Friday, December 23, 2011

Tradition and Complaint

Ah, tradition.

Interesting that I immediately thought of a movie about Jews for my Christmas post. Happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa, merry Christmas, happy solstice and festivus! In other words, merry Christmahanukwanzasolstifestikah!

Anyway. Tradition. Every year on Christmas Eve, my family would bake cookies (okay, sometimes the day before) and take a plate full of them over to the fire station, which was just a few blocks away.

Some Christmas Eves, they would answer when we rang the bell, and we'd present the plate as a small way of thanking them for working the holiday. Other years, they'd be out doing their jobs, or catching some shuteye, and we'd leave the plate in front of the door, hoping they would notice it before stepping forward.

I loved doing that. I still want to do that. But we're out of cookies, so I hope the fire folk will appreciate the store-bought ones.

Later that evening, we'd go to church. The 11 p.m. service was always my favorite: everyone in the congregation got candles for one of the last hymns, as midnight arrived and we celebrated the first minutes of Christmas with many others.

Traditions change, and you meet new people to create them with. Spousal Unit and I have started a tradition of driving long distances to see our family on Christmas Eve. This year, it will be after a full day of work for me.

I can't stand that people don't consider Christmas Eve enough of a holiday to close up shop. Too many places are open on that day, a day I consider more full of Christmas spirit than Christmas itself, most years. Christmas day means a big meal, going to see relatives, and the general insanity of going and doing and family drama.

Christmas Eve, to me, is the night when everyone sits around the tree, soft music in the background as a glow lights the room. In that warmth, you feel so close to everyone sitting around you. You sense everything that's good in the world, all at once. The mug of hot chocolate or cider or mulled wine in your hands melts away any other concerns you might have, and the peace of Christmas makes itself real.

That is the joy of Christmas Eve, and I wish everyone could experience it like that every year - without having to work a single hour for last-minute shoppers.

That's what December 23 is for.

May your holidays be bright, shiny things that you remember with joy for years to come.

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