I love Christmas. I love the trees, the lights, the ornaments, the decorations, the reading of the Real Christmas Story, the Charlie Brown special, the NORAD Santa tracking site, and Rudolf.
This year, however, my chronic illness has gotten in the way of me performing my usual multi-day ritual of unpacking all my decorations and strewing them methodically about the house. We have a tree, and it has lights on it. No ornaments, no star. We have a wreath on the door. I have a stuffed Santa on my desk.
That’s pretty much it.
I’ve been feeling kind of sad about this lack of decorations at my house, so I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy everyone else’s decorations a bit. While driving in Toronto, I found a Rudolf Car in a parking lot:
I went to the Distillery District with my most excellent friend Glenna, and we strolled around the yearly Christmas Market, admiring the goodies for sale, and stopping occasionally to speculate on the sculptures.
We played in the Maze-That-Wasn’t. (Dead ends, people, really? Last I checked, a proper maze has an IN and an OUT, unless Stephen King designed the darn thing.)
We managed to cajol some nice people to take our photo in front of the Gingerbread House.
And, of course, we got intoxicated just by walking into the chocolate shop. (Open door. Go inside. Close door. INHALE. Chocolate intoxication achieved.)
It is clearly undeniable that Christmas is coming. I have managed to avoid going to a mall so far (yay!). I have ordered presents online, but none have arrived yet (booo!). Nicholas and I are going south to his parents’ home in Mobile, Alabama, for the holiday, and right now, I ought to be packing or doing laundry or, of course, finishing my holiday knitting.
Can’t. Don’t Wanna.
I want to sit and read posts and emails from friends. I want to sift through the interwebz until I find a gift for my best friend Mike and for my family and for his family. I want to curl up with cats and read a book, or maybe knit on something-anything-I-want-to-not-what-I-have-to-knit.
Having to limit my Christmas decorating frenzy and my gift-shopping frenzy has forced me to slow down, and to think about this whole Christmas thing. As usual, Christmas is a war between its humble original message (the light is coming back, and that’s a promise; whether that light be the Sun or the Son is up to your personal beliefs) and current commercial greed that demands that half of all yearly corporate profits be brought in during the month of December. But it’s also a more personal struggle for many folks, perhaps for most folks.
We’re always searching for The Perfect Christmas. Usually, what we find is something that misses the mark somehow.
Maybe we’re trying to re-create some magical holiday from our childhood. I know that for several years, twenty or thirty members of my family would gather at my grandparent’s home in Carmel, and there would be games and prizes (“For the little girl with the prettiest green eyes and the brown shoes”) given away by my grinning grandpa. The large garage would be cleared and cleaned so that Grandma could put up a long, long table (or two) and serve all of us together in the same “room”. (My mom and I were stunned one year when we discovered the secret of Grandma’s traditional Christmas Eve beef stew: We found a score of Dinty Moore cans in the trash bin.)
It was around that time that I also found out that the name of my favourite Christmas carol was “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and NOT “Hark, Hear Harold the Angel Singing.” I truly thought there was an angel named Harold who had something important to say to us. Crushed, I tell you, when I found out that wasn’t true. Crushed.
Those were perfect Christmases, or at least, they have been polished by time to perfection. My uncle Bill would disappear Christmas morning on some silly errand, and of course, Santa would show up to give out presents while he was gone. A while after Santa left, Bill would return and be sooooo disappointed that once again, he had missed the visit of Saint Nick. Aunt Diane and Uncle Gordon would plunk out a rather relaxed (now I know it was a rather tipsy) version of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Every second vibrated with peppermint striped glee and the sounds of bells jingling.
Now, our holidays are quiet ones. No large family anymore; sometimes it is just Nicholas and myself. One year we were so lame that we didn’t even wrap some of our gifts to each other.
Linus, I do not get what Christmas is all about anymore.
So I’m going back to basics. Too bad if I don’t have all my gifts ordered on time and showing up in perfect glittering paper. Too bad if I don’t have my light-up earrings tucked into my earlobes. Too bad if I haven’t baked Christmas cookies, have no cards to send out, and a box of ornaments still unpacked in the basement.
Too gosh golly darned bad.
I believe. I believe that Santa, in whatever guise he appears, can bring change to hearts and minds. I believe that Kindness Rules. I believe it is good to stop in the middle of the Distillery District market and start singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing with a couple of complete strangers, me on melody and them on harmony. I believe it is important to get in touch with loved ones, and somehow, show that you care and that you want good things for them in the year ahead. I believe light is important, both in the dark of winter and in the shadowy lands of our own hearts.
I also believe it is OK to still count on some angel somewhere named Harold who will come tell me something nifty one day, but perhaps that’s just me.
And I believe that if enough of us believe in what is REALLY important, kindness and compassion and laughter and singing and family and love and light, then the light will come, and the darkness will flee.
That’s nothing new. But sometimes it takes failing Christmas 101 for me to remember what the real answer to the final exam ought to be.
If you don’t have time to bake cookies, give extra hugs instead.
If you don’t have energy to decorate with garlands, decorate your house with friends instead.
If you don’t have friends or family to share celebrations with, be gentle, oh so very gentle, with yourself; maybe fix a special meal for yourself, or curl up with a favourite pastime. Treat yourself kindly, remember that you are important and the world needs one more voice of reason in this crazy Christmas season.
Merry Christmas. May the light come into whatever dark and shadowy corners lurk about you, bringing with it warmth and promise and hope and laughter. May that light come into ALL the darknesses in our silly, topsy-turvy, confused, jinglebell-crazed world.
Christmas tree made out of yarn swatches. Guess that solves the needles-in-carpet problem.
George Takei’s Christmas cookies, with, as he said, the “inevitable outcome.”
HTML Status Cats. Puts a furry face on all those annoying computer alerts.
A seal pup gives new meaning to “home for the holidays.” Go seal pup!
Last-minute gift (for yourself, maybe!!): Knitted Baby Gargoyle.
Yo-Yo Ma, a bathroom, and a wombat. For Serious Reals. Word is that the bathroom was the wombat’s dressing room, and Yo-Yo wanted to meet Sir Wombat. (I just report the news, folks, I don’t make this stuff up.)
And last but never least, a Twitter denizen sums up the entire season so beautifully I wish I had thought of it myself. GO HERE.
Let there be peace in our world; let us reach out with compassion to those around us. That’s what “Peace on earth, good will towards man” really means, isn’t it?