Here it is Christmas Eve, and I know you are busy on your rounds. Last I heard you were just leaving the Sandwich Islands, but that was an hour or so back. Anyway, it is the traditional time for writing letters to Santa, although the old story says that the letter is supposed to be tossed into the fireplace, and as it burns, the pieces will fly up and magically reassemble themselves as they wend their way to the North Pole…
Alas, no fireplace here. But still, you do have a Canadian postal code, and I am pretty sure you will read my letter. There is no point telling you I have been a good girl, I suppose. I have been impatient, as usual, with stupidity and willful ignorance, and I am not very cheerful in the mornings. I have tried to be kind, and thoughtful of others, and sometimes I have succeeded. I think I have done my best, but goodness knows that is not enough.
In years past I used to ask for such gifts as world peace, and an end to starvation, and all manner of things of social justice. I have come to realize, though, that your magic is of a different sort: the kind of magic that works one child, or one adult who believes with the purity of a child, at a time. But it is powerful magic, for all that it is not what I once believed it to be.
If we could each bring the magic of happiness to one person this Christmas, what a transformation there would be in the world! The happiness that comes from being special in someone’s eyes, of being treasured, of being seen for who one is.The magic of simple human fellowship, of the fabled good cheer, of the visions of sugar plums that actually come to be in one’s hand. The magic of the old and familiar stories, and maybe room for some person who is new to our world. The magic that sees the glow of love on someone’s face, and remembers the echoes of love from those departed this earth. The magic that looks and sees not a silly and funny old present, but the look of anticipation on the giver’s face, and the radiance of the joy that elevates the gift to so much more than its prosaic origins.
I believe with all my heart, Santa, and so I guess what I am asking for is a more liberal sprinkling of your magic dust this year. The earth and her children – and we are all her children – need you so very much. I know the supply is not unlimited, but a large sprinkle this year might just help us over the hump. Anyway, so I humbly ask.
There are cookies for you here. I love you. Merry Christmas.
I love this day, perhaps in part for the romance of unbroken centuries of denizens of the northern hemisphere celebrating the return of the light. True, it is not as exhilarating as watching the sun rise over jagged mountain peaks on midsummer day, yet the summer solstice is tinged with the faint regret of being at the apex from which the days will slowly but surely become shorter. But now, in mere moments, the days here will begin to lengthen, and the promise of everything to come is very sweet.
I have observed and marked the solstices as long as I can remember in some fashion or another, and I confess to surprise at people who pass them by, unremarked. For thousands of years they have been important celebrations in a myriad of cultures, and I suspect that something is lost to modern life when they are unnoticed. One need not be a follower of paganism, or druidism, or some colourful new age ritualism to appreciate the beauty and symmetry of the solstice.
It would be cliché to say that many modern peoples have lost touch with nature: indeed we are earnestly advised of the ‘nature deficit’ we suffer from. For myself, the hills and valleys, forests and rivers, oceans and expanses of sky form such an integral part of me, of who I am and how my very self has come to be…I observed my fellow citizens out and about today, a gorgeously sunny day, a peach of a day in the rain forest climate that I live in, and they were enjoying the parks and walkways and trails. So maybe, I would say, at least here in this place, we do not suffer from deficit of nature, but from a deficit of wonder…Maybe.
The wonder of axial tilt, that the earth’s magical, invisible axis tilts at an angle to the perpendicular that gives us the seasons of the northern and southern hemispheres, this mysterious, cyclical round of birth, growth, flowering, decaying, and dying…this seems to me to be a source of endless wonder.
That me! I! should be a part of this great cosmic order – perhaps you call it God? I do not think it matters, although in writing that I run the risk of offending some, I suppose. But if I have offended you, I hope you will take a deep breath, and join me in a hymn of praise to axial tilt. To the beauty and sheer magic of being alive on this earth, both its measured order and its chaotic uncertainties, for in this hymn of praise shall we discover what it means to be fully human.
To be fully present to the wonder is to live as humans were meant to live, I think. And by our presence, to turn the wheel one more time to the promise of all that lies ahead. Axial tilt is a wondrous thing.
I am thinking deeply and intently on Christmas at the moment, memories of a conversation being stirred up by a chance remark while out shopping: “Are you ready for Christmas?” It was somewhere about December 1st, I believe, when a well-meaning, kindly sort of middle-aged woman asked me that question. The memories I refer to here are of a delicious conversational rant I enjoyed with a friend – oh, probably a few years back. She was irritated at the assumptions implicit in the question, not to mention the ubiquitous banality of it, as was I. As if Christmas consists of X, Y, and Z purchases which will ensure the requisite readiness.
Neither my friend or I celebrate Christmas as Christians, for that is not our religion, which is true for many millions of people. On the other hand, most of the world celebrates some sort of festival at this time of year, and those traditions of the Northern Hemisphere are well-ingrained for many of us. So while it is perhaps a touch insensitive to blithely assume all your fellow shoppers do celebrate Christmas, I am not about to embark on a deconstruction of the politically correct holiday address. Call it Christmas, call it what you will, we set aside a day at the beginning of the winter season to celebrate, and that is a beautiful thing.
What I was shopping for on that day was lined paper, and you, my imaginary friend, will be pleased to know that I am sitting in my favourite 1940s library chair writing on said paper, whilst sipping a cup of Kick Ass coffee. Cogitating on Christmas. That shall be my last purchase other than food necessities until January, for I cannot bear to be a part of the dysfunctional ritual shopping farce that Christmas has apparently become for some. I am curious (and ever hopeful) to see if more people shall disconnect themselves this year. It simply cannot be bought, the magic and charm of the season.
I was, I think, five years old when my cousin told me that there was no such being as Santa, but I never really believed her, for I could see the spirit of Santa Claus in everyone and everything. The bright lights and beautiful decorations, the special foods and feasting, the treats, the happy, smiling people everywhere and many visitors, the ordinary cares of the world set aside for a few days. Silver-shining blessed moments such as these could only be invoked by magic, I reasoned then and still do.
Most of my Christmases have been spent with the family I grew up with, though not all for we live far apart. But those moments preserved as memories of the very best of times mysteriously bind us together in ways that cannot be reckoned logically. A couple of gifts stand out: a big box of second-hand books, one year (we are all book lovers), and another – a pony. The entire neighbourhood came out on their doorsteps on Christmas Day to clap and cheer as I rode my pony through the gently falling snow. What a picture postcard scene to hold fast to my heart: my family, my friends, my community showing their joy at my joy.
There is much more I want to tell you, my imaginary friend – yes, it will be a book, and it will be ready next year about this time, I think. I am hoping you will forget this, though, as they are likely to be next year’s gifts. And I am not telling you what this year’s gifts are, although I have been working on them for months. When I finish this I shall start on making some special cakes for friends and family…Christmas here will be full of simple feasts and simple pleasures and simple good cheer. No frantic shopping required.
Maybe I shall end here with a vignette of Rudolph, who is about fifty-six years old – older than me, anyway!
Originally Rudolph pranced about in the snow (oh, that marvelous fake snow that looked so real!) with his team mates and sleigh and Santa, all encased in a golden sort of cage. It was a table ornament, I guess, and I loved it with a fierceness that still surprises me. Sadly, a few years ago the thing pretty much disintegrated, and my mommy gave me Rudolph as a keepsake. You know, when I look at him I remember just how he used to look, proudly leading his sleigh. Never shall that vision tarnish, for it is my symbol of everything Christmas.
Joy. Goodwill. Peace on Earth.
Yes, I am ready for Christmas.