Christmas, for me, is the season of hope, as I believe it is for many people. Historically, it started with the Solstice, when people celebrated the return of longer days and more sunlight. Bonfires were lit to represent hope of new light and warmth. With Christianity came the hope of a new birth: shepherds and wisemen following a star in hopes of greeting a new king. Now, for children, there is Santa Claus. What child does not await Christmas morning with hope and excitement that the long-wished for toy is lying wrapped under the tree?
I feel a renewed hope every year beginning in November. It is an irrational hope that springs up unbidden and without discernible cause. It is born of the childhood wait for Santa. I used to love to lie under the tree just looking at the presents, each one representing a surprise, and thus a hope of something new and different. As a teenager, my hopes became less tangible and less attainable, but I hoped nonetheless, and was often disappointed when Christmas came and went and nothing in my life had changed. I outgrew the disappointment but not the hope. Now I no longer expect a miracle but the hope arises unbidden just the same. Not hope for anything in particular, just hope.
This year, life has been complicated, too busy, and full of problems, both personal and worldwide. But my December hope and optimism springs up at odd moments. My class is impossible this year; they refuse to learn. But then they sing “Deck the Halls” in tune and my heart gladdens. I am driving home from visiting my parents in the nursing home, where my mother lies in bed with a broken hip. I drive along Telegraph and suddenly there are holiday lights everywhere and my heart fills with gladness. I leave a school board meeting, where drastic cuts are being threatened, but I am listening to the Messiah on the car stereo and the strains of “For unto us” drown out the economic woes. I read in the paper of car crashes, murders, war and corruption, so I take a break and go out to see Shadi’s display or the Tilden merry-go-round and my Christmas spirit returns.
There are Scrooges who would say, “What right have you to be merry?” To them, I answer, “Why not?” Why not spend a month with hope, looking for the good things around one, feeling one’s spirit rise with song or light? And so, I wish all of you a season of hope and goodwill. And may it continue throughout the new year.