The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Many of us of a certain age become nostalgic this time of year. For me, “the most wonderful time of year” is not a cliché we easily attach to the month of December. It is truth. Yes, sometimes memories swirling around in the chill winds at Christmastime can be as difficult as they are sweet, especially if we are prone to focus on what we have lost instead of all we’ve been given. I have to make a choice where to put my emphasis. I come from a long line of forebears who celebrated the love and joy of the Christmas season. Though the especially pious among us dutifully bemoaned the crass commercialization of Christmas, my tribe largely took it in stride, even embraced it, enjoying the twinkling lights, draping evergreen swags, and bright baubles of city downtowns selling their wares, not to mention the be-ribboned country lanes where we gilded the lily.

I remember as a child riding through ritzy neighborhoods with their bright but determinedly highbrow decorations tastefully displayed. We took in the fun and funny along with the more sober and spiritually meaningful messages. Mainly, we loved being together as family, experiencing the joy and excitement God allowed us in the time of year most of Christendom had chosen to focus on Jesus’s birth and the often-fleeting moments of “peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

When I become petty and cranky and, yes, spiteful, I concentrate on that peace. It helps. It helps to remember what is important. It helps to acknowledge our spiritual nature and needs. It helps to access a sense of fun and fellowship that lightens the heaviness of the world. Christmas is a poignant time (for many of us) that helps us balance the bitterness of loss or disappointment with the compensations of love, family, and His presence we so often slide too easily over. I choose to relish as much as I can—from the cheesy green Grinch and silly movies to the glory of God’s majesty and the gravity of his greatest gift to this fallen world. And at this time of year, I think of children and how empty our existence would be without them.  So, I present to you on that subject, a long-ago poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Children's Hour
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Alegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down in the dungeon
In the round tower of my heart!

And there I will keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And molder in dust away.


4 thoughts on “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  1. I think poetry and remembrances as you use to good use in this blog strike the right balance to slow us down and enjoy the holiday season by connecting us to memories of Christmases long ago and their ties to family. The long days of summer are better to wrap your mind in good books.

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  2. I love your writing and join you in feeling the embrace of loved ones who have crossed through the veils. Dad would say “the Starks and Davises mostly die at Christmas” and then he entered hospice mid December and flew away on a very windy New Year’s Day. You invoke the balance our family held of the material delights and the deeper meanings at the same time. As Marion said, we are connected by memories of family at Christmas. I would add that at our age we are also connected by memories of a seemingly simpler and largely vanished world

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  3. So very well said, Mare. We seldom understand what we have until it is gone or until we’ve experienced change. I try not to romanticize the past as I am prone to do with most things, but I’ve come to realize that convenience and ease are not the same as happiness and that family with all its ups and downs is a gift of God.

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