Like many people, I loved Christmas best when I was a kid. Playing an angel in the church pageant, seeing the Christ candle finally lit in the Advent wreath, anticipating the mountain of presents under the tree. In my memory, it’s all framed in a happy glow, like the heavenly halo around baby Jesus’ head.
The most magical moment always happened on Christmas morning, in those few seconds before fully waking and remembering what day it was. I’d stretch my feet down to the foot of the bed and feel something crinkly and jingly: a stocking full of presents with a bell on the end. It wasn’t there when I fell asleep: Christmas magic!
The season came alive for me again seven years ago, when I became a parent. My husband and I threw ourselves into teaching our son carols, lighting Advent candles, decorating the house, setting up our manger scene and building gingerbread houses. But as our son grows older, I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to connect with the wonder and excitement of the season.
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I was reflecting on this as we prepared our December issue. Pieta Woolley’s cover story, “Under Pressure,” explores how people find meaning amid the frenzy, and in “Narrating the Nativity,” Rt. Rev. Richard Bott affirms the value of retelling the Christmas story. Both features reminded me that there is still much to Christmas that I haven’t yet explored.
These two writers also helped me realize that discovering new meaning in Christmas doesn’t happen spontaneously. It starts with an intentional look at our traditions and asking which ones we really love and which we take on out of a sense of duty to the season. When I reconsider all of the activities of Christmas in this light, I find that what I really want is to embrace tradition if it brings happiness; to embrace novelty if I want change; to rest if I’m tired; to play even when the jobs aren’t done.
Reframing in this way makes Christmas feel less like a slog, and more like a choice. If I keep at it, perhaps in a decade Christmas will look quite different from now, but it could also be more joyful and more meaningful. One tradition I will keep, however, is the stocking at the end of the bed. Without that early morning crinkle and jingle, it just wouldn’t be Christmas.
This editorial first appeared in Broadview‘s December 2019 issue with the title “Christmas magic.”
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