Is it the lights, and the decorations? Or maybe the music? How about family traditions and get-togethers? Oh, and don’t forget about the food, especially the baked goods—is that what it is?
What is it about the Christmas season that brings about that little change in everybody’s perspective that makes us all, as Bill Murray says, “the people we always hoped we would be”?
I know part of what it is, certainly, for people of my Faith tradition: we commemorate the miracle birth of a child sent to Earth expressly to die to pay the price for our screw-ups. That probably should be the main part of it, but, let’s be real, Christmas is no longer strictly, or even primarily, a religious holiday. I have friends of every faith tradition who celebrate the season, and exchange gifts on Dec. 25. Like many parts of modern life, Christmas straddles the religious and the secular worlds. And, as such, it really is a thing that has a unique power to weave itself into the fabric of all our lives and stitch us together. I promise you, even a lot of charity work at this time of year is initiated by people from every faith, even the ones who claim not to have a faith.
So, what is it? What gives Christmas this power?
For children, it is no doubt the anticipation of what might be coming next—the unknown. I am, sadly, a little past that stage of life where the children can’t fall asleep and wake up way too early and can’t hold still for the excitement, but I remember it. Christmas through the eyes of a child is a time of simple joy, and the fact that they don’t *know* what’s coming is immaterial; in fact, once they get to the age where they send you the Amazon page for what they want, there is no such joy. There is no wonder.
For viewers of the Hallmark Channel, Christmas time represent a special opportunity, where that mood that infects all of us supposedly makes it easier to find that greatest gift of all: love. Not to mention, I suppose, all the parties and the…um….liquid social-interaction-grease that seems to flow a little easier this time of year. It’s been many years since I was searching for that, but I seem to remember there was a different feel to the holiday season—it was hope, always wondering what comes next.
In fact, I think that’s what best represents the season: Wonder. Whether in Faith, or kids’ presents, or in romance, this season runs thick with something that the modern age and our intelligentsia tells us to ignore.
But maybe that’s what’s missing the rest of the year. For me, hearing Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Karen Carpenter and Josh Groban on the radio remind me of the wonder of people who make music as naturally as they breathe. The lights fill the darkness with beauty, instead of just cold white light. Family reminds me of the wonder of all these odd collections of cells and DNA result in unique individuals who are inextricably tied together.
But wonder doesn’t need to end on Saturday, in the debris of wrapping paper and food comas. Greater Denver has a thriving community of live music to show off the wonders of great talent and dedication. There’s an interactive Van Gogh exhibit that, I’m told, is mind-boggling; and if that’s not your bag, Colorado’s own Hubble Telescope sends back unbelievable photos of the wonders of deep space on a regular basis. Believing in Redemption is available for anybody for the asking. And it’s never been easier than in this modern world to stay connected to the people who matter most.
Maybe that’s the greatest gift of all: once a year, we all get a gentle reminder that Wonder is always in easy reach. “We just,” says B.M., “have to want it.”
Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at email@example.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.