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
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
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
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.