Friday, December 23, 2011

The Magic of Christmas

Somehow it didn't seem like Christmas to him. The music was all around him playing Christmas songs and carols. The people were out shopping. The stores were crowded and strangely enough most were exhibiting good cheer. There was a nip in the air and just a smell of snow to come. The Christmas lights were shedding all the reds, yellows and icicle lights on each block. He was feeling pretty good physically yet, in his heart, in his soul something was missing. He guessed it was the excitement that was felt about Christmas when he was young. There were different stages of his youth that reflected different feeling of excitement.

Up to eight or nine years of age the feeling of Christmas held the magic of this old bearded guy in a red suit who was going to reward you with a gift mysteriously leaving it under the tree while everyone was asleep. It wasn't so much what you were getting rather it was the game of mystery, of the unknown. You could try to stay awake and surprise him but eventually you fell asleep. Then with a start you'd wake up in the middle of the night and run down a flight to see your present under the tree. What a wonder! What a surprise! What was even better was getting something you never dreamed of but once it was there you knew it was what you wanted all the time but never had the ingenuity to think of it. One Christmas his brother got a Charlie McCarthy and he got a Mortimer Snerd. This drove him to the library to study ventriloquism. Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd were the dummies, he preferred to think of them as side kicks, to Edgar Bergen, a famous ventriloquist who had a fabulously successful  radio show called The Chase and Sanborn hour. He never got the idea of how to throw his voice but it was a year of fun trying. One Christmas he found a sturdy cardboard representation of an Airplane cockpit. He was enthralled with the idea of flying but soon had to give up the notion of becoming a Pilot. He was afraid of heights.

He grew out of the magic of Santa Claus and lost some of the magic and excitement of the season. Soon he was caught up in the family aspect of Christmas and the magic came back to him. Counting his aunts, uncles, cousins, mother father and brother there must of been always forty or fifty people around to celebrate the holidays. There was always plenty of food. On Christmas Eve we Catholics couldn't eat in between meals nor could we eat meat. The Dinner with relatives was full of fish, marinara sauce for the spaghetti and plenty of wine, coffee and soda. Some would go to Midnight Mass which was always jammed packed. The ushers would dress up in their Sunday best as would the faithful, sometimes the ushers dressed in tuxedos. It was a solemn high mass but you could feel the good joy of all present. Almost all were waiting for the mass to be over so they could return to the houses like his which had a feast waiting for them. Everyone ate and drank and laughed until early morning. Getting to bed at three and for those who didn't make midnight mass, going to the 12:15, last Christmas Day mass would be followed by going over a realative's house for more eating, drinking and merry making.

For one reason or another this too faded, he liked to blame the automobile claiming it separated families, nobody was in walking distance of anybody anymore. Besides many of the relatives aged, became infirm and passed on. He then found the magic of Christmas in what he called the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ and the saving of the world through the incarnation. His Church wanted this true meaning emphasized, but their emphasis was too solemn. This magic brought too many tears if followed so he concentrated on the person of Jesus, His mother and Father here on earth. He found magic in their love and good nature. Mary, just a kid, a teenager, accepting this Angel's word that God somehow was going to work miracles through her. Joseph, not rejecting or stoning Mary for being pregnant outside of marriage, rather taking her into his home and raising her kid as his own. Much of what he did followed dreams in which he was instructed to do these things. What a guy! Imagine if you had a dream that instructed you to do something quite extraordinary, you'd pass it off as some hallucination. Joseph rather helped changed the whole world by accepting the challenges set before him with faith and hope. Then of course was the magic of Christmas, Jesus Himself. This little defenseless babe who would grow up to challenge the authorities of his time and the time to come. Jesus, who loved a party; loved the downtrodden; didn't mind associating with thieves, prostitutes and tax collectors because he apparently found them more exciting than the hypocrites who were heading the Jewish faith and Government. Jesus who was always full of love. This was magic. But as this magic of Christmas wore on it became more of everyday life for him and the specialness of Christmas faded.

When he married and had children the magic of Christmas returned through their eyes. But too soon they grew and spread their wings as all must do and the togetherness of Christmas became fragmented. He always wanted to have a special Christmas with just his wife and him but time didn't allow it as he thought it could be. She fell ill and their last years together did allow them to have special Christmases, not like they show in the movies but only as can be experienced in real life for those who love. She passed and although his holidays are filled with children, grandchildren and friends there is an emptiness to the season. Gone is his youth when he believed in the fat old elf who knew just the right things to bring him. Gone is his family who once lived within walking distance and bring their cheer and love that can only be shared by a united family.
The religious feeling has slipped as midnight mass no longer holds the specialness it once did. It has become apparent that if there is a magic to Christmas that is holy this magic can not be held only to one season as it was meant for all seasons which in itself makes the other seasons more magic while it lessens the magic for Christmas. And most of all she is gone. Unfortunately one never knows the treasure one has until it is taken away from him. What he does have is his memories and, God willing, no one will be able to take them away from him.   

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