One is always at home in one’s past, Vladimir Nabokov, the great Russian novelist wrote in his autobiography, Speak Memory.
As the years pile up, decade upon decade, Christmas, perhaps more than any other of our perennial observances, is infused with memories of the past — childhood wonder at the mystery of Santa and how he can visit all the world’s children in a single night, searching the woods for just the right tree, the lovely melodic carols we sang at school and listened to on the radio, the rare (in the South) snowfall that one memorable Christmas “busily all the night, had been heaping field and highway with a silence deep and white” (James Russell Lowell’s poem we learned in grammar school), the delicious aromas from the family kitchen as holiday goodies were prepared, the fruits and nuts we saw only at Christmastime, the quaint simplicity of life pre-TV, when apple was only a fruit, not a hand-held device, and childhood amusements and adventures galore were all about us in the great outdoors rather than on this or that electronic screen.
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However much we may romanticize recollections of Christmases of yore, I expect few would exchange the comforts, conveniences, and technologies we enjoy today for that more simple life, however Mayberry it may have been.
More and more, with the years’ passing, Christmas is a time of wistful remembrance. We remember our own children, now middle-age adults, and their wonder and innocence as they hung stockings by the fireplace and anxiously awaited Santa’s arrival. We remember those no longer with us: parents, relatives, classmates, teachers, adults in the community we looked up to, admired, and learned from, dear friends met along life’s way — all having touched our lives, and now gone.
Theirs are the memories evoked in the candles’ glow, in the loveliness of a carol, the brightness of the evening star in a clear winter’s sky.
In a world in which the emphasis at this season is more on things and less on the message of that long-ago birth, and when peace on earth seems increasingly unattainable, there echo lines from little-sung verses of a childhood carol: “O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing…And ye, beneath life’s crushing load…O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.”
May your Christmas be filled with wonderful memories!