time I looked for candied fruit – albeit several years ago – it was in every grocery store. I persisted in my search by asking other employees, only to discover that they did, in fact, not have the candied fruit.

I tried again the next day at a different grocery store when I was picking up Christmas stocking items. The looks I received from the clerks in the bakery – who should have had some idea – led me to believe that the employees had little clue as to what a fruitcake really is. After checking where they suggested proved fruitless – pun intended – I went to the baking aisle since that was a logical guess. The candied fruit was there under the cake decorations, but not in the variety or at the price I remembered.

Which is due to the fact that fruitcakes are not the quick gift choices they once were and are certainly not as prevalent. In recent years I have gone through the holiday season without hearing the word “fruitcake.” In earlier years I would not have seen the holiday season pass by without receiving a fruitcake. Fruitcakes kept one from having to hone in on a personally relevant gift.

At one time, a fruitcake was what you gave someone when you did not know what to give them, or when giving one gift to a family. I remember the colorful tin containers that unmistakably held a fruitcake wrapped in plastic. I never understood why I never saw anyone actually eat a fruitcake. It was rare that I even saw anyone break the seal on the plastic. But when someone went to the trouble of baking their own fruitcake, the recipient was more inclined to open and eat at least part of it.

When we had the White Elephant gift exchange with my father’s family on Christmas, there was usually a fruitcake involved that someone had received for Christmas. It was not uncommon for a fruitcake to be passed around three or four times before the new year began. And then, quite possibly, the fruitcake would make the rounds again the next Christmas. With the same bow affixed to the top of the can. Often, the same was true of other White Elephant gifts.

These days -fortunately – the only people who go to the trouble of baking fruitcakes are those who have a tried and true recipe – such as Cyndy’s mom’s recipe. They can still be ordered, but few people I know buy fruitcakes. It doesn’t help that the shelf life of candied fruits after being opened, baked, and then taken out of the plastic is about twenty-seven minutes.

Be that as it may, giving someone a gift received from someone else goes against the grain of the Christmas spirit. Regardless of the gift, it was given with a good spirit. It cannot be re-given with the same true spirit. There is only one gift that can be given repeatedly in the same spirit with which it was originally given – the love of Christ. No matter how many times the love of Christ is given and shown, it is still fresh, new, and untainted. A gift you can give to anyone and everyone. A gift that can be joyously re-given and joyfully received. So this Christmas, spread the love of Christ – the true spirit of Christmas.

Peace be with you.