WASHINGTON, December 24, 2011 –Anticipation of the Christmas celebration lifts the human spirit. Preparation takes time and effort, but most of us do it even as we complain. It is a pleasure giving gifts and delightful to get them. People we seldom see may be with us which makes up for being with those that annoy us daily. We indulge in sweets and good food. There is even something lovely in the bittersweet thoughts of holidays past.
Christmas is such a messy affair. Our feelings are all over the place. Expectations, anxiety, excitement, sadness, happiness, and loneliness can all be experienced in one afternoon. Wrapping gifts, baking, cooking, eating, all create a mess. Then, when you open gifts, there’s the aftermath of paper, ribbon, boxes, and that popcorn packing stuff that sticks to everything.
This is a mess to savor. Andy Rooney put it this way, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” There is, after all, something depressing about vacuuming up after the holiday. The last shreds of paper and tissue, and crumbs of cookies get sucked into oblivion and the room looks too neat for comfort.
Christmas comes with beautiful, joyful music, family traditions that are comfortable as an old pair of shoes, and there are stories; the Christmas story in the Bible being the central one. Many writer’s have given us passages that capture the spirit of heart and hearth. Dicken’s The Christmas Carol is an obvious example, but he also wrote about Christmas in The Pickwick Papers.
“Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away.”
Dickens expresses the holdiay traditions well, but it is good to have some spice thrown in the sugar. Christmas is very sweet with candy and sentiment. At some point, the Twelve Days of Christmas song starts driving you mad. Even O Holy Night can become stale, to say nothing of Jingle Bells. It is refreshing to stumble on a perception of the holiday that is more like a side dish than a candy cane.
For example, “There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas—something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails.” That is a sentence from Jerome K. Jerome’s, Told After Supper. What a breath of fresh, muggy air.
The commercial aspect of Christmas is best survived by humor. The writer E.M. Forster wrote that Christmas gets “clumsier every year.” If you are out and about you cannot escape the clumsiness. It is everywhere, although in many places you can take a break from it by hiding in the restroom.
Rather than rail at the crassness of commercialism, we can laugh at it. By laughing, we prove that we have not wholly gone over to the dark side. Below is the favorite holiday passage of everyone who reads it. Whether you are sitting around the fireplace sipping eggnog with friends, or trying to beat the holiday blues, you can count on Dave Barry’s account of the Three Wise Men for a laugh.
“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.”
More help for holiday blues here: Beat the Holiday Blues
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