Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sure, Christmas is about stuff, and also so much more...

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.
Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957
I have always loved Christmas.  We were so lucky as children that our parents made it so magnificent for us.  I remember sitting at the top of the staircase with my sisters, packed across the top step in our bathrobes and slippers, waiting for our parents to finish their interminable ablutions so that we could finally, finally, descend the 20 stairs and see what Santa had done.  The swinging doors to the living room would be, uncharacteristically, closed, so that when we pushed them open and beheld the Christmas morning bounty, it always took our breath away.  Bursting Christmas stockings, colorful packages, sometimes bicycles.  Magnificent.

And so much work!

But really all that mattered was how much LOVE went into that labor, into that creation, and into the sustenance of the illusion of Santa Claus.  I mean, really, think about it: how amazing for parents to do all the work and give all the credit to a mythical bearded being, a god who gets all the glory and none of the planning, shopping or wrapping, not to mention none of the actual parenting?  The selflessness of Santa-giving fills me with optimism about human beings.  The gift, even without Santa, has the potential to be a supreme expression of love.

This year I was so aware of how Tantric Christmas really can be, how it resists the either/or and remains firmly, at least for me, a both/and.  I don't agree with the people who complain that it's just consumerism gone wild.  I'm sure that can be true for some, but that's not the whole story.  It is about the presents and it's about so much more, as the Grinch himself realizes on the day his poor shriveled heart grows three sizes.  For me, there is such deep delight in the searching for and finding the perfect gift, that item that corresponds to some want or taste or interest of the receiver.  And how much deep delight in receiving a truly thoughtful gift.  I think I will keep the three things my son gave me this year always together, arranged together always, as a reminder. My heart was so full considering the time he devoted to thinking of me, what I'm crazy about, what would please me.  That is not consumerism gone wild. It's love.
Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it.
Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
I felt so lucky this year to find myself on the couch on Christmas Eve with Joe, our dinner guests gone home by 8:30, watching "Miracle on 34th Steet," which Joe had never seen.  We turned it on right at the point where Susan Walker, the young skeptic meets Kris Kringle for the first time.  I can't find the specific clip  in which Susan pulls Santa's beard.  But I did find this one, with the little Dutch girl, which was the moment at which I knew the movie had grabbed Joe.  Oh so sweet, the way her face lights up, after her terrible experience in an orphanage in the second World War.

How wonderful that we have a day every year in which to work magic for others, to demonstrate our love for them in a material manner. For me, each item received really is symbolic. Yes, it's a thing, but it's a thing packed with meaning, a thing replete with love.

I'm counting the days already to next Christmas, to the next opportunity for this big Love Blow-Out and its tinsel and packages. Til then, I'm looking around at the traces of yesterday, and feeling all the love and effort that makes the day what it is -- a big opportunity to sing our love to each other, nice and loud, heart to heart and hand in hand.

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