If New Year’s Day is a time for looking forward, the days leading up to Christmas have always been a time of remembrance for me. Yes, the child (or parent) in all of us, often frantically spends our days (and money) counting down the days until Santa arrives; and to those for whom the season holds a deeper, more spiritual meaning, we anticipate and celebrate the birth of Christ, honor the passage of Hanukkah, or share in the festivity of Kwanza. But in all of the anticipation…in all of the preparation…it’s easy to overlook the blessings of the season itself and the opportunity to spend time in quiet reflection of all that has come before and all that we now hold most dear.
Last week I was in China, and though a majority of Chinese do not recognize the Christian meaning of Christmas, endless numbers of lit-up trees, reindeers and Santa exist nonetheless. Even my own earliest memory of Santa is Chinese, from my childhood days in Singapore, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I joined one of my colleagues for breakfast, only to hear one of my favorite Christmas singers, Nat King Cole, playing on the speakers above.
Instantly my mind was transported back to an earlier time…a simpler time, when I saw and enjoyed Christmas through the eyes and ears of a child, and later, through the eyes of a young mother, whose focus was on the delight of her children’s random, yet certain reindeer sightings. It was a time when the demands of life and work did not compete with my desire to bask in the full glow of the season and in the remembrance of seasons past; a time when my energy was squarely focused on spending time with those I love and cherish, whether family, friends or neighbors; a time when the smells and sights and sounds of the season were wrapped up in both the memories of seasons past and the memory-making moments of the present. It was a time, quite simply, when as if by magic, the world stood still, if only for a moment.
So it is at this time, in the final stretch before Christmas arrives, that I am trying to slow down long enough to remind myself of what really matters, and re-prioritize my choices to reflect those values. I am making time to savor the present, while taking time to honor the past. I am remembering what it is to give – not in the way of material presents, but in the gift of our time, attention and heart. Most importantly, I am creating a sacred space in which to build memories with my own growing children – memories they may also hold dear in their hearts for years to come and pass on with each season of their lives.
As you celebrate your own meaning of this season with your family and loved ones, may the blessings of the season remain in your hearts throughout the year and for years to come.