Christmas means different things to us all. You may take solace in religion, share quality time with family and friends or crack open the booze the second the sun clears the horizon. For me Christmas is about moments. From a subtle smile and kind words shared by friends seldom seen, to those loud explosions of delight made by unwrapping a desirable gift or greeting of distant chums, it’s the moments that make Christmas magical for me.
A gift doesn’t have to mean something physical, something purchased, wrapped in fancy paper, given and unwrapped. I think of a gift as a moment. Be that a hand shake, a meaningful hug, a good conversation or the roar of laughter after a moment of silence at Christmas dinner.
My Christmas is about friends catching up over a glass of wine, silly paper hats worn with pride, smiles on faces, joy very much evident as the gift of friendship is exchanged and renewed. On these rare days I take it all in, savouring the atmosphere, sharing the laughter, good food and solemn reflection for those no longer with us, for they too deserve a moment of our time.
Plenty of people take family photos at Christmas. You should take a moment to really enjoy these little treasures. I took the photo below today after Christmas dinner. The people in it mean nothing to you, yet they mean everything to me. Every silly smile, awkward pose and grand gesture is magnificent. This is a moment I will remember forever because it reminds of a day of goodwill. A day of moments.
…about making connections.
It seems that in our crazy 24/7 world of hustle and bustle, technology induced hysteria and disposable everything, people seldom try to slow things down and enjoy life. Then when Christmas arrives with a flurry of noise and colour, I find it’s the connections that make the event special.
I was out shopping a few days ago, making a few last-minute purchases, swept along with the surging crowds in Cambridge and, like so many, I was ducking and weaving, hurrying from one shop to the next without pausing to look around. It was late and as I hadn’t eaten all day I stopped to grab a hot-dog. I huddled out of the rain as I squirted mustard on my dog.
The crowds were dwindling, shoppers slipping off home out of the cold wet rain. As I went to leave the hot-dog vendor called out. Thinking I’d forgotten my change I turned around. The vendor gave me a huge smile and said: “Hey man, you have a great Christmas, k?”
I smiled at this because it didn’t sound like the standard photocopied greeting. In one second I clocked the look in his eye and the smile on his face.
This guy really meant it.
“You too, fella,” I replied. I gave my dog a wiggle. “Have a good one.”
Walking back to my car I ignored the rain which had already started to dampen my hot-dog bun. I at with a smile on my face. After all the shops I’d been in, where checkout operators dish out a robotic “Merry Christmas” to each and every customer (repeat a phrase enough times and most people will lose the enthusiasm for its meaning) it was that connection of sincerity that made my shopping experience a memorable one.
…about the wonder!
My niece, Daisy, was thrilled to receive a personal video message of Santa Claus this year. She showed me the video on my sister’s iPad. She showed it to everyone else. Twice. Three times. A dozen times and probably more. But her wonder never waned. She watched it over and over. Santa knew she’d been a good girl. Good enough to let her know. Personally.
As adults we’re guilty of losing that wonder. Those once special moments become flat because we’ve seen it before. We know what to expect. But it doesn’t have to be that way you know, dear blog reader. The wonder is still there to be enjoyed. You just have to take the time to tuck away your expectations and for a moment touch the possibility of “what-if” and let the power of imagination captivate you.
Continuing my story of shopping in Cambridge, before the rain came again, I watched a street artist near the market. I stood and watched for a long time. The guy was stood perfectly still, eyes wide open, never blinking. He was a living statue. A semi-circle of shoppers gathered around him. Every so often a young boy or girl would approach him, cautiously, as if not quite sure what to make of the strange statue.
The look on their faces was wonder. The same look little Daisy had when she showed me the video message from Santa. And as I stood there watching those children, I couldn’t help but be infected by their wonder. I was enthralled to say the least.
I stood there for at least 15 minutes. The guy never moved a muscle. Every time a parent encouraged their kid to drop a coin into the statue’s pot I half expected him to shift his position and give the kids a scare. I gave him a handful of change. Well earned.
…a squeaky ball!
Amidst the mountains of crispy roast potatoes, slabs of turkey, fart inducing sprouts, snoozing relatives, glasses of wine, silly hats, jokes, chats, smiles and creamy trifle (loaded with enough sherry to put you in an alcoholic coma for a week) one moment captured my Christmas perfectly.
For our dog Ben, whom Christmas has little meaning beyond a vague and curious interest in the rainbow of scrunchy wrapping paper, a squeaky ball is something to be treasured. It’s such a little thing. A squeaky ball. After all the excitement of the big day it’s nice to see Ben enjoying the little things in life.
We all have our squeaky balls. They’re the simple things in life, like a hug, a feeling of wonder at a special Christmas message from Santa, an unexpected and heartfelt connection with someone, and a special moment you’ll tuck away in your noggin to remind you of this Christmas.
Whatever your squeaky ball is, I hope you cherish it.
When the rush of the holiday season is over and normality has been restored, try to remember your squeaky ball. Don’t make this a fleeting glance in your room of memories. Dig out that squeaky ball – that feeling of wonder, connection or moment, and let it shine a light into your life once more.
I raise a glass and toast your good health, dear blog reader, and offer you my sincerest best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
And in case you’re wondering, my Christmas squeaky ball this year is watching Ben playing with his squeaky ball!