As I sit here on this Christmas Eve 2010, the wind is blowing hard outside. The temperature is 3 degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill is currently -3 Celsius or 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It has been raining for several days and there is flooding in the freshwater streams and storm surges on the ocean. In Europe, the snowfall has crippled the continent. It seems to be a time of turbulence not only in the weather but politically and economically as well. Indeed, zealots could say it is the end of times.
Yet, listening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, I am touched by the season in which we find ourselves. Despite the violent weather, despite the aggressive desperation of the last minute shoppers trying to find the “perfect” gift for someone. Despite the frustration of travellers waiting in airports and bus stations, delayed by the weather, there is an inner feeling of peace and contentment today.
I remember as a child, the anticipation of Christmas Eve; this was the big one, tomorrow, we’d all have our gifts opened and start visiting friends and relatives, comparing what we got and often planning adventures with our new acquisitions. Food was plentiful; turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made stuffing, cranberry sauce, carrots, peas, squash... and for dessert there was Steamed pudding, pies of all flavours, cookies, squares, candies, and beverages galore.
While my father and most of my relatives were “working class” and far from affluent, I felt as if we were Royalty at Christmas. Our wealth was in the bond of our family, the love and joy shared at kitchen and dining room tables, in the stories told and re-told and the enquiries about other family members.
We didn’t have e-mail, and rarely used the phone beyond finding out if a relative in another town or “the city” was going to be home. We just walked or drove to someone’s home and visited. Given the number of my Mom’s siblings all living at that time within a few hours of our house, the visiting went on for days. Often we would leave a house after a visit only to meet up with those same relatives in somebody else’s home a few hours later! Conversations continued from house to house as if they hadn’t been paused, often bringing newcomers up to date.
I am now living far from my remaining relatives and friends. Many aunts and uncles as well as a few cousins have passed on and their children have grown up and moved away to find employment (as did I) and our Royal family, rich in each other’s presence, has become fragmented.
Yet, on this day of anticipation, which admittedly is not as great as it was when I was a child, we are all together again in each other’s hearts and memories. Our departed parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are also with us; their legacy alive within our hearts and our traditions.
No matter where you are during this Holiday season, whether apart from your loved ones or within their embrace, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May your memories and traditions keep you well fed with Joy. May you be warm and dry and may laughter be plentiful in your home.