Christmas is a most solemn holiday because it honors the preciousness of the human spirit and the limited time that humans can partake of that spirit. Christmas is a most joyous holiday because it expresses the emergence of the human spirit from the brutality of wild existence. Christmas was a spiritual holiday long before the Christians appropriated it to their proselytizing purposes. The Solstice brought the re-birth of the Sun, the re-birth of the year, the re-birth of life and the re-birth of the human spirit.
Overlaying this profound acknowledgement that humans are spiritual creatures embodied in a physical form, different cultures have embroidered varying stories to make the deep energy of the holiday accessible to all, especially the children, who most need to discover that their most profound existence is inside themselves. My culture tells the story of Santa Claus and that is the narrative that I passionately passed to my own children. I remember the magic of Christmas Eve, when the world began to slip from its crass cover and the splendor of Christmas morning when we exchanged joy in a sacred time ere the world woke and began its grim churn.
I remember the magic of Christmas Eve with my children when we gathered before our Christmas village and told stories of the wonderful people who lived there. I remember the building excitement as the weather station radar reported the location of Santa and I conveyed it to my kids. Supper had to be completed by the time Santa reached North Dakota. Hot chocolate, cookies for Santa and stories of the Christmas village must end when Santa reached Kentucky. When that border was crossed, my children did not hesitate. They executed their bedtime preparations and jumped under the covers so they could be fast asleep when the jolly elf arrived.
I remember Christmas morning when my tykes, clad in footie pajamas, would burst into my bedroom before dawn and jubilantly announce that Santa had come! I remember them fidgeting as I lit the candles and started the ancient music. For a moment, the house glimmered in candlelight and brimmed with the majesty of beautiful, solemn, profound, joyous music. In such a moment, the human spirit had been born and had forever sundered the cold, mute, lifeless, eternal, infinite cosmos.
This moment on Christmas morning was brief but it bulged with import. An instant later, I turned on the lights and returned us to the terrible symmetry of the clean, efficiently illuminated spiritless world we normally inhabit. Squeals of delight and peals of laughter accompanied the opening of presents and the emptying of stockings. Feasting immediately followed the exchange of gifts and lasted the rest of the day.
Now my kids are grown and live in other towns. Their mother and I divorced many, many years ago. There have been several wives since those happy Christmas years. Now, alone, I put up my Christmas tree and begin to trim it. I make my holly wreath and put out my Christmas village and my candles and I search for the ancient music. My kids’ stockings are hung by the chimney with care and memory will have to suffice to fill the emptiness of my house.
When Christmas morning comes, I will arise before dawn. I will light my candles and I will play the ancient music. The profound moment will come again, the world will briefly shed its worldly ways, and I will be the brimming spirit that I most essentially am. In that precious time, I will be alone but I will know that for many seasons I gave that tiny slice of timelessness to my children. When I turn on the lights and fix my coffee, I will hope that my children continue to give this moment of pure spirit to themselves. I hope they give it to their children one day. I hope to share the moment of golden being with my children one more time before I am gone forever into the deadness of eternal infinity.