Merry Christmas! I probably shouldn't worry about getting into the Christmas spirit, because I usually get there eventually. This year it didn't come from shopping, or reading the Bible, from certain Christmas songs or a Christmas tree or looking at lights. This year it was about people, and little ways the holidays help to connect us to each other as well as our better selves.
I already told you the story of the cat adoption on Monday. My friend's cat had just died, and it was a disaster for her because she's disabled and basically alone in the world. I took her to a no-kill shelter where she got herself another cat. It cost me nothing but a little gas and my time in order to make a difference in the life of someone who really needed it.
Today I did a lot of running around in a vain attempt to find cranberry orange relish and pfferneuse, and to get stuff to fill John's and the dogs' stockings. At 4:15 I found myself one traffic light away from Eva's senior facility, with 45 minutes to get her to the Christmas Eve Family Mass at St. Michael's. The dogs were still in the car from the dog park, but it made more sense to pick her up and then drop them off than the other way around.
It ended up taking a long time, because she had moved into their assisted living wing, and I had to get there, and arrange to pick her up at the back of the building. I tried to pick her up at one end of the corridor, but she had gone out the other, so I had to track her down. We ended up about five minutes late to church. The Family Mass was full, so we couldn't see the kids helping Father John set up the creche at the altar. He had the congregation sing quite a few familiar carols and one that I didn't know at all, and sent the children through the church to tell the secret he had whispered to them: "Jesus is here!" He asked for volunteers to run the collection baskets down the aisle, so I volunteered - one more little task to add to my St. Michael's repertoire. Eva wasn't up for a long communion line from the back of the church, so Father Smith brought it to her.
Afterwards I took Eva for a drive to see a few displays of Christmas lights in my neighborhood, including the one with the Big Tree that I've been posting photos of for the last week or two. Tonight I took a few more photos, a little more close up to catch details. Then I took Eva home, and did a little last minute shopping. The big find: alcohol-free fruitcake, deceptively called "Fruit and Nute Dessert Cake." Presumably they're aware that basically the whole country has been socialized to believe that fruitcake is inedible. No wonder Walgreen's and pretty much everyone else stopped carrying it!
Back home at last, I had just a few hours to set up the vintage aluminum Christmas tree before heading out to pick up Kevin for the "Midnight" Mass, which actually starts with Christmas Carols at 10 PM. I got to be crucifer (carry the cross), and we went all out with little flourishes in our part of the ritual. Once I dropped Kevin off at his home, I was well and truly ready to be home myself. As John worked on moving boxes and hunting unsuccessfully for our Christmas CDs, I put ornaments on the tree as we watched A Christmas Story on cable. After John went to bed, I did my meager wrapping and stocking stuffing, photo editing and some laundry. I also sent my dad and brother their Amazon gift certificates, this year accompanied by a new e-greeting service that allowed me to incorporate my own photos. Now I've got a shot at about three and a half hours of sleep before going to Mass one more time, at 10:15 AM, to help out and to see another friend.
And here's the trite but true revelation I had today. What does it matter that this Christmas the tree isn't surrounded by a multitude of brightly wrapped stuff? Surely I gave and received more
holiday joy from taking S. to the cat shelter on Yule, from taking Eva to the Family Mass, and kneeling before the creche, leaky oil candle in hand, during the Eucharistic Prayer at the late night High Mass, and listening to period carols played on a lute during communion. And you folks online have been outstanding with you holiday greetings! I'll try to reciprocate before Christmas Day is over. All these experiences are far more important than how many presents I was able to buy, much less how many books and other media I can knock off my Amazon wish list.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night - although I expect some of you are waking up to morning already. Happy Holidays, folks!