The song says that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but you and I usually call it a “magical” time of year. Whether we’re referring to the lighted houses throughout the neighborhoods or the excitement of finding the perfect gift for someone special or the delight of receiving the perfect gift, the Christmas season is magical. Magic has two very different meanings: it can be “a supernatural power over natural elements” or it can be “illusions produced by sleight of hand or trickery.” I, of course, believe that the magic of Christmas is the magic of a supernatural power.
Each year when we break out our home decorations, simple objects inspire deep and complex reactions…natural things meet with supernatural feelings.
- For the past 10 to 15 Decembers, I’ve carefully extracted our Fitz & Floyd reindeer from their cardboard-and-Styrofoam packing to place them atop the bookcases in our living room. I can’t clearly explain the power they have over my imagination and emotion…I think they are beautifully made and somehow majestic, but their power is that they were given to me (after I’d raved about them in the store) by my wife—a large move away from her practical side, way over to her romantic side; and that they recall and confirm for me the reality of Santa Claus and the magic of my childhood Christmases. When I put them in place for their month of decoration, I am an agéd, balding man become a wonderstruck tow-headed boy.
- Since her childhood, my wife has enjoyed the presence of sterling silver candlesticks on the dining room table. But at Christmas, they are transformed with a simple addition of silver tendrils with glittering Christmas globes …elements designed of a different time, elegantly cast, and dynamically bedecked. Their elegance and beauty transform the table—and the room—beyond just a gathering, beyond just a meal; and the fun of the clacking globes entices everyone to touch them expectantly. Their elegance, beauty, and fun must magically fill my wife with nostalgia as well as pride.
- Thirty years ago, before my children were born, my mother made and gave me a charming hand-sewn Nativity set—Joseph, Mary, the Christ child, and a sheep. They are Quaker-simple, soft, homey, innocent, and expertly crafted by her very steady hands. No flashing lights, no music, neither glitter nor sparkle. They speak directly to me about the reason for the season. Both my daughter and son just told me that they look forward to seeing them each year. I love how my Nativity runs a hand-stitched thread through our three generations.
- In 1986, I built a pine box with a Christmas tree carved in the lid to hold my growing collection of ornaments. We bring it up when we begin to decorate the tree…opening it to find the tissue-wrapped, swaddled, boxed, bundled and tied assortment of ornaments: glass balls, felt figures, Santas, anthropomorphic critters, bells, stars, fruits, feathered birds, a bird’s nest, and coiled strings of star-like lights. Each ornament’s story is told—about childhood or earlier Christmases or the friends who gave them or the place where they were bought…as if the box were magically giving up its contents of the history of our lives.
I seek out this magic each evening, when I light the candles and wreaths around the house. I have avoided the 21st-Century automatic lights that come on and go off on their own; I prefer to circumnavigate the house to click on each candlelight, plug in the strings of lights on the bushes and wreaths, light the spotlight on our Santa flag…I enjoy being the magician who invokes the supernatural transformation.