All year through, we wait for the magic of Christmas. Something so vibrant and precious. Is it in the nippy air? Is it in the sultry smell of burning logs in fireplaces at wintry nights? Is it in the carols we hear? Is it in the gifts we give and receive? No, the magic is really in the heart.
Through my baby boomer years, I’ve carried a valuable collection of memories of Christmases recent and past. Every year, there was always something different and special. Something uniquely endearing. The common thread that ran through all glistened with zesty anticipation, tingly excitement, and distinct joy. Emotions that fill the heart with sheer gladness.
Yet, not all, related to the giving and receiving season, glittered in gold. Not all showed the bounty of commercialism or wealth. Not all came from money. But my Christmas experiences woven from simple delights were the richest, because the magic was in the heart.
I remember well Christmas during my fifth grade. Instead of buying an artificial tree to decorate, Papa cut a bush grown by the river bank back of our house. Mama, my siblings and I peeled the leaves off the branches and meticulously wrapped white crepe around the trunk and each branch and twig. We made rings out of multi-colored thin paper, connected them in chains that draped the white tree up and down. I thought that was the best Christmas tree I had seen in town. Growing up, I learned to appreciate the simple things. Oddly, they turn out more beautiful.
In first year high school, I had the best pudding ever. Morning of Christmas eve, we smashed days-old bread, unspoiled and still good, poured evaporated milk and stirred a bit of brown sugar. After kneading the mix, we placed it in an oval shaped can washed after it was emptied of sardines the day before. The filled can was then set on the stove fueled by wood. I can picture myself watching the stove for 45 minutes and peeking under the cover of the container to see if the pudding had cooked. Peeking released the aroma so deliciously intoxicating that spread throughout our home.
Listening to Christmas carols perk up the atmosphere. Papa thought so, when he decided to bring out to the veranda our oversized radio powered by large batteries inside the shiny wooden box. We had the most advanced radio then in the neighborhood. That radio had a channel that broadcast classical music all day. And listening to classical music was my family’s favorite pastime. But at Christmas, the carols won over. So, with volume maximized, Christmas music wafted to eight homes in the cul-de-sac. I heard voices singing along in the various homes. The impromptu chorus from several directions, punctuated by Papa’s baritone, sounded really good.
Then, Christmas in California — as a wife and mother, I so enjoyed hanging multi-colored shiny metallic balls on the tree with my family. At the age when stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls were most coveted, after the initial thrill, our children set aside their gifts for a chatty session with their Mom and Dad. Seated at the dining table, sipping eggnog and nibbling freshly baked cookies, or together watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas, or singing Silent Night when the room lights were low to magnify sparkles on the tree, it was more fun just to cozy up with our children. That was simple pleasure in the warmth of family bonding.
Celebrating Christmas does not ride on whether one has plenty, or very little or enough. Neither does it thrive on what we have or don’t have. It abounds in the quietness of the heart, in the stillness that hears the voice of one who came on Christmas day to be the light of the world, the savior of mankind. Listening to that voice gives the joy that spins a special magic — to rich or poor, young or old, feeble or strong. That’s the beauty about that magic. In the absence or presence of glitter or glamor, it stays in the heart — it speaks of love, and it is for everyone.
Merry, blessed Christmas to all!