The Christmas season holds a timeless and magical mystique to most of us, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof, in large part because of its power to invoke nostalgia. Christmas may have begun as a religious observation for Christians and people who subscribe to Christian based faiths but it has evolved over many years into something much different. Between the media bombarding us with constant pressure to find and purchase the newest and greatest gift, to the incessant parade of holiday movies and songs, to the office parties and obligatory gift exchange – Christmas has become ultimately a perversion of what it once was: a season representing a merciful gift and a time intended to conjure from our depths the best of us. But Christmas also holds its truest power over most of us when we think of our childhood and how it helped shape our little minds and personalities.
This last part is just as true for me as anyone else. When I think back to Christmas as a child I recall Christmas Eve at my grandma’s house or my aunt Delores and Uncle David’s place with succulent food that would tempt even the most finicky of feeders. There were tables full of traditional Italian dishes and delicious desserts decorating plates waiting to be devoured. All of us cousins running around and playing games while the adults opened a bottle of wine and drank coffee all the while laughing uproariously. I could hear my aunt’s laughter from the kitchen while my father timed his punch-line just right. My grandmother would be surveying the table and people at it to make sure their stomachs were full and smiles were prevalent all around. I recall Christmas morning unwrapping gifts with a fire going in the fireplace and my siblings make snarky and sarcastic comments about each other while Christmas music was bellowing in the air around us. I can remember some Christmas Eves spent with my mother after we ordered Chinese food and the old fashioned red, blue, and green lights flickered against the wall next to the tree. I remember the silent white flakes of snow falling gently outside and smelling Christmas dinner wafting just a few feet away. Christmas presented not only presents but a rare time of year when we were reminded of the power Christmas held, not just in the food or good times, but in the reunion of family ties. To know those were ties that bind, through hardship and sorrow and through high times of rejoicing, those family ties were kept life moving a direction with purpose.
As this last Christmas just passed I was struck by something different. Last year my daughter was just six months old and I was awakened to a new and even more potent comprehension of what Christmas was truly for, to be in the present and live for the day through the eyes of my truest love. My daughter’s first Christmas was a reminder of what the sacrifice of giving is intended to provide, the act of giving is a gift in itself. But this Christmas, my daughter being 1 and a half, she was more aware of the mystery and awe brought on by all of the traditional Christmas events and happenings for our little family. She was captivated by the tree when she woke up the next morning and saw the tree in all its glory (thanks to my lovely wife). The lights were glistening, the Christmas ornaments tempting to touch, and the angel on top changing colors demanding her attention. She quickly, but carefully, approached the tree looking at me in a dead stare as to “IF” she could touch it. I gave her a gentle but firm chide to touch “nice” and she began circling the tree taking in its grandeur. It was in her awareness yet her innocence that I realized *THIS* was her true first Christmas.
Biologically and based upon a calendar last year of course was her first, but this year her wonder and amazement was something to behold. I was once again reminded of the joy and beauty of what Christmas is truly for: the child in all of us and for those who are still children. I thought of the children who were witnessing a less than gracious holiday season for any number of reasons and that once such innocence is lost, it can never be regained. I realized this time in my little girl’s life is precious and this Christmas season was a powerful time to apprehend with conviction. Each day when I came home from work with the Christmas tree lit up, she would point to the Christmas icon in our home and say, “treeee” and I would pick her up and make our way to the tree. She would hold our her arm and with her tiny index finger point and say, “Thnowman”, or “Ithicle”, and her eyes sparkled with a belief in the beauty of Christmas that only a child can hold. I drank in each of these moments and didn’t deny a single request such as these, not only to share with her a Christmas memory, but to be honest for selfish reasons. I let the Christmas wonder take me over like I was that child and see it through her eyes and instead of me teaching her something about the great Christmas traditions, she revealed something lost in me. The profound contentment and happiness in the season of Christmas, not just Christmas itself.
To be sure our Christmas morning was full of gift opening and picture taking as she was another year closer to understanding the joy in unwrapping Christmas presents. While my wife and I may have purchased gifts for my daughter, and for each other, the greatest gift given to me this year was not just in sharing my time with my family it was in the revelation that Christmas was always intended first and foremost for children, and the child in all of us. Christmas will never be the same…and I’m so grateful for that fact because from this year forward I will strive to hold that child in me so I can always share it with her…my true reason for the Season, life’s most precious gift to me, my little girl. In a world where horrific human suffering continues, where greed crushes the average man, where basic values of decency are corrupted by selfishness all around, it is deeply refreshing to see Christmas through the eyes of an untarnished soul. It cleanses the year’s utter filth and the degradation of humanity I witness on a daily basis from the cluttered compartments of my mind and soul when I see the sparkle in a child’s eyes waiting for Christmas morning to descend. Christmas may not be a religious holiday for all of us but it can have an equal value and power if we just let the child within us…breathe. Let our child run free and with reckless abandon to revisit the place in our soul when magic and wonder brought out the best…the world could use a little more magic and wonder and a little less cynicism…maybe, a child’s heart is the solution to so much more. This I know, my child within and my child who sleeps soundly half a house away, will never be thwarted at Christmas time…it may be a time to celebrate a birth, but it will be a time when we recognize a resurrection of the child within.
wildninja on Darkest Evil… mattcaracas on Maternal Instinct… Tim Williams on Maternal Instinct…