I have always been a celebrator, especially when it comes to Christmas, even though this often surprises some of my friends (mainly men).
I don't think it is merely the religious event itself but the way this event was, in my youth, overlaid with festivity that carries on from year to year as I have grown older. Family parties were lively, both on the eve of and the day of Christmas, and memories of them rich. Gifts and lights and midnight Mass, with me in the choir or serving as altar boy, were part of a month long celebration, complete with Midwestern snow and a vacation from school.
It was a magical time, even as I grew up and learned where to go to buy the best German baked goods in St. Louis, the finest eggnog, the trimmings for the tree, which for my German-American father meant wiring two trees together for the fullest possible and most ornately decorated tree imaginable. He insisted we keep it up until the end of January (to my great embarrassment).
In Florida, I continue to delight in seeing palm trees wrapped elegantly in white lights, I savor the many ornaments I have kept from my childhood, I welcome as many guests as we can accommodate for lunches and dinners, and I have several decorated trees in our house with lights and garlands.
I cannot get enough of the music of this season, both popular and classical; and I tend to overeat. The combination of all these sensory delights--smells of cooking and pine, candles and lights, music and cards and gifts and above all smiling friends (in the absence of family)--makes our Christmas festive. We don't have children, yet my wife and I become kids again, in a sense, as we find time to prepare in Advent for the great day.
I think sadly of those who are alone, wishing this day were over, and of those who are turned off by the material side of Christmas, which for me complements the spiritual meaning of light coming into the darkness of winter, of love being born again, and of the hope for peace.
Merry Christmas and happy new year!