Thanksgiving now behind us, we are free to let the madness begin. What? Yes, I know the election is over…not that kind of mad/madness...we’ve all had enough of that. I mean the shut-the-bad-stuff-out kind of madness. The good kind that takes over when we jump off the deep end into a pool of holiday magic. Don’t tell me you’re too worn out from election and pandemic stresses to even think about the holidays? Hands over ears ! Not listening! The raw truth is that what you need now more than anything is as much Christmas/Hanukkah spirit as you can muster. So light those menorahs, write those cards, unpack the sparkly tree ornaments, deck the halls, and make a mess baking holiday treats. Let’s laugh in the face of this dismal year and sweep it out with holiday cheer! Spike the eggnog if you must. The show must go on.
This year Christmas might be a bit different, but it will still BE. For past Christmases in this house, we’ve re-arranged the living room to accommodate our 8’ x 5’ train table: three sets of train tracks, three engines and cars, a ceramic village, a skating rink, and an array of village people and critters. And, of course, we always put up an over-sized, fully decorated tree. The house is usually decked out like something between “Whoville on steroids” and “a Martha Stewart Christmas.” Whimsy is balanced with elegance: the crystal Sherry decanter sitting alongside the ceramic bear that my son made in Cub Scouts. This year, because it’s just us, we’ll bring things down a notch, but we’ve still unpacked enough Christmas decorations to remind us that the year is winding down once again, and it’s time for everyday business to shove over and make room for holiday gaieties.
Some things will change this year, but what will stay the same is our joy of this season. Throwing a party might be out, but sharing is still in. Christmas cards made on Shutterfly are getting signed and mailed; we’ve given to Toys for Tots and written a stack of donation checks to charities; some of our gifts to friends and family are already on their merry way; the rest will be wrapped while I watch The Nutcracker and sip eggnog. We’ll have a Christmas this year no matter what. The only thing missing will be the in-person sharing.
One of my favorite holiday memories is a day, too many years ago, when a friend and I helped each other decorate our homes. We set up her village of Christmas cottages and winter scenes first, and then at my house we put out my magnetic skating rink with skaters and sledders and pine trees. We reverted back to two little kids playing house: the ceramic people became real as we gave them life stories and discussed where they might be going and what they were up to. Christmas gave us permission to turn off the adult and become wide-eyed children again. That sums up Christmas for me !
Whether alone this year or in a small bubble, try to remember that while the surface of Christmas might be colorful wrapped packages and twinkling lights, the heart of Christmas is the promise of peace, the spirit of giving, and goodwill towards all mankind. Whether you light candles on Christmas Eve, Solstice, or during the eight nights of Hanukkah, the effect is the same: encouraging light, love and kindness into the world. Every year we believe that enlightenment might happen, that hearts might stay open past the dawn of the new year, and I’m still unjaded enough to believe that we can make that happen. But not if we all don’t try.
So light a candle, wish on a star, open your heart, and let Christmas in.