Happy Christmas

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With this, I send my very best wishes for the holiday to all readers and their friends. May the season be serene — however momentarily — and may the peace of the time be with you.

Whatever it may be that we are supposed to celebrate at Christmastime, what we do celebrate is memory, the memory not only of Christmases past that we have known but of long-gone holidays that we have heard about from parents and grandparents, or even read about it novels by long-dead writers. Nostalgia — the recollection of things that ought to have happened, perhaps, but did not — is an understandable hazard, but I expect that disappointment is far more common. Either way, it is difficult to place just what is important about our memories. Sleigh-bells and snow and children laughing over heaps of ribbon and wrapping paper certainly help to put one in the mood to remember, but they are not the point of the holiday. By themselves, the special effects of Christmas quickly pall. What are we looking for in our memories?

At least half of the Christmas cards that you’ve received this year will tell you: it is peace. The plenteousness of the season — what children notice most about it, and what distinguishes it from all the other times of the year for them, birthdays and circus-trips included — is meant to suggest a rampart against all the uncertainties of life, an assurance that things will go well. It’s an assurance that those of us living in northern latitudes earnestly need, as we look out the window onto weather that, however pretty, would kill us if we weren’t amply protected against it. The warmth of Christmas — the blazing hearths, the sparkling lights — promises a very immediate peace, disguised as respite. Gatherings of family and friends assure us that there are other people who belong to us and to whom we belong. As adults, we know that this peace, while not an illusion exactly, cannot last. It is nevertheless more intoxicating than any holiday potation, and once we have tasted it we want to taste it again.

Christmas makes fetishists of us all. Our attics and closets harbor boxes stuffed with special totems, which, if arranged just so, will — we rather pathetically hope — cast the spell of Christmas peace (the “magic” of the season). Too often stroked, the totems lose their power, and we may well decide not to bother with futile rituals. For a healthy person, however, not to try for Christmas peace at this most gregarious of times, whenever everyone around us is going for it, can be terribly depressing. How nice it would be, to pull the covers over one’s head, if one could be sure of sleeping right through the holiday.

But Christmas, despite the hustle and the pressure and the effort of taking on an extra long to-do list, is actually a celebration of letting go, of setting aside the world that is too much with us during the rest of the year. The paradox of Christmas reminds me of that mind-twister about the busy man — the already busy man who is the one person most likely to be able to find time for an additional job. He knows that it is the doing, and not the getting done, that constitutes living. Christmas is the one time of the year when it is indeed the thought that counts.

That thought is “peace.”

8 Responses to “Happy Christmas”

  1. Ellen says:

    Yes happy Christmas, RJ. All that you say is simply so. Thank you for the gift of this blog.

    Ellen

  2. George says:

    Simply so, indeed. Peace, my brother, to you and all yours. And, as Ellen says,”Thank you for the gift of this blog”, everyday of my life it is a pleasure and an inspiration.

  3. Édouard says:

    A beautiful post.

  4. admin says:

    It is a real peace, too. At this time of year, we gather with family and friends and laugh, or at least tolerate, our many differences, because in the end, we’re in this together. We are reminded that all of us are social creatures, not strong enough to make a go of it all on our own.We need people, those delicate, insane, enormously complex, funny, and baffling creatures, to make the gift of life meaningful.

  5. Migs says:

    Happy Christmas, RJ! What a beautiful tree, and even more beautiful thoughts on the spirit of the season. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Yvonne says:

    Thanks, R J!

    A toast to you and your wonderful blog…to my fellow faithful DB readers…to Peace.

  7. Nom de plume says:

    One’s disappointment is God’s appointment. At least that’s what my southern Christian Evangelical sister told me summarized her mega-church’s Christmas Eve sermon. Bah!

    Yours is a refreshingly — and dare I say surprisingly uplifting — take on the holiday many of us experience as “women’s hell.” I wish I might have read it three days ago. Bah Bah!

  8. Fossil Darling says:

    This picture does not do justice to the beauty of the tree nor to the beauty of the ornaments.

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