If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times this week. “Are you ready for Christmas?” I don’t even know what that means. Does it mean that I’ve done all my gift-shopping, baked all my Christmas cookies, prepared my contribution to Christmas dinner – or at least bought the ingredients for it – decorated my home . . .? I don’t know.
Monday, at the supermarket, when I answered “no” in response to the young man who was at the cash register, he retorted with a: “Great; I’m not either and I don’t know if I will be before it’s come and gone.” That’s about the way I felt.
What I do know is this: tomorrow is Christmas -- the day Christians around the globe observe as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (even though ample evidence exists that December 25 is NOT his birthday). It’s a religious holiday. Somewhere along the way, it became a gift-giving day. Not in the culture in which I grew up. We did not have a “Santa Claus”; we had a Saint Nicholas, and he came on the night on December 5, bearing gifts and oranges (because he came from Spain, the ‘country of oranges’, much as my native country, The Netherlands, is ‘the country of tulips’). Those were terrifying evenings, because Saint Nicholas was accompanied by an “admin”, named Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”), a Moor (remember, Spain . . .!) who carried a bunch of twigs (to punish ‘bad’ boys and girls) and a satchel of coal (a ‘bad’ child’s dread of a substitute for a longed-for doll or train set or book or jigsaw puzzle).
Christmas’s meaning to me today is midnight mass, real candles on real Christmas trees, mulled wine, stollen or panettone, hot chocolate, family, no commercial gifts, friends like Sally, who just brought me a jar of red pepper jelly, and the young man at the grocery store who wasn’t any more “ready for Christmas” a few days ago than I was. I hope there is peace in his heart, and reflection on a historic event, as much as there is in mine. And yours.
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