Here we are – it’s Christmastime again.
In a matter of hours, adults will be mingling over mulled wine, eggnog, sorrel and punch, helping themselves to another serving of sliced ham or mince pie, while the stereo softly plays familiar songs by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey and the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.
Parents will be coaxing their children into bed with visions of sugarplum dreams and promises of packages wrapped in pretty paper. Even after an extended bedtime with stories such as, “A visit from St. Nicholas,” “The Three Kings” and “The Polar Express,” the young ones will still lie awake long after they should have gone to sleep, eyes wide open and ears intent on picking up any hint of the tell-tale sound of sleigh bells outside the window or reindeer hooves on the rooftop.
When the night has finally fallen silent, a small section of the house will quietly come alive, particularly in the area surrounding the Christmas tree. What’s that we hear? Is it slippers on stair steps, and half-asleep grown-ups drowsily feeling their way through the dark? Or is it ash-encrusted boots, and a nimble old elf laden with a magical bag of toys?
When the morning finally arrives, the youngest children are the earliest heralds of the long-awaited day, their bright smiles shining and, cries of, “Wake up, wake up!” ringing out before the sunrise and neighborhood roosters.
Christmas Day proceeds with flurries of wrapping paper and ribbons; for many families, a trip to the chapel for solemn thanksgiving for the birth of their savior; visits to the homes of relatives and close friends; and of course, much feasting and making merry.
But it is not so much the particular activities of the day that makes it Christmas … nor is it snow, or chimneys or Scotch pines (scarce commodities indeed in Cayman) … Rather, it is the ever-present (yet ever-elusive) hope of “peace on Earth” and the prevailing spirit of “good will toward men” that defines the Christmas season and makes it worthy of the elevated position it occupies in our culture.
It’s not in the gift-giving, the socializing or the caroling, specifically, that you’ll find the spirit of Christmas, but in the arrested moments of clarity where we realize, for even an instant, what it means to feel love and charity for one another.
The real Christmas presents don’t consist of money or material objects, but are the memories we store within, and that we can unpack from our souls during future struggles with loss, mourning or loneliness – those times of pain and vulnerability when we imperfect mortals find it necessary to treasure anew those distilled drops of unalloyed joy … when we, in our individual weakness, must draw upon our collective strength.
This is Christmas, the best parts of humanity orchestrated into a crescendo, and the jubilant echoes providing harmony in our lives throughout the years to come.
Happy holidays to our readers. Our very best wishes to you all. Merry Christmas, Cayman Islands!