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I’m finding it difficult to get in the Christmas spirit this year. Actually, it’s been this way for the past few years, so I don’t blame any particular event of 2016. I still find the story beautiful and meaningful, the lights pretty, the cards welcome. I’ve done all the shopping, all of the wrapping (almost), and made a respectable amount of cookies. I’ve sung the songs and felt my heart stir with the beauty of the melodies and lyrics, but yet… I don’t feel it. The magic hasn’t been there.

I will love spending time with my family on Christmas Day, chaotic as it can be. I want to see my nieces and nephews in their joy, and even their eventual crankiness, with all of the excitement. I want to see my brothers and sisters (including the brother- and sister-cousins), parents, aunts, and in-laws that I don’t spend nearly enough time with. I will grumble when making dinner, as I always do, but it will be good-natured. I will drink too much wine, laugh too much, and get all of the dishes done Christmas night because I don’t want to wake up to a mess. I’ll crash into bed around midnight and sleep in the next day until 8:00 or so. (My younger self would have thought that pathetic, but she didn’t have kids.)

I know a lot of people feel the Christmas magic every year, but the last time I remember having the “magic” was sometime when my kids were smaller. I have such fabulous memories of dancing with Oldest and Middle Child around the living room to Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, watching them rock out over and over again in their Pull-Ups as Clarence Clemons belted out the saxophone part. They will disown me for sharing this memory, by the way, but it’s worth it. I miss the astonishment on Youngest Child’s face when Santa KNEW HIS NAME!!! I miss the looks of awe of all three of their faces when it was finally time to go downstairs and see what Santa had left on Christmas morning. I miss the absolute reverence of them putting Baby Jesus in the manger. They still do take turns putting him in, but that sweetness has left with their baby chubbiness. Decorating the tree was a BIG DEAL when they were small, now they’re doing me a favor. Their excitement fueled my own and as they got older, it’s still lovely, but not quite the same.

I don’t know if it’s “normal” to feel this way or not, but I don’t like it. I miss the magic. I want that feeling back. I don’t know if you have to be a kid or have a kid who believes for that to happen, but I want to feel Christmas again. Is it lack of time? Is it extreme busyness? Have I grown up too much, God forbid? Maybe it will come back when I don’t have so much to do, when I can focus on the mystery of the season. I told Mr. Marty Man that one year, I wanted to spend Christmas in Europe, just visiting ancient cathedrals, participating in local traditions, soaking in the feels. He’s not on board yet, but I’m working on it.

In the meantime, even without the magic, I will enjoy the next few days. I hope that all of my readers have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy New Year, or whatever it is that you celebrate. I wish you love and a prosperous 2017. Thanks for reading.

Salute.

 

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The first of November always brings the beginning of a great debate: how soon is too soon to start celebrating Christmas? Halloween is over, autumn has definitely moved in, and some stores have been setting up their Christmas aisles for the past couple of weeks or so. Target started sneaking in Yuletide decorations at least two weeks ago, shrinking the costume section into one crowded aisle while the Christmas craft sections at JoAnn’s and Michael’s have been up since late August. Santa arrives next Saturday, November 8th at many area malls while the Hallmark channel is showing non-stop Christmas movies all weekend. JoAnn’s and Michael’s I understand; sewing stockings and making ornaments can take quite a while. My own stocking is still only half-done and I started that three or four years ago. The rest of my family have had their home made stockings for a long time, I just don’t think about mine until, well, December 24 when we put them out. Anyway, loads of people complain about the early arrival of the Christmas season, but remarkably, there seem to be just as many who can’t wait and are even now begging the local radio stations to begin playing their 24-7 playlist of Christmas songs and carols.

I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Grinch, I love Christmas. I always have. The way I love Christmas, however, has evolved over the years. As a child, it was all about Santa and the presents. Of course, the whole Baby Jesus thing was always fun, especially when one got to be an angel in the church play and wear a gold glitter halo (aka tree garland) that she refused to take off, but Santa took center stage. For several years now, though, the spiritual aspect of Christmas is what I look forward to. Before anyone jumps in to set me straight, I know that Jesus wasn’t actually born on Christmas and that the Church chose December 25 in order to replace a pagan holiday. Of course, there’s more to it, but there it is in a nutshell. History geek, remember? But there is something so special and so pure about what that day represents that it gives me the goosebumps every time, sometimes not on Christmas Day itself, but there will always be a moment where it hits home what I’m actually celebrating, apart from the cookies, Santa, and choir rehearsals, and even our wonderful family get-togethers. Jesus, the foundation of Christianity, the Son of God, was born (at some undetermined point during the year) and that’s what it means to me.

From my perspective, when we begin to celebrate on November 1, it diminishes the specialness of the holiday. We start taking it for granted. We get sick of it. With some minor exceptions, the Christmas season for our family starts the day after Thanksgiving. (Although, I have been known to cheat while going through radio stations if one of my favorites is playing.) Even starting at that date, I’m ready to put it all away before New Year’s Eve because I really can’t listen to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” one more time and I want the stupid tree out of my living room because it takes up so much space. If I started celebrating now, I’d be almost done with it by Thanksgiving. Just think, that’s two solid months of Christmas, especially if you’re one to leave things up until Epiphany. I try, I really do, but usually the only thing that makes it until January 6 is the Nativity set. But really, that’s one-sixth of the year! What is special about that? It becomes mundane, ordinary. As a kid, the anticipation would have killed me, having to look at that tree every day. If we’d had an elf-on-the-shelf back then, I would have cracked under the pressure of trying to be completely good. Or it would have mysteriously “disappeared”, leaving me in mortal dread of what Santa would do when he found out. I’d much rather enjoy one month of Christmas cheer and think, “At last!” on December 25 rather than, “Thank God it’s over!”

I know that there are people who don’t get sick of it, who start counting down during the summer. Some of them are Facebook friends/relatives who I love dearly, already posting their countdowns to The Big Day, like my adorable sister-in-law, Pam. I don’t begrudge them their enthusiasm, I just don’t share it…yet. Christmas is special, it doesn’t happen all year round. If I drag it out, it loses that magic, that wonder. In life, it’s the special and rare things, things that aren’t the norm, that are treasured the most: true love, true friendship, artwork, centuries-old artifacts. (There’s that history geek coming out again.) I always appreciate something more when I have to wait for it or work for it.

The retail industry begins fueling our enthusiasm for Christmas joy and begins promoting early in order to make more money. I shop for a lot of people, mostly a nephew, nieces, small cousins and honestly, I start in September, little by little so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming chore. I don’t want it to be a chore, it should be fun and normally it is, but with all of the early reminders to buy, buy, buy. it kind of turns my stomach a little. I saw the first Christmas commercial of the season for Best Buy the week of Halloween. Really? I hadn’t even carved a pumpkin yet.

In the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, trees usually weren’t even put up until Christmas Eve. Of course, people made gifts by hand and some planning was involved, but life continued as usual for most folks until then. I’m not saying that we should go back to those times. I love being able to space out events and fun all through December, but maybe there’s something to be said for holding off until the Thanksgiving turkey has had its day.

That being said, people will celebrate how they feel most comfortable and if that’s their thing, then more power to them. Again, I love Christmas, I look forward to it every year, but I also love that I have to wait for it. In the meantime, maybe I’ll dig out that unfinished stocking. It will give me something else to look forward to.

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