A 2008 Best of Holidailies Selection. Thanks, Holidailies Reviewers!

Just as plastic trees become objects of wonder just as they’re bedecked with fairy lights and ornaments, Christmas decorations, in general, become unmagical as soon as the Christmas season is over.

For some, this change happens around the 6th of January – Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas. For others – me included – it happens between 11:59 PM on New Year’s Eve, and the first light of New Year’s Day.

Like a tired party girl dragging herself home after a late night, make-up smeared, stockings in runs, shoes with impossibly high heels carried in one hand rather than being worn, decorations left up on New Year’s Day seem somehow cheap and tawdry.

Oh, the silver and gold are just as shiny as ever, but once the season passes, the shine becomes tacky, rather than tasteful. The bright reds and greens seem overdone, somehow, and the scent of pine and gingerbread becomes cloying.

While I’ve been ready to move beyond Christmas for several days now – despite my love of the season – I’ve resisted, because I know all too well how little time we get to enjoy the Yuletide magic every year. I will miss red and green candles, but I’m looking forward to the freshness of cream and pale gold tones. In my head, I catch whiffs of pear and vanilla, two of the “clean” scents that mean the new year to me.

Tonight, I will put on party clothes and drink to health and prosperity; tomorrow, I will box away my Christmas treasures for another year, in clean white tissue. When I am done, the house will feel too big for a few days, but then things will settle, and I will enjoy brisk mornings with oatmeal and coffee, and chilly evenings with stews and rented DVDs – the pleasures of winter without the stress of the holidays are so restful.

To those of you who are going out tonight, please be careful. Have fun, just be judicious about it. To those of you staying in, enjoy the comfort of home. To everyone reading this: May you have a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Christmas Eve (Part I): Always Room at Darmok’s Inn

One in the morning, and I’m sitting in the dark blogging, even though I have to be awake at 4:30. We have friends sleeping in the guest room. A packing glitch in San Jose stranded them in DFW for the night, and it would be wrong to make anyone stay in an airport hotel at Christmas, or Hanukkah, or, for that matter, any other day, when we have the time and space to let them stay here. I told my mother about it, when she called to tell me the box I sent for Christmas would be available for pickup tomorrow morning (mailing anything to her part of Baja is a bit of an adventure). She told me it was a lovely gesture at Christmas time, and said, “Always room at the inn, right?”

So we drove to the airport, and found our wayward travelers. I’d made a pot of chili, so there was hot food waiting, and we had a nice chat over dinner before toddling off to our respective beds. It doesn’t matter that these are friends we’d never met face-to-face before – we read each others blogs, know intimate details of each others lives, and now, have faces to go with names and usernames. Anyone who thinks net friends somehow don’t count has clearly never been stranded at an airport in December, with no one to call, but a healthy contact list of emailable friends.

Not that they called – I offered. I know if our positions were reversed, and they had the space, they’d do the same. I know most of the folks I know online would, as well. Whether we share the same political, social, religious beliefs, or not, we share the common language of geekiness.

One of my friends here in Texas uses a Star Trek: the Next Generation reference to explain it. She says, “we share the same Darmok,” or “we get each other’s Darmok,” and the thing is, we all do. We may not all have the same list of fandoms, games, favorite iPhone apps, or outlooks on life, but we all have a similar generosity of spirit, one that completely transcends time and space, and allows us to send flowers or text a hug, offer a spare bed, clean up the audio for a podcast, share a video, edit a resume, or just send a supportive email message, with the same ease of any friends who interact solely offline, and in some cases, because interacting through written communication lets us be more candid, the friendships we have grow deeper, ultimately, and we are richer for it.

It’s just after one AM on Christmas Eve. It’s the middle of Hanukkah. It’s a couple of days after Solstice, and it’s the heart of Yuletide. It’s a time to give and receive the gifts of our hearts, hands, and minds. It is a time to spread love and joy. It is a time to welcome strangers as friends, and be open to new possibilities and fresh hopes.

It’s a time to remember that whatever may or may not have happened 2000-ish years ago in Bethlehem, today, tonight, this year, this century, there is always room in Darmok’s Inn.

Indistinguishable From Magic

A 2008 Best of Holidailies Selection. Thanks, Holidailies Reviewers!

That’s the thing with magic. You’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.
~Charles DeLint

The Cafe Writing Holiday Project asks us to write about seven magical things in our world…

  1. Plastic Christmas Trees: Fresh from the box, they look every inch a fake tree, but once they’re decked in lights and ornaments, positioned in the window in just the right way, wrapped in a skirt, and playing host to presents, they become as real as the trees that grow from the earth. As they age, plastic trees even drop needles.
  2. Crayons: The texture of the paper wrapping, the scent of the wax, the colored strokes across paper, rough or smooth – there’s something so innocent about it all, and so amazing as well, in the possibilities they represent.
  3. New Nightgowns: Whether plain or lacy, cotton or satin, or not a nightgown at all, but brand new flannel pajamas, new nightwear makes you feel sexy or sweet, cozy or carefree, depending on the weather and the style. A new nightgown at Christmas has long been a family tradition. (This year, mine is red and strappy.)
  4. Cookie Dough: Sugar, flour, vanilla, spices, love and magic. Mix it up, roll it into balls, eat half of it raw, and then bake the rest.
  5. Hot Chocolate: There are coffee moments and tea moments, but once the weather turns chilly and the skies turn gray there is nothing more magical than a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows, stir with a candy cane or a chocolate coated spoon. Sip alone while curled up by the fire, or around a table full of conversing friends. It warms your heart as much as your belly.
  6. Fog: This is nature’s soft-focus lens, and it makes everything seem a little less harsh, blurring edges and softening lines. Lights twinkle more in fog, whether they’re traffic lights or holiday lights, and fires seem to crackle more. Fog is a soft cotton blanket, one more layer between yourself and cruel reality.
  7. Laughter: It turns a shy child into a witty conversationalist, a wallflower into a star, and a dull day into an amusing interlude. Best shared with others.

Christmas Cheer

Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than cheesy Christmas movies. They’re a guilty pleasure for me, for my friend Ms. J., and even for my mother, who usually has nothing to do with commercial television. What I really want right now, is to be curled up in bed with the dogs, and a mug of tea, writing Christmas cards and watching a string of them.

Peppermint tea is my Christmas movie tea of choice, though I sometimes drink Gingerbread or Cinnamon tea. Peppermint, though, is best, especially with sugar stirred into it, so it tastes like a liquid candy cane. Sometimes, after a mug of peppermint, I’ll use the last dregs to make hot chocolate, which is it’s own special pleasure.

Earlier this afternoon, I did watch Snowglobe which my DVR grabbed for me while we were at church this morning, but it was nearly eighty degrees, which just isn’t conducive to getting lost in Christmassy goodness. It’s supposed to be cold tomorrow and Tuesday, however, and I’ve got other Christmas movies on the DVR, as well as the array available on cable all week.

Tonight, instead of Christmas movies, we watched TransSiberian, which was at least in a snowy setting. It’s a pretty grim movie, meant to be a thriller, but I found myself cursing at the idiocy of the main character more often than not. Ben Kingsley was great in it (is he ever not?) though, and I was surprised to find that Woody Harrelson’s performance was quite watchable.

Still, I’d much prefer to be watching an endless stream of happy, cheesy movies where Beckie saves Christmas, marries the dashing man about to take over as Santa, redefines life at the North Pole, and lives happily ever after.