December is a visually rich time of year. From Santa Claus and Christmas lights to nativities and menorahs, there is something culturally warm and familiar that envelops us when we transition from one calendar year to the next. If nothing else, it’s a brief period of time in which everyone seems to get along, and we are somehow collectively motivated to shower one another with the kind of generosity that we are reluctant to express during the 11 preceding months. Perhaps there is something “magical” about Christmas… However, the older (and presumably wiser?) I get, the more cognizant I am of the fact that I generally have everything that I want and need. I am less responsive, consequently, to commoditized--and in some ways more stressful--versions of the holiday season, immune to the urgent reminders of how many shopping days are left or the persistence with which advertisers attempt to convince me that buying more stuff for more people will truly make this Christmas more memorable than the last one.
I have instead started to fall into a habit of mentally weeding out the superficial fluff and focusing on the things that are most meaningful to me, the symbols that make each year special in some way. So here is my list—not of “wish list” gifts but of the aforementioned experiences and symbols that make me grateful for what I already have as well as the memories I carry with me:
Holiday cards conveying messages of peace; my grandpa--with his potbelly--dressed up as Santa; caroling; Christmas wreaths and greens; stockings hung above a real fireplace; lighting candles; making ornaments; hanging ornaments; winter choir concerts; Hostetler gift exchanges; German Christmas parties; winter solstice parties; cheesy Christmas sweaters; cheesy Christmas songs; Christmas hymns; ice sculptures; holiday store windows; paper snowflakes; real snowflakes; warm cups of coffee at the Electric Brew; shopping at the Gift of Gab and Ten Thousand Villages; cousins and uncles falling asleep watching football; putting puzzles together; warm hugs from aunties and cousins and uncles; snow angels; snow days; warm winter scarves and mittens; hot cider; helping dad shovel the driveway; mom's impressive display of Christmas cards; get-togethers with old friends; waiting in anticipation at the airport; family dinners; watching cousins play in snow for the first time; the beauty of a fresh snowfall.
Happy Holidays indeed.