When I was little, I remember thinking of Christmas Eve as the most wonderful time of year. I enjoyed the lights shining in the darkness, the neighbors coming by with little homemade gifts of cookies on festive plates festooned with brightly colored ribbons, my mother’s pin with green holly and red bells on it, and the idea of magical reindeer needing a plateful of my cookies to get through their long night’s journey. But it was the carolers with their frosty breaths emerging from woolly wraps that got to me most, lustily singing on our stoop of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Having no sense of cultural relativity, natch, I thought the entire world celebrated Christmas – which meant that for that one evening at least, everyone everywhere on the planet was trying to be peaceful. The guns were put down; wars were put on hold; songs were being sung and tales of wisdom repeated on TV by the cartoon Linus; hot spiced drinks were passed around; people were being kind to animals; strangers were invited to share good meals. Peace on Earth; Good Will to All Beings. And nothing seemed more wonderful or precious.
I’d lay down in my bed after a good-night hug from my adoptive parents, snuggled down beneath the quilts made by the grandmother I’d never met from scraps of her childrens’ clothing, look out the window at the cold stars shining high above the trees, and imagine that for this one night at least, the entire world was breathing in peace.
I also fervently prayed to whatever Holy Mystery was out there that this peace would get deep into peoples’ cells and transform us forever, like a flower whose stem is put in colored water sucks it up all the way, thus changing the color of its petals.
This was the message of Christmas: angels, peace, wonder, generosity, abundance, love, miracles. Ignoring the consumerist vulture aspect in favor of these, what’s not to like? I don’t care if it sounds sappy – that’s far better than cynical and shrivel-hearted. The world will be far better off if more of us dare to make idiots of ourselves at least once a day in service of Beauty. And how wonderful we get to hear these stories again and again, reminding us when we most need it, at the darkest time of year.
To all of you – whether Christian, Pagan, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Orisha worshipper, Taoist, Buddhist, Animist, Discordian, Frisbetarian, et al; whether human or other:
Merrie Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
The lovely photo at the top is from Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy.