I’m lying on my bed right now, relaxing after what has been one of the most hectic months for me on record. Between work, moving into a new place, and other business/personal social activities, I’m finally winding down. Phew. I had forgotten what it felt like to inhale and exhale at my own leisure.
Right now, it’s completely silent, save for my fingers typing. And when it’s this silent, I look outside to the tops of trees in the woods. And I can’t help but imagine what life was like 150 years ago, when trees were all that existed in the area in which I live. When this time of year was about nothing but family and the love that was felt when the family was unified. Although the families that first settled in this area are long gone, you can feel them sometimes when a gentle wind caresses your face as you step outside. That’s when you know Christmas is still, albeit marginally, as close to God as it always was.
It should go without saying that we live hurried, scattered existences. I told you I had a hectic December, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t the only one in my social circles that was busy this month. On top of that, all you need do is step outside to be assaulted with the din of irrevocable, insatiable capitalism. Companies try to tug at your heartstrings with ads and marketing ploys, stores open before sunrise to make it convenient for you (but not for their employees – been there, done that), and money is being shelled out now more than any time of year as a misunderstood means of expressing love and gratitude. In America, it’s almost as if Christmas is recognized not by the spirituality of the occasion, but by the recreation of it. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t wait to watch [Christmas special]!” or “I can’t wait to see [TV event]!” or “I can’t wait to eat [holiday dish]!” Even in the spare, brief moments throughout this month when I had some time to bask in the simple beauty of the season, it was interrupted by whatever was on TV that night.
When did we get so commercial? When did companies dictate what the holidays meant to us? Diverting from Christmas for a second, corporate America was especially prevalent during the Macy’s Parade, in which it was blatantly obvious that the entire affair was a giant marketing ploy. You knew that Macy’s and NBC planned the parade down to a T, and made sure that each and every float and performer touched upon every available viewer demographic that day, combined with the needs of the dozens of sponsors that embellished the floats with their logos. Yes, from a business standpoint, it’s one of the best days of the year to connect with consumers, but for the purists and those who pay attention to the man behind the curtain, it’s like throwing a mouse into the pirhana tank.
Now, I will admit that there are Christmas specials that I love. The old Rankin-Bass specials were passed down to me, and I will definitely pass them down to my children. A Charlie Brown Christmas is wonderful, too. And in recent years, The Sing-Off has become a nice little holiday tradition for me and my family. However, when I turn off the TV, there is my family. And there has always been my family. And there will always be my family. Family is one thing that has endured through the decades. As my parents have told me the stories and showed me the pictures of their childhood Christmases, I cannot help but realize that Christmas is about sharing a miracle with the ones you love, as the moments you share are written indelibly on your consciences. Just as the dining rooms of their homes were packed to the gills in a big, loud, food-filled Italian Christmas extravaganza, so have I grown to know and love the holiday as a time of togetherness, companionship, and, in its more vibrant moments, joy.
Right now, the TV isn’t on, and my family is still downstairs, preparing the Seafood Fra Diavolo. Looking out the window, the sun has set. I can barely see the treetops. It is now Christmas Eve. Tonight, after we eat our dinner, we’ll sit around and watch Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Yeah, I know, that kinda contradicts the point of this post. But afterwards, we’ll watch Midnight Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Just like my father attended in Rockland County when he was a kid. And like I attended in my childhood, although we went earlier in the evening. And then my family will head up to bed, and I will stay up and watch a little more of the mass. The only lights on in the room will be the TV, and the sparkling, colorful menagerie on our tree. And as the choir sings “Gloria in excelsis deo”, I’ll soak in the music, the colors, the lights, and the palpable Spirit, and shut my eyes as a faint smile adorns my lips. That’s when the magic encapsulates me. And it will never, ever let go.
To you and yours, have a very Merry Christmas, now and for always.