*I published this short essay a year ago. But I like it a lot, so I’m giving it to you again!
Christmas has been written about, sung about, sighed over, and cried over thousands of times. There is absolutely no new Christmas topic – they’re all like the chewing gum on the bedpost, chewed and chewed until all the flavor has gone. So I’m not going to write about Christmas.
I’m not going to write some sappy, soppy something about how children’s eyes light up when they see the packages under the tree. Or about the “moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow.” Or how the sleigh bells jingle as the family pulls into the drive of grandmother’s house. That’s all been done to death.
And I’m not going to write about Christmas miracles – the lost puppy that wandered home on Christmas eve, or the sick child who began to recover when the carolers sang under her bedroom window, or the star on top of the tree that kept on shining even when a Christmas storm took out the power for blocks around. We’ve heard it all, and we’re tired of it.
I’m not even going to join the chorus of Christmas rants, the moaning and groaning over how commercial everything has become, how the spirit of Christmas has been lost, how outraged Jesus would be if He could see what has happened to His birthday. I agree with all of that, but who needs to say it again?
People are turning themselves inside out trying to string up more colored lights than their neighbors (and freezing their fingers and their bums in the process), but I’m not going to write about them, either. And I’m going to do my best not to even notice all the plastic reindeer and blow-up Santas cavorting across people’s front lawns.
Mailmen are delivering Christmas cards by the thousands, but I’m not going to write about them. I’m not going to write about pictures of poinsettias sprinkled with glitter, or cards with pop-up manger scenes, or cards that squeak out a tinny “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” when you open them up. I’m not going to mention how puzzling it is to get a card signed “with love, Don and Amy” and not have a clue who Don and Amy may be, or how annoying to get a card from this or that charitable foundation with a donation card tucked inside. And I’m certainly not going to poke fun at the long Christmas letters that describe in exquisite detail the doings of each child and grandchild (all of whom are of course beautiful, talented above-average high-achievers).
I’m not going to write about Hanukkah (the word I have to look up every year because I simply can’t remember how to spell it) or Kwanza, either. They have their traditions, their joys and their quirks, I’m sure. But they belong to cultures I know little about, and those who do know can choose to write about them — or not, whatever they wish. I’m not going to trespass on their turf.
No, I’ll stay with the stuff I know, the things I’ve seen and heard and eaten and smelled over the last 80+ years – those are the things I’m not going to write about. I’ll not write about the scent of pine when the Christmas tree is carried into the house, and the grand search for the tree stand that someone put away last year but nobody can remember where. I’ll not write about the hours spent making cookies – cinnamon stars, almond crescents, birds’ nests, pfeffernusse, crunchy green merengues – and packing them into tins and sending them off to relatives far away. I’ll not write about the gingerbread house, lovingly decorated by all the children, and how the cat found it one year and licked off all the frosting. Or about the taste of hot cider and donuts when the carolers return from tramping around for hours in the snow. Or how the living room looks, covered with crumpled, brightly colored paper and discarded ribbons and bows, after the Christmas morning gift-opening ritual.
Even though Christmas truly is a most wonderful time of the year, and Christmas memories are some of the best memories in my memory book, I’m not going to write about any of that. Except – I think I just did.