The following are excerpts from responses sent to me today, Christmas Eve 2017, when I asked:
What is Christmas?
(NOTE: I took some liberties with words, but mostly these are the words of others, and yours too maybe.)
Christmas is lonely. It reminds me of so much I’ve lost.
Christmas Eve is the worst of all.
The holidays are a time when you jump right back into your tribe of origin so tightly that it can be painful and disorienting. This is when you must find stillness. In this, you will find your truth and in this you will understand that the present moment has more loving kindness than you expected. Reach for that . . . like the gift it is.
I feel that my heart gets bigger at this time of the year. It fills with the beauty that is all around me and also with a knowing that this is a very sad time for many. This hurts my heart, but makes me more mindful of the blessings I have in this moment. Dreams seem to come true at Christmas.
I cannot explain it with mere words. It is something I feel in my heart.
My heart lives in Christmas spirit. Gazing upon a twinkling Christmas tree, laying on the ground looking up at it; brings my heart and soul peace and joy. Time stands still.
As a child, Christmas was always a reminder of how little I had and how much I wanted. Now it is the other way around. I have much. I want for nothing. I don’t know which is better.
Pre-nineteen-ninety, Christmas was mashed potatoes with corn and turkey; a small spoonful of squash. It was home-made apple sauce made with hard work and loving hands. It was too many dishes to wash and all of us so hot as we packed into a small living room with with so many gifts taking too long to open in a tiny house built with the same hard work and loving hands, wrapping us all in never too much comfort and love.
Christmas is an opening in the heart that lets in so much light you feel like you actually ARE the light.
Every Christmas I slept in my bother’s room. This was the room for Christmas because the chimney went through it and we were sure that we’d be able to hear Santa. The cat would come to the window when everyone had settled down and I’d let him in. My brother would have some game on and I’d change it to Christmas music once he fell asleep. I was always first to wake, begging him to get up, and we’d know it was time to go down when we saw the glow of lights from downstairs. There was also the smell of coffee which we drank from the time we could walk I think. There was toast too. We had lots of toast from homemade bread. My dad would hold the coffee cup and we’d dunk our toast in it. He was so tired, but never my mom.
Christmas feels like the only time when the world stops hurting me so much and my heart fills with the peace, forgiveness and joy I wish I could find in the middle of June.
More than anything, Christmas built in me the love of surprises. I could feel my cells bursting with the excitement of how many cookies Santa had eaten and where he hid my stocking. I don’t ever remember caring as much about WHAT was in those boxes, but just WHO was presenting them and HOW much love they were given with.
The music of Christmas breaks my heart. Every song is a person or a place. It’s a smell or a flavor or a conversation I wish I could have again.
My brother and I always received really cool gifts from my grandmother and grandfather. One year we got shares of stock: Mattel for me and Tonka for my brother. Throughout the years we would get dividend checks and I used to get so upset that my brother’s was larger than mine. Tonka trucks were beating out Barbie, but how? Barbie was gorgeous and trucks were just stupid yellow squares with four wheels. You couldn’t even dress them up AND they were always dirty! There are just so many memories born from magical Christmas moments.
Christmas was my mother and my mother was Christmas. Without her, there would have been no Christmas and now that she is gone, it seems that way; like there is no Christmas.
In the dark on Christmas Eve I would always stare at the sky and pray so hard to see Santa. One year, coming home from my great grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, I wanted it so badly that I swear I did see him; the reindeer in front and Santa being pulled along behind in his sleigh. I was so certain I’d seen this, that only a few years later when my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real, I didn’t believe them. I still don’t.
It is as if we sleep all year and then on Christmas we wake up and see light and love and joy and peace for the first time, as though these things have not been there all along, waiting.
Merry Christmas. Maybe this is something you can say and you can receive even if you don’t believe in a God or in Jesus or in any of the stories from this time. You can say it because it means something other than that, something that we all deserve. It means:
I see you. I care about you. I wish you peace.