This is usually about the same time each year when I ask myself, “How can Christmas already be here?” With the perpetual business of life, it’s come on quickly again, and it’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Christmas Day. Fortunately, I think we’re ready – the presents are bought and (mostly) wrapped, and we’re all set for our family celebrations.
Like any season, this one has had its happy moments as well as some sadness. Sadly, this will be the first Christmas that we celebrate without my paternal grandfather. Papa, as most of the family called him, died unexpectedly of natural causes last June. It is at Nonny and Papa’s house that my dad’s side of the family gathers each year on the night of Christmas Eve. Growing up, the Christmas Eve gathering at their house was the event that marked the Christmas holiday for me. One year while I was still a preteen, I had to skip Christmas Eve at Nonny and Papa’s because I was very sick, and it truly felt like I missed out on Christmas that year for having missed the Christmas Eve gathering. For this year, the party, as they say, will still go on: we are still doing Christmas Eve at their house this evening, but it won’t be the same without Papa.
I’m also grieving for an old friend this season. Just last week, one of my high school classmates, Janet Kohavi, died after a brief stay in the hospital. Janet had struggled with health issues since her teens, but she didn’t broadcast her suffering – in fact, if you were her friend on Facebook, you might not even have known she was sick. I hadn’t seen Janet in person in a couple of years, but she and I communicated frequently via social media. I felt a kindred spirit in Janet – she and I were both left-leaning in a state that is heavily right-leaning, though she was much more vocal about her stances than I. I will miss engaging in lively debates on Facebook with her, and I grieve with and for her family and friends.
However, there is much that I am thankful for and happy about this year. As I mentioned, tonight is our annual Christmas Eve gathering, and though we’ll missing Papa, I’m very much looking forward to getting together with the family and spending time catching up. We’ve got relatives coming in from all over the state and as far away as Tennessee to swap gifts, share food, and laugh with each other. We don’t get together nearly often enough, so I really enjoy the opportunity to visit when we do.
Closer to home, I’m excited for the Christmas celebration with my immediate family. For me, the real magic of the Christmas season is the excitement for my kids. As a child, I would look forward to Christmas for months in advance – and not just for the gift-giving, but for the overall excitement, the colder weather, the family gatherings, and the music. As a father, I love seeing the same excitement in my own children, and I do my best to propagate that sentiment and keep it going for the next generation.
This holiday season has both highs and lows, but I’m thankful for my family and friends and the opportunity to spend time with them all. To you and yours, I wish a joyous and safe holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, the winter solstice, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or any combination of these (or perhaps none of them), I wish you all peace and happiness.