Joys of the season

 photonut-ml/Flickr

photonut-ml/Flickr

We’re in the final countdown now, and most of the shopping, gift-wrapping and tree-trimming should be done — very nearly. Almost.

I’d say it’s time to slow down and enjoy the holiday. Buried in the holly-jolly hype, there’s something quite wonderful about Christmas, a holiday with more layers than a gift box has tissue paper.

There’s the atavistic gathering together to make merry in the year’s darkest days, as if the noise we make and the candles we light could rise to the heavens and persuade the sun to strengthen. With the winter solstice behind us we may be facing the brunt of winter, but we’re already inching toward spring.

And there’s the Christ child, whose birth we celebrate with prayer and song. Believer or not, can we feel anything but tenderness toward the little babe in the manger?

I picture his wide eyes, his tiny hands and his perfect, baby-smooth knees, and think of the miracle that is every newborn infant. Cherish the child, for he lives within us all.

Gift-giving (and getting) is such fun, and best of all is the secretive, conspiratorial business of aiming to please. To give well, you have to know the nooks and crannies of your recipient’s heart. Wrappings are important, to conceal your surprise until that very last minute when the bow is plucked, the paper torn and the gift revealed, a token of love and care — or at the very least, fondness and regard.

You’ve got to love the impulse to prink up the place with wreaths and trees, holly and tinsel, candles and bows. We decorate like no other time of year; it’s creativity unleashed, and people can take it where they want it. Lights on every tree and shrub? Reindeers on the roof? Shining stars, silver bells, candy canes? Pour it on, light it up, make it shine — ’tis the season to get artful.

And then there’s Santa, the jolly old elf. You can’t forget Santa. Think of how he leads the way with his life’s philosophy. All year he prepares for his special night flight, making ready to bring joy to every hearth. I think we can learn a lot from old Santa, and here are just a few points from his playbook:

  • Don’t be afraid to wear bright colors — they perk up a winter-pale complexion.
  • When it’s cold outside, don’t forget your hat and gloves.
  • Enjoy your body shape, whatever it is. Dieting is for the new year.
  • On the other hand, don’t drink and drive. Santa sticks to cookies (fast carbs and sugar) and nonalcoholic beverages (like milk) during his travels.
  • Be kind to animals. Rudolph’s shiny red nose is suspicious, but no reason to give the dog wassail.
  • Put a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face. Remember that frowning takes more muscles than smiling and causes ugly wrinkles.
  • Figure out who’s naughty and nice and act accordingly, but always allow the bad-actors the possibility of redemption.
  • Bask in the glow of making a child’s wish come true — and don’t forget the batteries. Leave your troubles behind by thinking of others, especially those in need.
  • Keep everyone wishing you’d hang around a little while longer, rather than wondering how soon you might go.
  • Laugh a lot, live generously and work hard to make the world merry and bright — one day at a time.

A very Merry Christmas to all!