1. The Shows. I love the shows and movies that go with this time of year. When the kids were small we did our wrapping all in one night, Christmas Eve, and we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” as we taped. The original Boris Karloff “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is still a favourite I could watch all 12 days of Christmas. I’m also big on seeing at least one version (I think the George C. Scott best) of “A Christmas Carol”.
2. The New Rhythm. I like the slower tempo that comes during this season. For a long time I over-planned the season but now I’ve listened to the elusive Donna and find less is MUCH more when it comes to this time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the best and I want to encourage all my American friends to give Boxing Day a place on your schedule.
3. The Charity. The cynic in me, who weighs in at 280 pounds by the way, would like to dismiss all the kindness and generosity of the season as temporary, shallow and half-hearted. I won’t let him. I’m awed by the kindness of strangers, the willingness to do extra, the heart to show compassion and warmth during this season. I love that people will get piles of food to eat, gifts they didn’t expect and help when they were feeling pretty low. The optomist in me, weighing in at only 75 pounds, is still trying to figure out how to get this to last all year.
4. The Family. I love the focus on time together, the willingness to just be and to play and rest and laugh and hug. I know these days don’t last and the minutes for me are both bitter and sweet because of that. Last year we were without Nate but we were with the elusive Donna’s family, including her mom and dad who were still with us at the time. It was an extraordinary time, including my father/son trip to Chicago with my boy Josh. We didn’t realize just how extraordinary it all was until a month later when health began to fail for the Elusive’s parents who are no longer here. This will be a year to miss family even as we embrace each other just that much tighter. It’s also the first Christmas for my nephew Lou and I’d love to be there to see him dazzled by the Christmas tree lights.
5. The Surprises. Without fail. Not just the gifts but the unexpected ‘packages’ that seem to come during this season in the form of people, moments, messages, phone calls, visits and quiet conversations. I think the residue of surprise lingers from the first Christmas and the astonishing birth of a baby to a dirt poor couple in the middle of nowhere to shock the whole world with extravagant love.
6. The Food. Everyone who knows me, friend and foe alike, knows that chocolate is very high on my list of essentials. This is a brilliant time for getting, giving and most importantly consuming vast amounts of the stuff. I love the almond cookies the Elusive makes for us. I love the Christmas cheesecake, a tradition she’s brought along from her mom. The peanut butter balls, fudge, eggnog, cheese balls and the Pinot Noir. Yum.
7. The Celebration. I know it can be over done. I know it can be empty ritual. But I love the candlelight services, the carol singing, the excited children, and the general excitement that is so pervasive as we gather to mark the day when a bright light came into a dark and weary world to give light and life and joy to everyone who would open the door and let love in. I hate playing some of the carols because the chords are brutal or the keys so far beyond my range that I go from sounding like a cat on a hot tin roof to sounding like a cat being chased by a pack of chihuahas on a hot tin roof. But there’s nothing like hearing a roomful of people giving it they’re all and singing “Joy To The World”!