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It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

by Stephen Lautens


December 21, 2001

I'm a sucker for Christmas. I like everything about it - the tree, the cookies, the piles of wrapping paper, and my old tape of Elvis Christmas carols. There are so many things to look forward to.

Few things say Christmas as much as those little mandarin oranges. I remember as a kid when the first wooden box of them arrived in the house. Not only are they delicious, when they start appearing in the stores you know the holiday season has started and you were on the fast track to Christmas Day.

Have you noticed that people start talking to strangers around Christmas? It's nice to be able to make small talk with adults and say hello to their children without someone thinking you're a weirdo and calling the cops. The rest of the year the only place you get that kind of friendliness is in small towns.

For the past week or so people have been holding doors open for strangers. The rest of the year people don't always do the polite thing and hold them open for the couple of extra seconds the person behind you needs. I've seen people fling themselves through a closing mall door like they were Indiana Jones escaping the temple, just so they don't have to touch it for a second longer than necessary. This good behaviour and extra courtesy must have something to do with the memory of being told that Santa was watching them as a kid.

As Christmas approached my own mother was constantly running to the window as the three of us children where trying to reduce our numbers to two, or even one. "Is that sleigh bells I hear?" she'd call out as we tried to give each other a Yuletide concussion. The prospect of Santa looking through the window at our bad behaviour was enough to guarantee Peace on Earth (or at least a cease-fire) at our house until Boxing Day.

Mom even shocked us once in August by reminding us that Santa does random spot checks throughout the year.

There are three shows that have become traditional in our house this time of year: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch (the original, not the much-hyped Hollywood remake), and the black and white classic, A Christmas Carol. If your eyes don't spring a leak at the end when Scrooge asks his family to take him back - well, there's not much Christmas or anything else in you. And to think Dickens wrote the entire book in less than six weeks. Talk about being filled with the Christmas spirit.

We have far less touching family traditions too. Like every year when my mother plugs in the Christmas tree lights my brother Richard holds onto one end of the cord and suddenly jumps around and makes crackling noises. No matter how many times he's done it, my mother always falls for it, thinking she has electrocuted him. When we all start laughing, she usually shows her relief that Richard is still alive with a few festive smacks to his backside.

And in spite of the best efforts of the stores and advertisers, the older I get the less I think about Christmas being a time for getting presents. Even while we're being urged to shop 'til you drop to help out the economy, the season is really more about being mindful of your own good fortune, and remembering those who aren't as fortunate and helping them share the joy in any way you can.

That's what really makes a merry Christmas.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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