Starting with January 1, I celebrate each holiday and birthday with a special joy. I have trunks and closets and drawers and an attic filled with decorations for the special times. I festoon my house with hearts and flowers and boxes of chocolate in February and become absolutely giddy when I see the signs of spring and Easter. Memorial Day was once a happy sign that the labors of studying in school were over and the joys of summer freedom were ahead for three long months, but the death of my father on that day made it the one holiday that I dread each year. The Fourth of July is always been all about barbecue and fireworks and happy summer vacations or gatherings. Labor Day reminds me that lots of work in school lies ahead for teachers and students alike but fall is on its way, my favorite time of year. Then autumn bursts forth in all its glory to color the land with my favorite hues of red, yellow and orange. I fill my home with pumpkins, acorns, chrysanthemums and spicy candles. In rapid succession I delight to Halloween, my birthday, and Thanksgiving. Then comes my very favorite holiday of all, Christmas.
When it comes to Christmas the kid in me shows up full force. I have traditions piled on traditions that I follow religiously starting with the day after Thanksgiving or maybe with the sighting of Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Over the years I’ve added four Christmas trees to hold the ornaments that I have cherished that came from friends, Hallmark, Swarovski, Lenox and vacations. I never pass by a Christmas store without going inside. I have Santas from the many lands in our family ancestry. I collect Nativity sets like some people search for special stamps. I set out my gnomes, and gingerbread men and light up the outside of my house to the point of pushing the limits of my circuit breakers. I watch Christmas movies non-stop even though I know the lines in them by heart. I send out hundreds of holiday cards by snail mail.
I suppose that I enjoy Christmas more than any other time of year not so much because of the trappings but mostly because it has always represented hope and joy and all that is truly important in our lives. We seem to set aside our differences in this holy time that for me is a remembrance of the birth of a child who would change the way we all view the world. His constant message of unconditional love has lived through the ages and following his example has helped us to overcome our human challenges over and over again.
For me Christmas is about family and friends and feeling like a member of a human race that is bigger than its individual parts and nations. It is a quiet if unspoken time of unity sometimes even in times of war. Somehow we do not feel all that different from one another at Christmastime. For me Christmas is steeped in religion but I love that it is inclusive enough to allow even those of other faiths and no faiths at all to feel the love that is its essence. Somehow I believe that Christ himself would find joy in the celebrations whether they be Christian or Catholic or Jewish or Muslim or of any other beliefs, or non beliefs. Its spirit of giving encapsulates the best in us as people.
We’ve gone a bit crazy with our Black Fridays and shopping sprees that sometimes overshadow the true meaning of this holiday. We fight over whether we should keep Christ in Christmas or just accept greetings of Happy Holidays. We forget how lovely it is that we can celebrate our oneness as people all the world over regardless of how our philosophies differ. We disregard the stories of Jesus demonstrating that sometimes strict adherence to religious laws created by people can be outmoded and unkind. He taught us that it is more important to save someone on the Sabbath than to let them die because a ridiculous rule tells us that we cannot work on a particular day of the week. We forget that Jesus bucked the religious system of his time and died like a criminal for that very reason. I think he delights in seeing us simply love rather than judge.
I remember a Christmas when I was eight years old and we were thousands of miles away from the place I called home. We had moved from Houston to San Jose only weeks before and had yet to make friends or find a niche in which we felt comfortable. There were no computers to schedule Zoom meetings back then nor did we have cell phones that would connect us through texts or Facetime. We were all alone, knowing that our big extended family and friends would be gathering together just as they had always done. I still feel the misery that filled my heart as I longed to celebrate Christmas, not as a time for Santa to come but as the joyful moment to connect with people I loved. I suppose it was when I understood more than ever what Christmas was all about. Never again would it be just a time for gifts or decorations.
This Christmas may be quite different. I already know that I will not be gathering with my ever growing extended family on Christmas Eve just as I have done for my entire life save for that Christmas in San Jose and couple of times when I was sick. My annual Christmas Day bash will be greatly scaled back much as my Thanksgiving Day was this year. Covid-19 has forced us all to rethink our plans and find ways of feeling joy without all of the traditions or even the hugs. I know that it will be okay and I will enjoy it as much as I ever have regardless of how different it may be. I can wait just as people waited for the birth of that little boy in the long ago. I know what it is really all about and that alone will bring me the greatest of joy that will follow me all the year long.