The magic of Christmas traditions

Each November, roughly two weeks before Thanksgiving, I notice myself quietly humming Christmas carols. Shortly after, I’m seized with an acute need to unearth my Christmas music collection and begin playing the songs on loop from every possible source. Observant passersby will see me belting The Twelve Days of Christmas and Silent Night as I drive to and fro.

The morning after Thanksgiving, when the turkey remains might still be warm, I pack my family up and we head out to select a Christmas tree, our Christmas tree, from all the hopefuls standing at attention.

Is there any sight more festive than cars with firs lassoed to their roofs? The netted catch portends an afternoon of togetherness, more carols, a fire on the hearth, stockings and cookies. A Christmas tree’s presence, even when it’s still bare and wanting for lights and jewels, makes a home even homier.

As we open the boxes of ornaments that I carefully packed away last year, we reminisce, layering memory upon memory, setting them firmly for the ages and making new ones too.

“This one was Nanny’s; it’s old so be gentle.”

“Oh, honey, do you remember when we bought this one? Boys, Dad and I were in Prague together, just after we got married. We found this glass ornament at a little shop in town.”

“This is from your first Christmas, Jack. And Oliver, here’s your first Christmas one too! And look, sweeties- your handprints!”

Soon, holiday cards will start arriving, brightening our mailbox for a few weeks to come. Red, green, gold envelopes open to reveal snapshots of years in review. Other people’s children grow up so fast, I think. My friends’ parents look the same but also older, I realize as a bittersweet tinge makes my heart skip a beat. To have a clear visual on the passage of time makes me stop and pause. It makes me want to slow down, despite the hectic holiday season. It is a vibrant reminder to do just that, to carve time for being present and appreciative.

Despite all the nostalgia of the Christmas season, I never find myself anything but merry. I have always found it utterly magical, a time when people come together to toast flutes of champagne, wrap and give lovingly chosen thoughts, don sparkling dresses for a party, bake family favorites, share with hearts warmed and softened by the love coursing round.

It’s a time when it doesn’t seem silly for my family to wear matching pajamas and the kids still –despite being another year older- race downstairs to see who gets to the advent calendar first. It’s the season during which I read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "The Polar Express" to my children for the millionth time and find myself considering that maybe just a bit of it is real. They still believe, and I want to.

This year has been no different. Our tree is spangled with an abundance of lights and ornaments, our stockings are hung, our cards have been sent. Our kitchen is warm and smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and yeast. I am full of gratitude and the holiday spirit.

Magic is in the air.