Thursday, December 10, 2009

All A-Glow

What is it about red and green and gold and sparkly tinsel that brightens our spirits?

Why do poinsettia's and pine cones and live wreaths and garlands make us feel good? What is it about cutting down a live tree to stand in a water-filled bowl in the middle of our living room that gives us a sense of everything being right in the world? Why do we look forward all year to an evening of conversation with friends while sharing eggnog and fruit cake and decorated cookies with Mannheim Steamroller playing in the background? Why do we make an event out of topping the tree with a star or angel?

And why in the world do we look forward with tingles of excitement to new matching jammies on Christmas Eve, even when we are adults?

I don't really know the answer to these questions, but I think I understand the underlying emotion that can only be described as the warm glow of the holidays - no matter what the temperature is outside.

I think it's about tradition. And tender memories. And family. And treasured friends. And hope for the future.

The phrase "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" also comes to mind, but I don't think we decorate our homes and drink eggnog because of our gratitude for Jesus. And therefore, I don't agree with those who think we have commercialized something that should have been kept sacred. I think we decorate our homes because it makes us feel connected to the past, it brings us closer in the present, and it builds memories for the future.

We also celebrate the birth of Christ, but that is separate, or at the very least, intermixed with our festive decor and clothing and food. We read from the New Testament, we sing carols in celebration of his birth, watch church performances of the nativity with wise men and animals and hay. For some, Christmas is one of two holidays that cause us to pause from hectic lives to attend Church, for others it is simply a more special day to worship, with great music to boot.

We show kindness to others and on average do more philanthropic giving during the month of December than any other time of the year.

We travel for hours and miles to be with those we love, to share this amazing season with them.

I love Christmas. I love the decorations. I love the music. I love the smells. I love the food. I love the sparkling anticipation in the eyes of children. I love the joy of giving and service. I love the warmth of candles glowing in a room lit only by the lights on the tree or a crackling fire. I love the gratitude for everything special and sacred.  I love the reason for the season.

But most of all, I love the time I have with family and friends to share the warm glow of this wonderful holiday season. It's contagious, it's rejuvenating, it's reassuring.

For some, this time of year holds none of the warmth and spirit that I feel, and I worry about them and hope their lives will continue and will get better in the coming year.

And for some this season is about the presents, but as we get older, or simply get wiser, it is not about the presents at all. It's about love and life and laughter - all coated in sugar sprinkles and hung with candy canes.

As for me, I will savor this season through about mid-January; that's how long it typically takes before I finally feel the warmth of the season fade into the day-to-day business of life outside of the Christmas season. And then, what gives me hope and allows the season's warmth to stay in my heart until next year is the knowledge that in just about 300 days, the season will return!

Merry Christmas to everyone. And a very Happy New Year in 2010 - which, by the way, is MY year, so no putting YOUR dibs on it - I already have. But in the spirit of Christmas, I suppose I can share....and for now, I am going to enjoy every garland-wrapped, tinsel-covered, jammie-clad minute left in 2009!

Mariah Carey "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

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