I am an outsider when it comes to Christmas. I am not a Christian, but I cannot help but be moved by the Christmas Spirit. The first thing I noticed as a little boy was not the presents, but how the world of human interaction changed around me in the winter time
First, there were the decorations and the festive mood, as trees were brought into homes and decorated, lights adorned shop windows, mangers appeared on church lawns, and swirling snow was met by carolers with red cheeks who gave their all to messages of joy and redemption
Then, there was the palpable shift toward generosity to the unfortunate, coupled with an appreciation for and time spent with one’s family. I remember living in graduate student housing in Wisconsin, where everyone was extremely poor. Yet, in many homes, there was not only a beautifully decorated tree, often with handmade ornaments but a growing pile of presents. For me, the presents were not so much about what we, the kids, were going to get, as it was the anticipation of a joyous celebration with our parents, in contrast to the daily hustle and bustle that made up so much of our lives
My mother, who was a Christian then, brought a tree into our house and my father, a Jewish intellectual, went along for the ride. It was clear that a merry spirit had entered our home and he enjoyed that, too. Santa Claus was only a small part of my childhood. What I remember most was waking up early Christmas Day. It was a day my parents would join me… no matter how early I awoke. Even better, we were all together, smiling and laughing.
Then, I would run outside to play with my friends, tumbling in the snow and sledding. Everyone had some cool gift they had received. But, I think what was so striking to me was the joy. We all emerged from homes where something special with our parents had taken place. It often included hot chocolate and cookies in every home we tumbled through. Wisconsin is truly cold that time of year, and somehow the ice-driven snow sealed in the glow in our hearts.
May today be filled with joy that carries you far.