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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 44.9653, -69.1086
Christmas Eve is magical, always my favorite day of the year. As a child, the anticipation was heightened to an extreme level; Christmas Day could not approach the delights I felt the weeks, and especially the day before. Now, of course, the anticipation is much muted, but Christmas Eve remains my favorite day of the year. But why?
The concerts are over, the presents either mailed out weeks ago or wrapped, sitting safely hidden for distribution late tonight or early tomorrow morning, most baking has been finished, the tree trimmed, all of the "chores" done, so why do I love Christmas Eve best of all? Because it just happens that when we are so focussed on one specific day, that day usually disappoints in comparison to all that led up to it. We realize that it was in the getting ready that we have enjoyed the best times, and had the most fun. It was in the midst of all those preparations that we were focussed on bringing happiness to others, and that tends to bring joy to one's own soul.
I first realized this over 40 years ago when my son was very small. We would bake pumpkin breads for our neighbors, wrap and decorate them with red or green bows, and then on Christmas Eve we would carry them as we slowly walked around our neighborhood, offering them as gifts as we visited our friends. Sometimes people invited us inside, and reciprocated with presents of their own; once our elderly neighbor, who was 87 that Christmas, presented us with a poem he had written. His name was Mr. Lang -- that's what we called him, my being only in my young 20s and my son being only 2 years old; our respect towards him was genuine, as he was the oldest and happiest person we knew. He had written poems for us before, and always signed his work Langfellow. His poems weren't very good, but they made little Jason laugh, and I saved each and every one of them, accepting them as the kind offerings they were meant to be. Mr. Lang delighted in seeing us; I am certain that we brightened his Christmas just by stopping in and spending some time with him.
That was the first year I realized that I loved Christmas Eve best. We were so happy to give gifts to our neighbors! Even with the excitement shown by a 2 year-old that year, I had enjoyed Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day itself. Perhaps it was in the giving to others, not only of our little gifts, but in our taking the time to visit elderly neighbors, people who had few contacts with the outside world and who appreciated any kindness shown to them. So every year after that we would bake presents to take to others, and spend Christmas Eve Day visiting friends and neighbors.
There are other reasons too that I love this day best. For the whole of December we used to hear Christmas carols played on the radio; that has changed over the years to just on Christmas Day, and now to only a station or two. Concerts on TV are always anticipated with delight, but they too have been minimized. The lights and decorations people put up are always something I thoroughly enjoy looking at; when we lived in the Newtons in Massachusetts, again when Jason was little, several houses seemed to compete for most lavishly decorated. There was no real contest back then, but we used to drive by to see those houses, and enjoy their extravagant lighting displays. And, of course, hearing the story of the baby Jesus, and going to services were a part of the celebrations. One year we went to an evening service at a Unitarian Universalist church; as the night darkened candles were passed around the congregation, every one receiving and lighting one, even the children. Such excitement to hold flaming candles, and also to try to watch when the Baby Jesus would be placed into the manger.
Santa Claus is always a big part of Christmas too. From the time Ariel was 3 years old, she had me read "The Night Before Christmas" daily for three weeks in a row. Unlike when Jason requested "The Little Engine That Could" repeatedly, I never grew to hate reading "The Night Before Christmas." (Laila never had a book like that, for which I am thankful.) Now, with my children grown, and as I work as an independent therapist with preschoolers who have developmental delays, and as many preschools and Headstarts no longer celebrate any holidays, I make sure to wear Christmas clothes to the schools, and read Christmas stories to the children so they don't lose the vast richness of our heritage. I feel everything should be celebrated, and December is full of holidays if only we open our hearts and minds to our, and other cultures', beliefs and experiences. Whyever not? No matter what age or color or religion, we are all human beings, most of us trying our best to make our way in this world.
So today is Christmas Eve. Just in going through today there are times of reflection, of Christmases past, of children growing up and starting their own adult lives, of wondering what future Christmases will be like. As I woke up today in the early morning darkness, my mind fastened on a phrase from a dream I had just had: Boy Jesus. And immediately I remembered that it was Christmas Eve and felt the familiar delight and anticipation. Our lives change, but I guess the feelings remain whether we have small children at home or not.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
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