It's Christmas Day. People are in various stages of wrapping/unwrapping gifts, having company (or relatives) pile in the front door or the family pile out the front door heading for church, up to their elbows in food preparation, answering and making phone calls to those too far distant to be physically present, and trying to remember that "eat, drink and be merry" means a strict diet or extra exercise at the gym tomorrow. It's the culmination of the frantic shopping season that is as noted for the clink of the cash register as the tinkle of the bell-ringer's bells. It's the end of wondering if maybe, just maybe, we should have gotten Aunt Mary a new teapot instead of a lovely cardigan in bright pink, or maybe little Billy would have liked this model of toy truck rather than the one we got. It's the end of the year, and all too soon we'll be getting the bills for the presents we charged and preparing for another season altogether, the tax-preparation season. But it's also the end of the Advent season, the celebration of the birth of a miraculous baby in a stable in a small town (or small city) somewhere in Israel 2000+ years ago. Sometimes that gets forgotten -- or dismissed.
Christmas Day is nice but it's never been my favorite holiday. I'm a Christmas Eve person, one for whom Christmas Eve is the most wonderful night of the year. I revel in pipe organs played loud, choirs singing stuff I love, bright colored lights and decorated lawns and houses. There's something about Christmas Eve that just feels different than other nights. It used to be the walk home after midnight mass with the stars seeming so much closer than usual, or the air so much crisper or maybe the world so much quieter. Even now, Christmas Eve was a quiet one, even in an area frequently bombarded by guys with ultra-sonic boom boxes with huge subwoofers who insist on turning up the volume of their cars and opening the windows (possibly to avoid their being broken out by the volume) as they drive down the major street a hundred or so feet away. A slight wind was enough to set my several sets of wind chimes ringing, the tinkly little one, the medium sized alto set and the large deep one that seems to reverberate forever. Those this year have been my church bells. Midnight mass was too late for someone who normally goes to bed at 8:30 so I made do, oh so nicely, with streaming services from a church in California my stepsons attend. It was almost like sitting in the pew with them but with the benefit of being able to stand up and stretch, and there were some real AHHHH and AHA moments that transcended the miles. The 5:30 pm service was so good, I tuned in again at 8.
Today that is all over and Christmas Day is its usual letdown for me. It's all over for another year. I wouldn't be surprised if folks were up on their roofs tonight starting to dismantle the strings of Christmas lights, and I know darned well the stores are already halfway through putting the sale stuff (Christmas ornaments, cards, paper, lights, trees, wreaths --- anything that smacks of red, green, Santa Claus or the like) in the corner and putting up the pink and passion red Valentine's Day cards, lingerie, perfume, candy and flowers in the most prominent place Christmas things have had since just after Labor Day or certainly Halloween. Since I didn't put any lights up, I'm not taking any down, but my Christmas wreath will stay on the door until New Year's (when I have a special wreath that has colored bells), and my tree will, God and the boys permitting, stay up until at least New Year's Day if not Epiphany. I still crave the color of the lights, the twinkle of the clear prism-shaped ornaments and icicles, and just the feeling that I'm not ready to let go of Christmas yet. Luckily, the church of which I am a part celebrates Christmas for twelve more days, so I have time yet.
Meanwhile today I wrestle with the idea of raking up the last three weeks' worth of fallen leaves (yes, they're still falling here -- although I wish for snow to cover them up so I don't have to rake them ) or putting on Messiah on my iPod and curling up with a good book and a cat or two. Lunch will be simple -- tacos I've been craving with yogurt for dessert, and a post-prandial nap is definitely on the agenda. It's a quiet day, the kind of day I like but which makes me somewhat nervous as I still feel like I should be doing something -- maybe cooking a big meal or something. For one person on a fairly strict diet (and four cats) the big meal is a no-go, so no huge preparation is necessary. The day is slightly overcast, a nice change from all the sunshine we get all year (I can hear my friend in Oregon sigh as she dumps her rain gauge yet again), and the air is crisp (read COLD) and breezy. I'd hate to rake up all those leaves and have them blow all over while I"m trying to wrestle them into the trash bags. I guess the book and the nap win.
Christmas Eve was the exclamation point, Christmas Day is more a comma. Still, I remember that even if Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, it's still a good day to stop and remember and celebrate. Christmas Eve was had a joyous exuberance but Christmas Day has a quiet reflection that harks back to Advent and looks ahead to Epiphany.
The book and the cats win. My present to them is an unexpected lap to sit on in mid-week and theirs to me is occupying that lap and purring. Who says Christmas gifts have to be expensive?