While radio and television programs are broadcasting Yuletide carols and reminding us to be jolly, COVID is sucking the merry out of Christmas. That sad reality is the reason why this usual glass-half-full optimist is fighting the pandemic blues. I am not alone. I know this because many of my friends tell me that they feel it, too. We compare our symptoms. Short tempers and long-lasting anxiety. Mood swings from hopeful to hopeless. And the WTF (where’s the food) all we can eat syndrome.
Since the pandemic began ten months ago, it has dragged on from season-to-season, and the set of new rules to live by has become old. We’ve all got the instructions memorized. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Socializing with family and friends at birthday parties, reunions, holiday get-togethers, even weddings, and funerals is a no-no. I imagine that some employees are not too happy that this year’s Christmas office parties are zooming. Who doesn’t feel like screaming, “WHAT THE ELF? ENOUGH ALREADY!”
As an (often mild-mannered) spiritual person, I wonder if the global pandemic is a Biblical prophecy and punishment is being levied on humankind for our sinfulness. I suppose that atheists and scientists would dispute that statement; it is an ever-lasting argument. So, I’m going back to talking about Christmas. Foremost, December 25 is a day held in reverence. It also happens to be my cousin Jo Jo’s birthday (a shout-out to you, Cuz), and for wide-eyed children everywhere, it is the day when Santa Claus makes their day.
Unlike Scrooge, I don’t need spirits to show me Christmases past, present, and future. I remember, and I envision.
In my mind’s eye, I am about seven-years-old. My mom and my siblings, and I are cheerfully jockeying around the live Christmas tree in the living room. Dad is seated on the sofa, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, clutching a Kool cigarette between the index and middle finger of his right hand. He is all into watching a John Wayne western on the old black and white TV set as I am into hanging my made-in-school decorations on the tree. Occasionally horizontal line interference forces dad to leave the sofa and walk over to the TV. He sticks his cigarette between his lips, takes a long drag, and then removes it, exhaling a puff of white smoke before tightening a small piece of aluminum foil that is wrapped around the tip of the rabbit ear antenna. The picture clears up and dad returns to the sofa. As he is sitting down, he glances toward the tree at our handiwork and nods approvingly. We continue hanging decorations. Simple ornaments created with Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, pipe cleaners, colored beads, and a red and green chain garland made from construction paper share space on the spiny branches alongside store-bought string lights, shiny, fragile bulbs, and long strands of silver tensile. Some years, we add tiny candy canes – and then we wait. Christmas morning is only days away.
During the evenings leading up to the big day, mother sometimes lets us stay up past our 8 o’clock bedtime to watch televised seasonal specials about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Old St. Nick. On Christmas Eve, she doesn’t need to tell us to turn-in. We eagerly hurry to bed because we know that the next day will be magical when we awake. In the morning, the joy and laughter of enchanted children fill the air as we gush over the gifts that Santa left under the tree. Our family’s meager income prevented us, four kids, from getting many presents. And often Santa didn’t bring us precisely what we asked for, but we always got a few things each, and for that, we were thankful. Mother’s lessons of expressing gratitude for everything were not lost on me even to this day.
The sweet scent of fresh pine needles lingers in our apartment for days, and it seems to take forever before every stubborn spike that lodged in the rug or slipped into a crack in the aging wood floor bordering the carpet has is gone.
In the postwar era, many parents observed – and children believed in – the long-standing tradition of Santa Clause. Some of today’s contemporary parents feel that deceiving children about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and other fictional characters hinder a trusting relationship with their children. So, they don’t adhere to any of the rituals that created beautiful, lifelong memories for their grandparents and parents.
Christmas wasn’t the only day that held magic. I was a curious child. Whenever I would shed a tooth, I would place it under my pillow before going to sleep. The next morning I would wonder and sometimes ask mother how the tooth fairy could lift my pillow and replace my tooth with a shiny coin, usually a nickel or dime, without waking me. Mother played along, leading me to believe that she was as perplexed as I was. I treasure those memories, and I think that mother enjoyed the games as much as we children did.
I know that it is the parent’s prerogative when it comes to observing traditions with their children. Still, I’d bet four calling birds that some of the same parents who say that they don’t want to lie to their children about imaginary characters don’t hesitate to fib to them about other things when it serves their purpose. As I see it, our parents fooling us with myths about the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny may have been telling us lies, but they were good lies.
Sometimes, when I am stressed and longing for a temporary respite from everyday living’s harsh realities, reflecting on traditions involving make-believe activities that my family observed during my childhood makes me happy.
Christmas present is eight days away. I doubt if many folks would disagree with me when I say that the best stocking stuffer all of us could receive would be a miraculous, immediate, and complete disappearance of COVID. I’m not promoting fake news, I know it’s not a reality, but nevertheless, that’s my wish for this Christmas.
My visualization for Christmas future, 2021, and all years after that is for love, brotherhood, joy, and peace in the world. That, along with good health, is my wish for my readers and all of humankind.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you all!