As a young boy, I grew up in a country home. A two story house complete with fireplace and the strong scent of balsam during December. Even back then, as soon as the chill of Fall touched my face for the first time each year, I was ready for Christmas and Santa Claus. I would stare up at the starry sky at night and wonder if one of those stars was Santa in his sleigh, flying around the world looking for naughty and nice children… and checking off his list. As children, we all believe in magic, the tooth fairy, Santa and his 8 tiny reindeer. Then we get older and we lose that sense of wonderment. I believe that is why some of us are such fanatics about Christmas time. We’re in search of that wonderment again. We long for the feeling we once had as children when we looked up at the stars and wondered if one of them was indeed Santa. But we’re adults now. There’s no Santa! Or is there?
In the movie Polar Express, a little boy has a hard time believing. Then he finally hears the bells… and as narrated at the end of the story, “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” Well, I do still hear the bells and I do still look up at that starry sky… though I don’t see as many stars here in the city as I did at that farm house in the country. But, when that first wintry chill touches my face, I am still taken back to my home, the scent of balsam, and Mom baking pies and cookies. The sweet smell of treats and baked sweet potato pies, followed by the pine from the chopped wood my Dad had stacked by the fireplace. A dim floor lamp lit the area near the fireplace where Dad’s big chair was, with his mug on the table and a foot stool for him to prop up his feet. It was a picture perfect Christmas setting. A picture that will linger in my memories forever.
Since I got older, got married, and had my own daughter, I’ve always tried to recreate a Christmas in my house that resembles my childhood Christmas. Alas, I have no fireplace here. The sky is too polluted by the light from the city to see many stars, and living further south, we don’t feel the nip of Fall until much later than the rest of the country. Still, I do my best to recreate that picture that’s in my head. And though I’ve never really completely accomplished this, I’ve managed to create our own memories and traditions. Getting the smells in the house, well, that’s easy. And I am already looking at one of those fireplaces that isn’t a real fire, but does produce heat and at least gives the look of a real fireplace. I bought a big, green plastic tree that looks real. But it really isn’t the same as Dad chopping one down in the woods behind the house and trimming it down to fit in the door. Then of course hearing Mom griping about the pine needles all over the floor.
So, why ARE we so hooked on Christmas? Well, if you read all of the above and still have to ask, then perhaps it is something different for you. But, I think most of us are just looking for that feeling again. That little piece of magic, cold, warmth by the fire, scent of balsam, and Mom in the kitchen. The wonder of Santa Claus. We long for it, and I think most of us grew up carrying with us that magic deep inside. That magic that is released once a year then stored away until the next year. Those of us who love Christmas to this extent are always happier between October and January. And we’ll always be in search of that magic every time it comes around.
A Merry Christmas to you, my friends, my fellow Christmas Fanatics… my family…