Does it have to feel like Christmas to be Christmas? Balmy days and sunny skies are the norm here, even in December. The main indicator of winter here is darkness, but even that darkness is mild in comparison to the Pacific Northwest where I spent most of my Decembers. Even now our sun rises over an hour earlier than in Seattle and our sun sets twenty minutes later. (Plus, they have rain and we have sun.)
Here, the sun sets at about 4:45 PM and if I’m lucky, I can rush down to the beach to watch it slide down the sky and disappear beyond the blue horizon. Then it’s dark but not the dark of ice and snow and hibernation. It’s more like the temporary dark of snapping off a flashlight. Then before we know it, the morning sun snaps back on and warms our skin as we drive carpool and run errands–without jackets of any kind.
I tucked away some of my Thanksgiving decorations and pulled out some Christmas decorations but have yet to drag out and assemble my fake Christmas tree. I know that chore will end in scratched arms and frustration over unlit bulbs so I procrastinate. Until Saturday, at least.
If it weren’t for kids, would I bother at all? I never imagined myself to be the bah-humbug kind of empty-nester, but I have started to admire my grandmother’s trick of putting her fully decorated fake tree into a closet from year to year. (Of course, that means she had an empty closet, room to tuck away a Christmas tree and I don’t. That is because I don’t have an empty nest, I guess.)
Of course, pulling Christmas items from boxes and rediscovering them each year has its own kind of joy. The twinkly lights add to the festive feelings. I love to see the Christmas portraits of the kids from years gone by. Candles provide the scent of pine trees.
I desperately need to come to a complete stop every year to remember the miracle of Christmas, but usually I skid to an impatient stop, slamming on my brake because I’m in such a hurry to nowhere and everywhere all at once. It’s hard for me to listen to the silent and holy night when I’m surrounded by the cacophony of my own making. Plus, if you turn on the news, you hear endless stories of despair and destruction and death.
Where is peace on earth? Goodwill to men?
The words to the old carol ring in my heart and seem especially timely, though they were written in 1867:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
It’s dark now but the morning Light will come.