I smell cinnamon and pine. I hear the sounds of rhythmic pa-rum-pa-pum-pum’s in the background of every shopping mall and doctor’s office, and they remind me that the Special Day is nearing. I watch the shoppers and taste the ginger, and mostly, I feel the briskness of my walks from my car to work (and back again), and I race the almost-snow to dusk so that I can wrap my presents and bake my cookies. My most favorite holiday is back, and this year, it has shown up in its very best attire.
Okay…I know. Not everyone is hopping aboard the Santa sleigh. Not everything about the season is fun and exhilarating. Many people hate the stress; the pressure to buy more and spend more and be more…. chipper, is just exhausting. People seem ruder. Traffic is worse. Everywhere is unbearably crowded, and every intended gift that seemed purely perfect in November is now sold out – or worse, overpriced. So we make a choice: breathing in the nostalgia of the holiday or caving in to the annoyance of the hubbub. Which do you choose?
I was watching the news on a Thursday evening in early December. The Chicago Post Office was urging residents to claim letters to Santa, written by underprivileged children who would probably see close to nothing under their Christmas trees this year. “Over 4,500 unanswered letters…” the news anchor mentioned quietly, and then it was on to the next segment. The following Saturday around 12 noon, I went with a few others to retrieve a letter. We parked, took an elevator and a few staircases to the main building, and prepared to read through several notes before choosing the right one. We reached the desk, and inquired hurriedly, wanting to do a “good deed” and get on with our day.
“The letters are gone,” the postal worker smiled, “they’re all gone.”
Not nostalgia, not hubbub, just thousands of people making a choice to make a child’s Christmas magical.
This got me to thinking. Maybe Christmas is a way of bringing us home. Some of us go physically. We sit by the tree with our eggnog and our board games and our indulgent meal, and we enjoy the company of people we love. Others of us go home to the place in our hearts where the excitement of our first Christmas remains. We stick true to our early traditions, partaking in the very same activities we always have: watching the same movies, cooking the same food and reading the same stories.
And then there is circumstance. It can prevent us from being surrounded by people we love. They are too far away, or have passed on, and we can only be encircled in the memories we have with them. Christmas emulates goodness but it also magnifies sadness. We miss them. Maybe this is the time we choose to bring others home. We answer a letter, or we say a prayer of thanks, or we commit to creating a new tradition that embraces what we always loved about this time of year.
So, as much as I love the cinnamon and the constant shopping, those are not the things that make this holiday shine so bright. It’s being at home. And no matter where our home, it is always the people who make us want to be there.
Then, even when the obligatory winter flu sets in, or when it gets too cold to not yearn for summer, or when the chaotic commotion seems just too much to bear, we commit to remembering the reason for the season.
Christmas is about renewed joy and hope for a better next year. It is about miracles and forgiveness, and most of all, it is about recognizing the people who make us feel better. They are our family, our friends, or the people we wish were here. They are our homes. They remind us of where we came from, and they lead us where we need to be. They are Christmas. They are Christmas every day.