I love Christmas, I really do. I love everything about it. I love the hymns and carols, and singing for Midnight Mass with my sisters. I love the Nativity scenes, and candles, and Christmas trees, with lights like stars tangled in their branches. I love the smell of pine, and the cinnamon-smell of baking. I love the snow - I am fortunate enough to live in a place which almost guarantees a white Christmas. I love the cold, and the cosy fires that banish it from the house, and chestnuts, and hot cider, and mulled wine.
That being said, I am now going to admit, a trifle shame-facedly, that I find this particular time of the year a bit frustrating as well. I am in love with the grand old traditions of Christmas, but I loath the materialistic frenzy that hangs about it these days. I detest the overwrought giddiness of the average holiday song, the songs that have nothing to do with Christmas, or any holiday at all, for that matter, but mention ice, snow, or the day itself, and therefore are played incessantly. And I take particular exception to the generic spirit of the season rubbish. Don't get me wrong. I believe there truly is a spirit to the Christmas season, but that spirit comes from the great miracle of God becoming man, and being born to us here on earth. Take out that, and the spirit doesn't really mean much. It is too vague to mean much. Miracles are worth celebrating. Generic feelings of good will -while good in themselves - are not. There is usually a point in the lead up to Christmas, in which I feel that I have had quite enough of all of that, and get a bit on the dour side.
I was at that point earlier this week, but I am over it again, thanks to a conversation I had with a grand old veteran Marine, who came into my place of employment yesterday. He had a stack of books to check out, and when I had helped him with that, I wished him a Merry Christmas. He grinned enormously at that, and fervently wished me the same. He also thanked me.
"Do you know," he said, with the air of man, burdened with grievance, "I was in the store today, and the lady at the counter said 'Happy Holidays'. Well, I told her 'Merry Christmas' and she said, 'No... Happy Holidays.'"
He gave me an incredulous look, "So I told her that if she didn't say 'Merry Christmas', I was going to leave my groceries there and I want my money back!"
He laughed, like a small boy who has gotten away with something. "I straightened her out!" he said with immense satisfaction, and went merrily on his way.
For some reason, that cheered me up to no end. So did this picture, which I found earlier today, when I was browsing about for something completely different.