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.