Let memories bring soul to Christmas 2001

The year was 1954. The day was Nov. 27.
We were married in a simple, but beautiful, ceremony in upstate New York. The brilliant colours of fall had given way to winter and we spent our honeymoon at nearby Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains.
Then we moved to the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania—a lush land of trees, vegetation, and creeks. Once settled in, it was time to get ready for Christmas.
I baked cookies and wrapped gifts, and Howard brought home a wreath for the window. Oh, but it seemed beautiful. Before the days of plastic, the wreath was bright red crinkly cellophane with an electric candle in the middle.
We lit it each evening that Christmas, and every Christmas thereafter, until it became so old that we were afraid the frayed cord would set the house on fire.
The cellophane wreath became a symbol of that first memorable Christmas. Even today, warm thoughts of the dusty, tattered wreath are nostalgic.
Christmas is made up of memories—Santa Claus coming to the school programs, distributing candy and nuts, and wonderful gifts from my teacher. I still treasure my copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” inscribed “Marie from Miss Peck—1935.”
Of Santa Claus visiting our house. I never saw him, of course. But I always knew he had been there because he spilled a trail of nuts from the front door to the Christmas tree.
He wasn’t foolish enough to come down our stovepipe. He would have burned to a crisp in our potbelly stove.
And what wonderful gifts I remember. Ice skates. A wicker doll carriage. Shirley Temple paper dolls. Dionne quintuplet paper dolls. And a Flossie Flirt doll.
But the best part of Christmas was going to Grandma’s house. What a spread we had! A large turkey with all the fixings—mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, vegetables, Jell-O salads, pickles, and an assortment of pies.
And after dinner, gift-giving in the living room and lots of cousins to play with.
All of these memories come to life each Christmas season. The fresh fragrance of pine and the comforting taste of grandma’s gravy trigger emotions.
The senses seem especially alert during the holidays. Feelings of nostalgia lie close to the surface and seemingly insignificant daily experiences are suddenly rich with meaning.
Thomas Moore would say the season is full of “soul.” Author of the best-selling books “Care of the Soul,” “Soul Mates,” and “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life,” this former monk has made a career out of helping us define this term.
“‘Soul’ is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.”
In a way, the soul of Christmas present is a mix of all the Christmases that have gone before. Joyous and sad, recent and long-ago. Each nostalgic memory, all the smells and symbols, combine in a rich melting pot to bring meaning to the current season.
“The familiar but forgotten smells and tastes restore a long-dormant element in the soul—a comforted childhood, a feeling of belonging, the support of religious and cultural traditions, and family stories and personalities,” writes Moore in “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life.”
So as you prepare for Christmas 2001, treasure your memories. Honour the “soul” of everydayness—the smells, the tastes, the gift-giving. Live each moment of this holiday season to the fullest and make wonderful memories for the future.

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