My Christmas story begins in a small town in Pennsylvania. A group of men gather at the local playhouse late on Christmas Eve, as men have been doing here for over a hundred years. Volunteers help them into Santa Claus outfits. Makeup artists from the playhouse are on hand to add a few theatrical flourishes. A few hours later they are off – six St. Nicks calling on local families. The Santas travel through the night, stopping only for eggnog and cookies.
I was a college student hosted by a kind local family who “volunteered” me to be one of Santa’s elves. Armed with a flask of whiskey and sturdy boots I was Santa’s forward crew, alerting each family that the big man’s arrival is imminent. Santa is guided to a child’s bedroom where a sleepy little ‘un receives a beardy hug and a present (with parents on standby in case the munchkin freaks out!) The children awake the next morning unsure of whether they dreamt about Santa or whether he really did visit them. But for each of them, the magic of Christmas is very real.
Traditions such as these are celebrated throughout the world at this time of year. They are part of what brings communities together. Perhaps even more meaningful are the tiny rituals within each family; the stories that we read aloud to each other, the old movies that draw us together, the “out of tune but we don’t care” renderings of Silent Night, the baking of Grandma’s special apple pie. Rituals connect us to ancient traditions, but they also serve to cement the narrative of our own families – bringing us closer to the ones we love.
The rituals also remind us, that despite all of our differences, the narratives strike a common chord. They reach that innate generosity of spirit and kindness that sustains and enriches us all.
Wherever you are, whatever your belief, and whomever you believe in, I wish you joy and peace. May your family, your friends and your own special traditions sustain you in the New Year!
Click here to learn about the story of Santa Clause at Swarthmore, a small town in Pennsylvania.
And if your family and the spirit of Christmas is making you lose the will to live, click here for my favourite cocktail recipes. Cheers!