In Canada, this is the weekend that most people traditionally put up their Christmas trees. When I was a little girl, my father and I would look around all year for a Christmas tree -- "There's a good one...!" -- and a week before Christmas we would go into the forest, cut down the tree and bring it home. My mother would haul out the Christmas lights and decorations and we would decorate the tree. I still cannot get used to the idea of putting up a Christmas tree at the beginning of December, or even the end of November. It doesn't seem like Christmas to me until a week or so before Christmas, when the season begins, and it ends on January 6th, the Epiphany. There is something magical about seeing the familiar old Christmas decorations, and the colored lights reflected in the glass ornaments, and the whole world is transformed into Christmas. And every year, after the tree is decorated, someone always has the special task of placing the Christmas Angel in her location of honor atop the tree. I was so excited the year I was old enough to do it.
Christmas is a lovely time of the year, but it can also be very stressful. Expectations are high, and often folks find it difficult to live up to them. Every year, Christmas is expected to be more perfect than ever, and every year the reality of life intervenes for many of us. I have been reading through the blogs lately, and everyone seems to be having such a perfect Christmas, I wonder how I can possibly measure up. Everyone's tree is perfect, you all have perfect families, perfect homes, perfect Christmas trees, perfect Christmas cards. How do you do it? You're a hard act to follow. All your Christmas baking is done, with your recipes and photos of your perfect Christmas cookies posted on your blogs. Your presents are all wrapped, and I am still trying to figure out what to buy people for gifts. I feel a bit like a deer in the headlights of a car. Christmas is only a week away, and I am still thinking.
Last night I received the sad news that my family has lost their beloved family pet, one week before Christmas. Everyone is heartbroken. Losing a family pet is never easy, but a week before Christmas is just awful. Through sobs, my daughter said, "How can I celebrate Christmas when my children have lost something they love just a few days before?" I have no answer for that. I guess there is no answer. It's very unfair, to be sure. All I can tell her is that she has a beautiful home, a husband who is a Rock of Gibraltar, two beautiful children, and so much else to be thankful for, even if it doesn't seem that way right now. So I wonder, how many folks' lives are filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows? Is everything really so perfect? Christmas is not just a few days -- or in some people's cases a few weeks -- it is a spirit. It is the time of year when we turn on the lights against the winter darkness. We gather with the people we love, or the crazy sister-in-law, brother-in-law, (fill-in-the-blanks) we tolerate, and for a little while everything is okay -- better than okay -- maybe even perfect.