Holiday Cheer

When I was very young Christmas time was my favorite time of the year. Lots of good food, gifts, and lots of people too. We’d be a full house and it was fun. Years later it became cumbersome. There weren’t that many gifts and if there were, the eyes of a child were gone. More people meant more work, a lot of organizing, cooking, cleaning… at the end of the festive season one needed another holiday to recover. But I loved the songs, the idea of Santa Claus, salvation, and a white Christmas.

What we did as kids was get a long and narrow cypress tree and imagine it was the original Christmas tree. Who cared about mistletoe when it couldn’t even be found in our region? We decorated our tree with cards, bells, ribbons and cotton wool. So we had a white Christmas, snow and all. We sang, ‘It’s a White Christmas,’ ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,’ and so on. It was a white Christmas in the sitting room even though outside may have been about 88F. It’s easy for any group of people to romanticize about the other simply because they belong to this and that tradition, and certain elements are considered cool depending on how packaged they are. It wasn’t just the element of a savior being born that turned our Christmases back home truly redemptive and exotic, the winter and snow added their bit. We embraced everything. As we grew older I remember talking to my siblings wondering what it would really mean to actually have a white Christmas. We thought it would be awesome. We saw images of Eskimo-like folks in winter coats, fur covered, knocking from door to door wishing others a Merry Christmas. We did it too, and sang Christmas carols and enjoyed being night angels because in the night we wore warm jackets and pretended it was snowing. We had cotton wool in our hair, red sweaters for Santa and gifts for everyone.

Today when I woke up I looked outside my window, saw the snow, the gray, the naked trees, and felt Syracuse’ wintry chill, icicles hanging on my door. I said to myself: bad idea to dream of a white Christmas. It is the dullest. Give me the warmth and sunshine of my country anytime. Of course the songs are playing, food cooking, and Christmas wishes coming in from family and friends, but it’s frosty outside only Santa Claus would dare to stand outdoor singing, it’s a Merry Christmas. So I’m done with a white Christmas, I hope. Next time anywhere but here. Still it gives me beautiful thoughts to reflect and see how simple it is to admire that which isn’t in your culture, to dream of it with passion when in reality what you have is good enough for you. Merry Christmas to all my friends and loved ones in the freezing zones, in the tropics and temperate regions. Here’s a prose poem I wrote a few months ago but one that comes in handy all the same.

The tree

We decorate the tree with snow-white cotton balls. We have grandpa’s red socks with holes. We beg our mother to stitch them so they can hold our gifts of passion fruit and oranges. On the eve of Christmas the night is bright but we carry candles all the same. We knock from door to door. It’s a white Christmas, we sing, and sweat in the heavy coats borrowed from our old fathers. A kind woman offers us cold mango juice. We shake our heads and ask for hot tea and cider. In her kitchen the temp reads 103°F.

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