Clinging to the Christmas spirit

Deana Johnson Contributing columnist

January 7, 2014

We have reached one of the saddest times of the year when all of the lovely Christmas ornaments and garlands must come down and be packed away for another year. I know that I should be excited about the New Year, but I rarely am. Instead, I am saddened to see the Christmas season go with all of its wonder, sparkle, and love. No more lights twinkle on houses, or trees, on in children’s eyes. I must put away my cherished decorations, which remind me of the happiest times of childhood.

Since I was a little girl, it has been my responsibility to set up and take down the Nativity scene. Even when I went away to college, my mother would wait until I returned home, so I could design the Christmas tableau. It was always so exciting in early December when I would exhume the worn box and lovingly unwrap each perfect figure. I was surprised as I opened these treasures at how lovely Mary must have been, how gentle Joseph’s face and how glorious the robes of the Magi. I would arrange and rearrange the figures at least a dozen times until I believed that the scene was perfect. I imagined the sound of the heavenly hosts and the majesty of the whole event in that Bethlehem stable.

But several weeks later, the task was much less pleasant. By then, all of the anticipation of the most beautiful season had disappeared. The family visits were over, the packages had all been opened, the carols sung and the delicious meals consumed. The candy and decadent treats were gone too, except for the proof on my waistline. What was left to look forward to but the cold, gray days of January? And with snow such a rare occurrence in this area, there was no snowman building and sledding to help the winter days pass. Everything was back to normal — back to routine.

This year, I examine the figures again as I wrap them in tissue paper and bubble wrap. I look at the placid shepherd, the precious lamb, the tiny sculpted manger and the form of the infant Jesus. A feeling of sadness overwhelms me as I cover each piece, knowing that it will be another year before I see them again and feel the light and love of Christmas. Finally, each small statue has been carefully sealed away and placed in the back of the closet, and there is more to do. I find few tasks as unpleasant as un-decorating the tree. Now, the house looks stripped and bare, and I wonder what the new year holds.

In the famous movie, Miracle on 34th Street, the actor who played Santa Claus declared, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a state of mind.” I want to cling to the wonder that I still feel during the Christmas holiday, and I must make an effort to embrace the joy, anticipation, and generosity that overflow in this season. I know some may say that with so much sorrow and desperation in the world, how silly it seems to hold on to these old-fashioned notions. Yet it is exactly these kinds of traditions that sustain us through difficult days. The timeless words of “peace on earth and goodwill to men” give us faith and hope for the future. And though I generally shy away from making New Year’s Resolutions, this time, I resolve to keep the feeling of Christmas in my heart throughout the year. Perhaps this inspiration will help me to give more generously to those in need, to smile and laugh more, to be kind and compassionate despite the pressures of life, to remember what is truly important — and most of all, to cherish all that is good.

Deana Johnson lives in Laurinburg.