I love this time of year. For me, even with the commercialism, stress, and bustle of an inordinate number of seasonal activities, it’s a mystical, holy time. From a religious perspective, whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Buddhist or of other beliefs, historically, December is the month of hope, enlightenment, freedom and new beginnings. I tend to put on my Bah-Hum Bug repellant and avoid those with an Ebenezer mentality. Even if you don’t like certain aspects of the holiday, there is an undeniable air of love, generosity, and beauty about it. From a purely asthetic standpoint, it’s magical. I was struck by this, today....early Sunday morning, sipping a frothy Starbucks Sumatra cappuccino, (YUM - made by me.. ahem) sitting at my kitchen table, watching the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen drifting down, quickly coating any traces of green in my backyard. It was dusky and the neighbor’s Christmas lights were sparkling through the trees at the back of my lot. It looked like an invasion of a hundred tiny fairies, (or Christmas elves) decorating the landscape for the upcoming festivities. As the sky lightened up, set against the purity of the snow on a branch of a tree, were two of the reddest cardinals I have ever seen. I was moved to tears by the stillness and surreal Christmas card beauty right outside my window.
I’m a sap this time of year too, easily moved by the smallest things. I cry at the televised version of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Santa’s arrival at the Thanksgiving parade. My eyes well up at stories of charitable acts, or watching my littlest granddaughter’s face as Santa enters a room. I have been known to weep looking at the Nativity at my church, an older couple walking through the mall holding hands, and even a Christmas card the other day, from a very special family that I admire.
And, the smells! I toured our local historic gem, Kingwood Center Manor last week. Evergreen wreaths tied with berries and cloves greeted us at the front door, and provided just a sampling of the aromas that awaited inside...Orange slice ornaments, cranberry strings, angel hair pods, and aromatic herbs hung on a tree decorated solely with God’s ornamentation. It was eye candy for sure, but, the best part was the pungent, spicy perfume that permeated the entire room. My nose has been pleasured so much in the past week. The odor of shortbread cookies browning in my oven, freshly made wassail in a silver punch bowl, and the hickory smell of a crackling fire in the fireplace... where the stockings are already hung with care. A recent shopping expedition took me past the perfume counter in a department store. Someone had just sprayed Chanel #5. It stopped me in my tracks. As I sniffed the air, the tears started to flow, right in the middle of Macy’s. They were good tears. I was transported back 50 years to the vision of my mother, white ball gown mushrooming out around her tiny ankles showing off the 3 inch silver heels. I can still see her perfectly coifed black hair, bright red lips, slender neck encircled by a rhinestone choker. The most memorable accessory to her holiday party attire, was the smell of Chanel #5 wafting over me as she bent to kiss me on the check and told me to be a good girl for the babysitter. I can never smell Chanel #5 without remembering the enchantment of my mother’s snow princess appearance at Holiday time.
The sounds of the holiday evoke the same sentimentality and move my heart to a peaceful, faith filled place. I look forward to the predicatability of the processional hymn on Christmas Eve, Joy to the World, reverberating from the pipes of the organ at church. I have heard it many, many times but it always bring chills, and jubiliant hope inside my heart. Carolers are a bittersweet reminder of a Christmas Eve many years ago, when a local family extended their voices and generosity, right on our front porch. A perfect gift for my very ill husband who was unable to make it to Mass to revel in the beauty of the music. A dreamy respite by my tree, with O’Holy Night playing in the background is a ritual and a profound reminder of my spiritual obligation to be thankful every day for the gift of Jesus and His presence in my life.
The best sound of all to me, is the tinkle of bells. Every time I hear them, gratitude fills my heart and I am reminded, what really makes this holiday so special to me. This time of year, I feel a bond with George Bailey, from It's a Wonderful Life. There were some Christmas’ many years ago, that I found it difficult to see my value as well. Several "Clarences" appeared and helped me to recognize just how much one person’s life can impact another. At the time, I felt like George, and really didn’t think my angels looked like much, fallen angels with no wings.... Angels Second Class. They have truly earned their wings, First Class status, as well as a special spot, forever in my heart. I am blessed to have had many more "Clarences" pop up through the years to remind me, my life is meaningful, I have much to offer, and no man/woman is a failure who has friends. I toast them all, for I know, I am the richest woman in town! The bells are also triggers to joyful Christmas’ past. I like to think of them as kisses from those who cannot be with me in person, reminders that they still think of me.
I love this time of year.... every snowy day, coffee savoring moment of it. The best Holiday entertainment of all for me is the silent watching, smelling, listening, and remembering.