Christmas is almost here again! I thought about rehashing some of the earlier blog posts I have written about Christmas around the world, and the various ways my family adapted our own traditions to the places we were living. But some thoughts came to me, like visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.
This is a year when my children will spend Christmas with their dad in North Carolina (we rotate years). They did spend Thanksgiving with us, and we had the chance to exchange gifts and enjoy that holiday as a sort of hybrid. My soul was warm and fuzzy, surrounded by my five (not so little) chickens. We ate ourselves into an L-tryptophan turkey coma, and went to see the Cirque du Soleil Christmas show at the Long Center. We were just together, and to me, that was the culmination of the Christmas spirit, right there, a little early.
For the past few weeks, I have watched my neighbors put up Christmas lights (some of the displays are gargantuan, over the top!) As I go off to sleep at night I can hear the carols booming from a house that has its lights synched with a radio station. Lines of cars slowly make their way down the road, children excitedly leaning out the windows taking in the sparkle and glimmer. As for me, I have my little tree in the front window, although I only used lights this year, no ornaments. I did wrap some lights around the back porch railing, so we do look somewhat festive. In honor of my husband’s Jewish heritage, I like to embrace Hanukkah (the festival of lights!) as well, and have fallen in love with the a cappella group “The Maccabeats” who have made a name for themselves in YouTube world.
I work in retail, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the bling and the swag that decorates our store and the ones near us. Williams-Sonoma is always putting out samples of goodies, and I often wander down there for a taste. Their store is the epitome of Christmas tastiness and I love just wandering around, even though I can’t afford half of the things in there!
My mom and I are planning to go to a Christmas Eve service near her house, and my husband and I will have dinner with her Christmas night. Other than that, our holiday will be muted. But I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I feel that without all the trappings of Christmas this year, I am feeling the real meaning of it. No last minute dashes to the mall to “even up” the present count. No staying up til the wee hours of the morning to assemble a toy with instructions written in Japanese. No mountains of discarded wrapping paper. No soldiering through the day, eyes grainy with lack of sleep. No cooking for hours in the kitchen, then having the meal gone within minutes. No stacks of dirty dishes. No looking at the decorations still up in February, thinking, it may be time to get on with it.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, who, for many, is a beacon of light in a dark world. History and archaeology have shown that Jesus wasn’t necessarily born on December 25, and there are stories that the date was really a pagan holiday that the early church used to encourage converts. Never mind that shepherds didn’t have their sheep in the fields at this time of year, and never mind all the skeptics who put Jesus in the same category as Santa Claus. It is a time when we can appreciate that no matter how dark the world gets sometimes there is still light. If Jesus is that light, then so be it. Jesus or no, there is still good in the world, and I truly believe that goodness will always outshine evil. Next time you go to the movies and some dipstick turns on his cell phone to check his messages, you will appreciate how any light, no matter how small, will illuminate the darkness. A physicist could explain all the mathematical reasons why darkness is merely the absence of light. To me, darkness is only the temporary absence of light. As my dad used to say, "It's darker than the inside of a hat!" Take off your hat, and there will be light!
I have a friend whose daughter was a student at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown. This beautiful little girl survived the tragedy, but there are so many families whose lives are indeed very dark right now. I don’t know how much light would be needed to dispel that darkness, but it is good to see how many people all over the world have reached out to try and help in their own way. I like Ann Curry’s plan to commit one act of random kindness in honor of each person that died that day.
For me, this year, Christmas is all about light. I feel closer to the light this year than ever before. Much like the Grinch who realized that even though he stole all the material things in Who-Ville, Christmas still comes. As long as there is light, there is hope. I will never lose hope and confidence that goodness will prevail. In whatever fashion you celebrate this season, be it the winter solstice, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, I hope you will always put your faith in the light.