This time of year is always special. There is a tiny bit of magic in the air, a spark of hope and dreams that tries to carry us into the new year. It stands in a stark contrast to the mundane everyday routine that consumes us through the majority of the year. But December is different, and time before Christmas can be special in its own way.
When I was a kid I loved Christmas, and Winter holidays in general. Christmas Eve, celebrations, gifts under the Christmas tree, those were some highlights of the season that made it such an unforgettable experience for a child. I was truly fortunate, for my parents did everything they could to make Christmas a unique time for their children. We were enjoying our company, visiting relatives, going to church, listening to carols.
As Christmas was the culmination of the holidays, it wasn’t until many years later that I realised that my most fond memories are not of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself, but of the time before Christmas and all those little moments that led to it. I remember that a week or two before Christmas my father went to the attic and came down with a box of Christmas lights. We had probably around half a dozen sets accumulated through many years. Those were the ordinary lights with mini lightbulbs, not the modern LED sets, so my father and I had to check every set for burnt out lightbulbs, snapped cables (they were thin and broke easily), broken plugs. He had a special box in which he kept spare lightbulbs in various shape and size (in four colours that every set came in — red, yellow, green and blue), electrical tape, scissors, etc. It usually took us a couple of Winter evening to make all necessary repairs, with the light sets unraveled on the floor and us threading carefully between them, trying not to crush any lightbulbs, or tangle ourselves in the cables.
Some lights sets were quite old, I remember one that had those tiny gas bulbs shaped like a candle’s flame, giving a beautiful orange glow, with a minuscule gas arc flickering inside. The sockets were shaped like wax candles, with lightbulbs being mounted in the place of a flame. One or two candles’ plastic covers partially melted due to electric surge years ago, so my father had to repair them himself since spare parts were not available back then. I think that it might still be there, forgotten in a dusty box somewhere. It does not matter, though.
What matters, is a memory. It has been over twenty years and I still consider those lights-repairing evenings as one of the best, if not the best, Christmas experience. I am sure that you too could choose a particularly vivid memory related to Christmas that brings you nostalgia. Our minds are great at two things: gathering a lot of memories and hiding them from our view. For the most of the year we pay little attention to some distant memories or dreams we had before the adulthood. Contemporary world is uncannily good at overloading us with superficial stimuli, which can prevent us from thinking too much about days gone. But the past is there, and there are times, like Christmas, when it is easier for it to resurface.
The older I am the more I value memories from my childhood, or even from my teenage years. They have huge sentimental value, but they also allow me to see how I have changed throughout the years. Sometimes I can use this retrospection to get myself “back on track”, if I see that I gave up a hobby that I used to love (like astronomy, for example) or I am not focused on my long-term goals like I should be, etc. However, even simple action of enjoying one’s memories and nostalgic feeling that comes with it can be a pleasure in its own right (perhaps a bittersweet one, but a pleasure nonetheless). And one positive thing that comes with Christmas is that this time of year encourages us to look into our past a little bit more than usual.
May we put those memories to good use.