The other day on NPR, I heard a Norwegian scientist explain “the physics behind Santa Claus.” He had some pretty interesting answers to the questions children have been asking since St. Nicholas turned into Santa in the early 1800s. You can listen to this fun 5-minute interview or read the transcript here. The explanation for how Santa knows which children are naughty and which children are nice is let’s say… California-worthy.
The naughty and nice thing is a bummer though, if you ask me. Let’s face it, every kid gets presents. Even the bratty ones and the bullies. The only kids that don’t get presents are those from poor families and then it doesn’t matter how good you are: if there’s no money, there’s no presents.
Of course, a long time ago this didn’t matter so much. Before we lost gratitude for the basic necessities of life and began to take these things for granted—shelter and food and clothing—we were tickled to get oranges in our stockings. A moment to rest and enjoy our families was enough. Faith wasn’t about believing as much as it was an overwhelming mystery, and the mystery filled us with awe. Whether that was how a human baby boy could save the world or how a man in a red suit could deliver presents down chimneys all around the world in one night, these winter days were sacred and special. Anything was possible.
This is why we are so enamored with holiday lights. They elicit awe. They twinkle in the darkest time of the year and their sparkling glow touches something primal in our souls: a longing and belief in hope and possibility. Have you ever fallen asleep in front of the Christmas tree, when all the other lights in the house are off? Or sat in stillness surrounded by candles, maybe listening to your favorite holiday music? It’s hard to watch a fire and not be mesmerized. Holiday lights are the same. I have many times immersed myself in tree lights and wept. The connection to something profound, something big and mysterious, essential and amazing, is almost more than I can contain.
In the midst of holiday activities, do you make time for this? Are you able to sit in the stillness and fall into the mystery?
It’s easier for kids. Anything is possible in the mind of a child. With the exception of Susan in Miracle on 34th Street, who has to be taught how to use her imagination, most kids find this easy. Grass can be blue and reindeer can fly. And unicorns can be kept in your backyard.
Did you hear how a young girl asked for permission to keep a unicorn and Animal Care and Control responded? It’s priceless.
Today is the Solstice. My favorite holiday of the year. I wish I wasn’t working. But tonight, I will be still. In my best life, everything stops today. Around the world there is a collective sigh, a pause from the secular insanity, and daily life is suspended until the yule log burns out*. I want to live in a place where this moment is quiet and still, where time is suspended, where trees remain decorated until January 6th and presents are opened on Epiphany.
This year, I’m turning off my phone by 4pm on Christmas Eve. I’m closing my computer and shutting down my modem. Two days of no TV, no internet, no cheerful texts from family and friends. Just books and music and Mazie. Peach pecan crepes for breakfast and a home lit by candles in the evening. This is how I plan to experience the magic and mystery.
All I want for Christmas is peace.
I wish you the same during these holy winter days.
May you have a Happy Hannukah, a Blessed Solstice, a Joyous Soyal, a Merry Christmas, a Fun Boxing Day, a Meaningful Kwanzaa, and a Joyous Epiphany.
* traditionally, the yule log would burn for 12 nights