The Life of Liz

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It's hard to get into the Christmas Spirit at 20. Once you pass a certain age, and here I am thinking of age 10, you realize that what we know as Christmas is just a commercialized greed-fest. The bratty, whining nightmares begging their parents for more toys are the clanging gong that sounds the alarm that the Holiday Season is upon us—hide.

Two years ago, my bitter, scroogy, 20-year old self was standing in the Plaza Mayor (pronounced "platha," although I really don't know why) in Salamanca, Spain. There may have been children whimpering in the background, but in Spain, they whine in a language I don't know very well, and thus are easier to block out. Anyway, I'm standing in the center of town wondering what kind of drugs you have to be on to look at a Christmas tree, which is essentially conical, and decided that the lights should definitely go over the tree vertically. Frankly, these are the kind of thoughts you have when you have lost the Christmas Spirit.

And then the last gasp of sunlight disappears and everything changes. The ancient stones are ablaze with light. Christmas lights adorn the rooftops and are strung across the streets in patterns of snowflakes, snowmen, and sleighs. The air tastes of churros (Spanish doughnuts), chestnuts (roasted on an open fire, of course) and cigarettes (this is Europe after all). Faintly, I can hear the soft strains of "What Child is This?" played by the street musicians on the corner. And I get this feeling that…

…I am 8 years old, and my sister and I have turned off all the lights in the house except the Christmas tree. And we have taken all the ceramic figurines out of the crèche and embarked on a harrowing journey across the living room to escape the evil Herod. You won't find this in the original version, but apparently Joseph gets knocked off fairly early in the journey because the shepherd is a much more attractive mate for Mary. I see my sister's face shining in the soft glow of the tree lights (which, by the way, go around the tree and not over the top of it) and I feel this overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. I experience the simple, unshakable faith in love and miracles that is the Christmas Spirit at its purest…

So here I am, alone, thousands of miles away from my home and my family, staring into the oddest Christmas tree I've ever seen, and suddenly none of that matters. It stops being important that Jesus was born in the fall, or maybe the spring, because no one is stupid enough to graze sheep in the middle of winter. And it doesn't matter that the only reason we celebrate Christmas in December is because the early Christians were too stupid to differentiate between the Christ Mass and the birth of the sun god, Mithras. In the midst of this feeling, all contempt fades and cynicism doesn't even stand a chance. For, unto us a child is born.
And his name shall be called Wonderful.


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A brand new mom trying to navigate the crazy world of mixed families, babies, and working full time. Phew! Just writing that makes me want to lie down.


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