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Ah, Christmas


Fri, Dec 21st, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

As I spent two months earlier this year first recovering from having four wisdom teeth extracted and then in good old garden-variety unemployment, the rest of this year has barreled on like a runaway train. In my mind, I lost two months, and it still feels more like the run-up to Thanksgiving rather than Yuletide. Still, when my wife and I trimmed the tree (which amounted to Sarah actually doing the beautiful trimming job while I manned a YouTube Christmas music playlist) we both sat in the glow of multi-colored LED lights, sipping bargain-brand egg nog, and even though it seemed to come on too quickly for my tastes, it was suddenly Christmas.

Bam.

There is so much power in memory. A sight, a sound, a smell; studies have indeed shown that smell is the closest sense tied to memory. So, when you smell nutmeg or cloves or cinnamon, do you start thinking of cookies or nog? Does the site of a pine tree elicit a simple “ho-hum,” but a tree festooned with lights make you want to suddenly run down the streets wishing holiday cheer, Jimmy Stewart-style? When the snow starts falling and the wind starts to bite, do you suddenly find yourself craving almond bark pretzels or a marathon round of fudge-kettle stirring? Also, do you realize, like me, that a lot of these memories are food-based as you gaze over an ever-expanding waistline?

I hope you don’t, but, sadly my waistline can’t quite seem to quit Christmas.

There are such memories in those foods, those lights, those smells: past snowy mornings in your pajamas tearing off wrapping paper, mad dashes through malls in the last desperate weeks, searching for just that perfect gift, maybe even a warm, if slightly scratchy hug from a beloved relative in a gaudy sweater. Even the smell of old wool can get me thinking of Christmas… but why specifically Christmas?

Believe me, I’ve got plenty of good memories of Thanksgiving, or Easter, or the Fourth of July. I can even remember an Arbor Day or two. At the risk of slightly outing myself, my wife and I trimmed our Christmas tree on the first night of Channukah, so I guess there’s a new memory, too. Memories, traditions, those special weird things your family does, none of them are stupid or useless if they mean something to you. There’s just something about Christmas, isn’t there? It’s more solemn than Thanksgiving, more rewarding than Easter, and with much better music than a slightly tipsy rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

I know there’s a cynical way to look at a holiday that all but forces us to be nice to one another at the sharpened point of a candy cane, but this is the time of year for cynicism to pack it in, right? I mean, I’ve been described as a fairly bitter individual, and yet I’ve spent the last 400 words giving a great big holiday season group hug to Christmas Eve. Yes, the world’s got problems, and yes, we can go right back to the slings and arrows on December 26 if we really want to… but tonight, and tomorrow, give Old Man Cynicism a little too much nog and let him snore away on the sofa. Turn up whatever you’re watching or listening to, turn out all the lights, and sit with the ones you love in front of a pretty tree with presents underneath it, and take just a few moments to remember all the good humanity has in it. It doesn’t even have to be Christmas for you, if you don’t want it to be: just sit down for a quiet moment and recognize what’s still good. Without doing that every once in a while, there’s no way you can buckle on the armor later and keep fighting the bad.

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