December 3, 2008

Is there a season of the year that evokes so many conflicting emotions as Christmas? So much is going on around the time – you have the typical conflict and contradictions between the religious and secular, you have that whole transition thing where one year is ending and the prospect of a new one is just around the corner, and then there are all the family traditions (or lack thereof) that add to the stresses and strains.

For us, the Christmases of the past decade haven’t really been joyful, but they haven’t been bad either – feeling as if we were living in a form of exile, we simply chose to let the season happen around us without getting involved much emotionally, and it just seemed right. Being able to return to my New England home between Christmas and New Years to share some holiday cheer with family and friends and experience cold and snow was nice, but I never felt upon my return to Arizona on New Year’s Eve where no tree was up or a spirit of the season prevailed that I was missing anything – far from it.

This year, for some reason, it all changed. Oh, I suppose it that holiday spirit had never totally left – after all, we’d never gone a year without putting lights in our windows or hauling out the small ceramic tree my mom gave us so many years ago – but this year we decided to go the whole nine yards. I got a great deal on a nice fake Christmas tree at Lowe’s on Black Friday, and restocked all my window light bulb needs. On Saturday we put the tree up, and on Sunday got our box of ornaments out for the first time since 1999. (We remember the ’99 tree because that was the year our dear departed cat Sparkle kinda tried to climb into the tree just after we went to bed one night and took the whole thing down with her. She was pi$$ed, I was not pleased.)

So the years passed by and the tree ornaments and lights remained boxed and out of sight, seeing the light of day only once two years ago when we needed lights for the Tiki Bar out back. After a while, it got kind of hard to even remember what a festive occasion putting a tree up used to be – you know, moving the furniture around, going to tree place, getting it inside your front door as needles flew everywhere, putting the tree up, looking for your favorite ornaments that conjured up all those ghosts (good and bad) of Christmases past, and, finally, the glowing satisfaction of standing back once the last ornament was in place and the final adjustments made, glass of scotch in hand, and reveling in this new presence in your house all decked out in all its Dickensian splendor.

Frankly, I never missed it. Until this year. So we now have a beautiful glistening Christmas tree decorating our living room.

The ritual of putting it up felt very strange to me; it was almost as if I had been away or in prison for ten years. Ten years without a home Christmas. Maybe it was because I knew I had changed significantly since that time – physically, spiritually, psychologically. Better? Worse? No, just different. Maybe it was seeing and touching all those once-familiar ornaments and holding them in your hand, allowing the memories they brought back from 10, 20, or even 50 years ago to trigger their own individual memories.

While the experience was pleasant enough, even joyful at times, I would have to say a spirit of melancholy prevailed more than anything else. All those Christmases of the past gone forever, their memories meaningful only to you, and lasting in you only as long as you have life or a mind to remember them. Ornaments given by people now gone, from couples no longer married, from once-close friends now just faraway acquaintances, or from places you’ll never visit or experience the same way again. All indicators in their own way of the passage of time and just how swiftly the years pass. All reinforced by the fact that another is about gone, to be lost forever.

Which brings me back to emotional conflicts I wrote of at the start of this post. I guess that’s why a lot of people dread the holidays – they enter them with more emotional baggage than the cargo hold of a fully-loaded Boeing 747. Me? I’ll allow the melancholy of the season to have its place – after all, that’s as much a part of secular Christmas as anything else, but I also see that melancholy for what it is. Because there’s a greater joy that come with the Christmas season – a joy that comes from hearing familiar carols, the expectation of seeing loved ones, the anticipation of welcoming the Christ child once again into a world sorely in need of God’s renewed promise of eternal love, light, and redemption, and the joy of tossing some extra dollars to the charities Tracey and I support.

That’s the melancholy and joy of Christmas and the holiday season. My take is, it is what it is, so you can’t be afraid of it. Embrace it, drink deeply of the extremes the season brings emotionally, and don’t hold back in any way. Put up a Christmas tree, even if you haven’t for awhile.

May God bless us all this holiday season.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:39 | Comments (3)
  1. I am so glad you both put up a tree this year. I remember the first tree you had at our apartment and coming over Christmas Eve and then for brunch on Christmas morning..isn’t that when Tracey fell in love with baked cheese grits???? I remember the three of us decorating the stairs and railing and how pretty it all looked(I still have pictures). I am putting up my tree next Sat. This weekend I freeze my patootie off with the outside lights.It is just damn cold outside.

    Comment by Jana — December 4, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  2. How about posting a picture of your Nativity on the web, bro?

    Comment by Dave Richard — December 7, 2008 @ 7:03 am

  3. Thanks for jogging my memory, Jana.

    Maybe I will post that picture, bro – gotta find it first. I don’t know if the picture will do it justice – it’s a mainstay of our dining room and looks great with the window lights glowing.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 7, 2008 @ 11:12 pm

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