The holiday season surely makes for a neat package: wrapping up the whole year in a sort of satisfying finale. Whether it’s your Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday you can think of, for most Seattle area residents, the last weeks of December make up a sort of endpoint/beginning point for more than just the calendar. These days mark a kind of emotional capstone that rounds out the year nicely.
Now, it’s also true that these milestones have a whole lot to do with children. In fact, a whole school of thought has it that these holidays are pretty much for the little ones—we adults are supposed just to be along for the ride.
Thinking back to when we were little, it could be that our first recognition that this was a very special time of year was also our first inkling that years have a definite order—that some occasions repeat themselves. They come ‘round again, just like last year! Later, birthdays proved to operate in the same way (but birthdays didn’t give out so many elaborate advanced warnings).
It came as a new and exciting revelation that those same songs were always playing when the Christmas trees started showing up everywhere. Then that jolly (and scary) Santa Claus character started appearing again—even if we didn’t understand how, according to The Night Before Christmas, that red-suited giant is somehow supposed to be “a jolly old elf.” The bright colors of the season; the good things to eat, and especially all those colored lights, all teamed up to make for an air of excitement…which also seemed to be directed mainly at us children.
As soon as Thanksgiving was over, we didn’t have to be older than about 3 before we knew toys were in our future. Sometimes they would be accompanied by new people, called relatives. The whole thing created the mix of expectation, excitement, and exhaustion that only came ‘round at this thrilling time of year…
As adults, we’re pretty much in charge of the whole holiday thing, so a lot of the mystery element is a thing of the past. In fact, when we pile all the “getting ready” on top of our other regular daily adult concerns, it’s easy to reduce the childhood mix of expectation, excitement, and exhaustion down to just the exhaustion part. So it’s easy to forget how, when all the decorating and cooking and shopping and wrapping are over, a simple and wondrous holiday truism will resume where it left off. It’s something that very young children have to wait a while to understand. It’s the compensation that adults get in place of the pure excitement that lights up the youngsters’ faces—the wonderful truth that the gifts we receive aren’t nearly as satisfying as the gifts we get to give!
My wish is for a holiday season that brings you and your family blessings of health and happiness—and when it’s all over, the memory of another year once again satisfyingly complete.