“To Hear Sleigh Bells in the Snow”

Delicious home-cooked meals out in the country…two-martini lunches in town…surprise invitations…impromptu family gatherings…parties hosting fun neighbors, old friends, and charming acquaintances. As this joyous holiday season rolls into Christmas week, I will find simple worship and good will. Anticipation of Christmas Day soars, and so I set aside one quiet night at home among the excitement and joy of the celebrations to enjoy a favorite holiday movie. 

I light the tree, glittering with decorations from my childhood in concert with happy holiday ornaments added to the tree this season. I inventory the gold wrapped gifts with red satin bows. A knowing gift for a friend of longstanding anchors the pyramid, while I can locate the old-time train set with a track that runs around the tree, and a special gift for a new friend among the monumental stack of presents. The holiday sleigh bell hanging from the silk ribbon around his neck jingles, and I invite my gorgeous white cat—dutifully investigating the packages—to join me for some Hollywood Christmas spirit. 

I’ve chosen to screen White Christmas, the season’s Technicolor ground zero. White Christmas with its wonderful Irving Berlin score building to the finale when that old war horse and the audience join Bing Crosby and his crimson-costumed troupe singing the classic title tune. The scenery backdrop rises magically out of the frame as they sing, and the Christmas tree on stage is instantaneously framed by the white Christmas snowfall in all its glory outside.

And suddenly I admit I just can’t take two hours of Danny Kaye again and I hit the remote. And as suddenly I’m hooked: a big city Marketing VP, too career-motivated to be concerned with Christmas, slips on the ice and falls (just hard enough) on the wintry rush hour street…I comandeer one of the holiday cookie tins I’ve designated as hostess gifts from atop the stack of wrapped presents…the VP wakes up safe and sound the following morning in her bucolic home town…I reach for my throw…married to her high school sweetheart’s best friend...I pour myself a Malbec and my cat and I settle in…in 1947…I hope the hell I have sea salt caramel gelato in the freezer.

Since the Wednesday-through-Sunday Thanksgiving Festival, I’ve been binge watching the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies. 

By the time I hit my stride, I was juggling this year’s Hallmark titles with the archived movie library—Teri Polo and Lacey Chabert, Lori Loughlin to Danica McKellar, non-stop, watching the movies in segments…out of sequence…on two stations…until I just stop watching…or I switch to finish up on DVR later. By now this Yuletide stream has morphed into one marathon Christmas Odyssey. The latest cookie bake-off, department store window dressing contest, Charity Firemen Calendar shoot, airport-closing blizzard, Grandma’s Christmas Theme Park or family Christmas tree stand real estate sale, magical music box, clock, or tree ornament, haughty future mother-in-law, omniscient bell-ringing Santa, and precocious niece who magically wishes her busy Professional Shopper aunt can only tell the truth are one gigantic red and green costumed epic Christmas pageant. Introverted princes, staid CEOs, ambitious TV anchors, stoic widowers, charming cowboys, temperamental chefs, and professional athletes cold and indifferent alike—like all the Jean Valjeans on one stage at a Les Mis Anniversary Concert—reveal hearts of gold by the final fade out snowfall…can you believe the size of those snowflakes?

My high-rise condominium doesn’t allow fresh cut Christmas trees: City Fire Ordinance. Did you ever try to get your cat to wear a bell?  Not a single flake is falling tonight on the Square below my windows. But I have the wrapped present for my friend… and I have that train set, and the perfect toddler to enjoy it.  And I have my cat and my memories of Christmas. And I wouldn’t trade my Christmas for all the gingerbread men in Santa Clause, Indiana. Perfect. And I wish the same for you.  Merry Christmas!