The weather outside belies the fact that it’s Christmas Eve– it’s sunny. The grass on our lawn is still half green. It’s surprisingly mild out. Two nights ago, we slept all night with the windows wide open. In December. In freaking New England.
So I admit that I just don’t feel like I’m in the holiday spirit this year. It feels like Easter, to be honest. Yet here we are, the day before Christmas. Granted, Christmas hasn’t been a religious holiday for me for over a decade now. But I still view it as a separate holiday from Yule and still important to me. Yule is for personal reflection. It’s a quiet spiritual retreat. Often I celebrate it in little moments throughout the day– even in the middle of holiday parties where I’m surrounded by coworkers or friends. Christmas, on the other hand, I see as a celebration of community. For me, it’s not just the 25th– the 24th was always more important to my family. So now Christmas has evolved into a two day celebration of love and connection with others. I honestly need people around me at Christmas.
As a child, Christmas Eve began with two yearly traditions. The first was the luminaries that every house in our neighborhood used to display on Christmas eve. The day before Christmas Eve- my father would grab his wheelbarrow (on snowless years) or empty white buckets left over from the pool chlorine and head up to the northern street of our neighborhood to get a hefty amount of sand, candles, and paper lunch bags. He’d then come home, bring my brother and I into his workshop, and we’d help him pour a measured portion of sand into each bag. Then we’d help him carry them and place them along our property– one would help with the bags. The other would place a candle into the center of each bag. And my father would finally follow, adjusting the spacing and lighting the bags just before nightfall. On Christmas Eve, no one in our neighborhood would turn on their Christmas lights (other than the tree inside). Only the luminaries lit up the night. Every house had them, lining the gutters along every property line, creating a candlelit runway (which was my parents original explanation… we were creating a runway for Santa to come).
The other happened at six o’clock exactly every Christmas Eve. Dinners were planned to make sure the kids were all outside about five minutes before to witness Santa flying around Billings on his sleigh. It was a fantastic sight– he’d make two huge circles around Billings so all of the children could see that he’d be coming that night… and then would disappear (we children presumed he was heading elsewhere to show other kids he was coming, too). In reality, Santa was a big wire framed light display, hooked onto the side of a helicopter. It was one family’s treat for the city every year.
Still this year, I’m finding it very hard to get in the spirit. Something’s not right… and I think my blaming the weather is just a cop-out.
Maybe it’s because I have an itch to fill luminaries…