Vilar Alvarez

Ireland

December, and the Christmas Spirit

December 10, 2019


There comes a time when everything begins to change, when the atmosphere mutates into something special, something magical. It surrounds people and places, it brings warmth to the already tired soul. It is December. As I walk through the streets, illuminated by festivity decorations, clutching my coat tightly to my chest, and as people greet me with the usual smiles of “Merry Christmas”, something things to be missing, there is a void in the glass windows of shops where statues of Santa Clauses adorn the stances, in the houses where presents are neatly arranged under the brightly illuminated Christmas trees. It is interesting how people suddenly forget and as suddenly remember Him whom Christmas is all about. Traditions seem to be unequivocally followed, renewed every year, solemn promises made only to be broken. It’s been a long time since I last wrote a letter. I don’t write letters, because at my age there doesn’t seem to be any need for them. No video games, no expensive toys, no phones or computers. Consumerism and materialism are not the norm for me, they never were, they never will be. I stride, slowly, letting my lungs breath in the crisp and refreshing breeze of a December night. The stars twinkle with a different dance, a more luminous spectacle, as though the star of Bethlehem shared with them its uniqueness.
It guides me today, it guides us today just the same way it guided the shepherds wise men that night and lead them to the humble manger where Christ was born. A pang of sadness, nostalgia and melancholy overcomes and blends itself with the natural gaiety of the season. Striving to cement the individual moments, the present which belongs only to me, the presence of those loved ones that are here but might not be there next year. No white Christmases for me. I didn’t grow, though once or twice experienced one, with the vista of a landscape covered in snow, if only the reminiscent images of postcards and lyrics are the ones that bring back the traditional European Christmas with skiing, reindeers and a fireplace. The sun and rain have collected over the years all the memories of those seventeen years I have spent celebrating this religious festival, they whisper back the slicing of cakes, the delicious smell of hot chocolates, the embraces, the laughs, the dances, and why not, the tears.
The crib is in the middle of the sitting room, on a princely throne Mary and Joseph glance lovingly at their new born child. He is the center of attention, all eyes are turned to him. He belongs there. The three kings, holding their presents in their hands walk effortlessly towards the manger. November saw my mother and I dusting off the figures and placing them carefully upon their 'reserved' places in our house. December saw the breathtaking result.
I prefer to enter the sacred building when there’s nobody present, to avoid any interruption from voices, whispers, footsteps. A still atmosphere, divine, surrounds my presence. The candles are burning, and the stained glass reflects the red light of the dying sun, forming a shadow beneath the cross. The manger is positioned to one side of the church, being the first thing the eye meets. I kneel upon the soft cushion and pray. There’s a comfort in being alone with the spirit of Christmas, the infant boy who taught humanity the meaning of love.
Christmas Day is a casket of memories, a day of joviality, the night before where insomnia and excitement try to creep in, since I was a child thousands of images of presents roamed wildly through my mind, and my dreams were filled with thousands of Christmases and thousands of wrappings being forcefully ripped open. Today that wild excitement has given way to a more serene happiness. Perhaps the thoughts of Santa Claus arriving in sleigh have long disappeared, but the magic continues. The magic lies within me, withing nature, within my mother, who has always been the fairy among us, in the people, it irradiates from the cribs, the ground, the sky, the smiles of children. Christmas is not just a festivity that comes and goes, not just a marked occasion in the calendar whom one impatiently awaits. Christmas is a way of living. It is a way of behaving towards people. A way of acting in accordance to the Golden Rule of Christianity: “Love others as you love yourself”. I fear the time when my Christmases and Decembers will not be the same, when with the coming future, as we gather for dinner, one chair will be empty. Because after all, Christmas for me means family too. For it is my family that have been the staple brick in the foundation of what Christmas has become to me.
December days are days spent in silent and open rejoicing. The advent calendar opening its small windows to a simple counting. But each day is unique. The 1st, the 2nd … it is a bittersweet moment for everything that comes and goes. December is Christmas. However, it is also the month of a finishing chapter, and the door to new beginnings. Following Christmas, and as the days begin to gradually become longer, right up to the last day, that last hour, that final goodbye to one’s past. Regrets. Remorse. Reconciliation. The 31st of December is a hammer on one’s conscience, forging one into a better person, allowing us to pass the pain, to begin writing once again in a blank page. Birthdays one attended and can on longer attend paint that final week of the year. Jesus was born on the 25th December, according Christian calendar. The elation doesn’t have a boundary in December, and extends itself with the fragility of a butterfly’s wings, covering the eve of an approaching year, it continues..it continues..

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