Sunday, December 24, 2017
Christmas always calls to mind memories. It's a holiday I've always loved, and that awed childhood delight over this scintillating time of year spills over into a season of life far removed from those years of innocence. Those memories are still that enduring.
How is it that a simple family holiday could ignite a delight so long-lasting that I can still remember the toys I played with, nestled up against the wall behind the glowing tree at night after all the holiday festivities were over? That is a decades-old wonder.
Whatever it is that yielded such exquisite, yet indelible memories, I can't say. Something complex, woven by family, neighborhood, community, culture? It couldn't be, simply, the fact that a child was happy to receive her heart's content on one day of the year. Because we can't seem to place our finger on it, we may think it seems like magic. But if we look, we can identify the elements that go into such holiday bliss. Yet, taken individually, the components that become interwoven into the holiday can rarely stand on their own as sterling representatives of what makes a great Christmas.
Then there are those who don't even lay claim to some of those components—some, in fact, who can't even afford to replicate all the trappings of the holiday. It's in living life like that—and some of us have been there at times, ourselves—that we realize what makes the holiday isn't the gifts. Nor the food. Not place, not time, not festivities. There must be something far deeper, far more incisive, lying deep behind the magic of Christmas, calling it out from within our own hearts.
Perhaps it's the ability to connect. The ability to touch, inter-personally, that something inside that needs encouragement, support, validation, assurance. To speak to that reality inside and draw it to a more confident place.
It's not the toys we get for the holiday—dolls or footballs for the little kids, technology's grownup toys for the kid within the rest of us—but it's the message those props send us when we receive the package that may make the difference. We speak that message to each other, every time we exchange gifts. Whether what lies under the fancy wrapping is a present humble or expensive, it conveys a message from the giver to the receiver. That tacit message, itself, may become the real gift of the season.
Above: "Wintry but seasonable; A Merrie Xmas to you all," 1870s Christmas card now among the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at the Toronto (Canada) Public Library; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.