I posted this blog before, but it may be one of my most sincere and heart-felt blogs I written. So, I thought I’d share it again this Christmas.
For those that celebrate it, I hope you have a very merry Christmas. For those that don’t, I hope whatever you do celebrate is filled with love and joy. For everyone, I hope your year was wonderful, and that you look back on the good of the past year, as well as looking forward to the beginning of a new year, spent with friends, loved ones, and good times.
For everyone else, have a good one, whatever it is you do.
Christmas lives in my memories.
It takes me back to my youth, when I was blissfully ignorant of worldly things and problems. All that mattered was tradition and family.
These days, Christmas starts for people sometimes as early as October, when the lights go up, or in November, when they put up their fake tree. When I was little, Christmas started December 24th.
We either bought our real tree on some lot in town, or went into the bush and chopped one down, which may or may not have been entirely legal. We brought it home and waited until the 24th. When that day came, we set up an old milk can, painted red to look more festive, and placed the tree on it, making sure there was water inside to keep it as fresh as possible. Placing of the tree was important. My personal favourite spot was when it blocked one of the two entrances into the living room.
Once the tree was placed, it was time to decorate it. But to decorate it, we needed music. Back then, we had 8-track Christmas music. It probably wasn’t classic Christmas music, like Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby, but if I heard it right now, I could close my eyes and be transported back to those days in a heartbeat.
Another thing that made things special was the fact the TV went off and stayed off. We never had a lot of channels, but it was usually always on. But on Christmas Eve, the TV was switched off and didn’t get turned on until Christmas Night or even Boxing Day. Do you think we could do the same these days? Doubt it.
Decorating the tree back than was a family event. Everyone played their part. The decorations were old, hand-me-downs, but they were still magical. It transformed a simple pine tree into something special. Even with the same decorations, it always looked or felt different each year. The star on the top of the tree was old. I still remember it vividly. A metallic gold star, made of aluminum or very thin tin, with a textured surface. The angel was plastic, stuck on the star with glue. It had a white flowing gown and blonde hair, as all classical angels should look.
We didn’t have a fireplace. We had a mantle with a place for a fireplace. Instead of wood and coals, we had a fake set of logs with a light in behind. When it was turned on, a cylinder around the light would turn from the light’s heat. The cylinder was made of orange and red plastic that made the fire-like light within the fireplace and through the fake logs. People who turn on the Yulelog on their TVs say they feel the warmth. But the light these fake logs and light cast into a living room lit only by it and the Christmas tree seemed to fill us with a warmth and casted a spell on us all.
When I close my eyes, that is the Christmas I envision. A darkened living room, lit by a shimmering Christmas tree and a imaginary fireplace. Christmas music making our hearts swell with joy and love. Everyone sitting quietly, forgetting the hardship, happy to be in that moment, commenting on how beautiful everything was, sharing a few laughs.
Those days have long since passed. Christmas may never be that pure and good, at least not for me, or others of my age.
It still can be for our kids. They say it is through them that we regain a little bit of that magic and wonder. A lot of that magic and wonder comes from traditions, carried on by our parents or loved ones, then passed down to us.
Although we may yearn for that lost nostalgia, we can create new traditions. Create future memories.
For me, being a movie buff, Christmas Eve is for movies. “White Christmas” is always a good start, followed by the original “Miracle on 34th Street”, Alastair Sims’ “Scrooge”, and ending with the perennially weepy and heart-warming “It’s a Wonderful Life”. By the end of the night, my spirit is light and happy, having bathed in the kind of sweetness and joy only celluloid can deliver. It helps me with my sleep, allowing me to dream of better days and simpler things.
But before I go to bed, I got outside, look up at the sky, and listen. I’ve always done this every Christmas Eve. I’ll do it again this Christmas Eve. I’ve never spoke of this to anyone before. If asked, I’ll never have a good reason as to why I do this.
But maybe, my inner child, the one blissfully ignorant of life and worldly things, is listening for sleigh bells, or looking for a star.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.