I grew up in the golden ghetto, a neighbourhood surrounded on 3 sides by railroad tracks, an irony that I was aware of even as a kid, given that this neighbourhood was almost entirely Jewish with a significant sprinkling of holocaust survivors. Even so I missed Christmas.
None of my friends celebrated Christmas. There weren’t any Hanukah bushes, nobody got piles of presents. But that wasn’t what I missed. There was something in the air that I could feel even down in my suburban Jewish neighbourhood, an excited preparation that I wasn’t a part of, all headed toward a single night of jubilation.
I was glued to the tube. We only got 2 English channels, CBC and CTV, and most of the year programming consisted of fishing, hockey, the Pig and Whistle, and soaps. But at Christmas, I saw A Christmas Carol (the Alistair Sims one), It’s a Wonderful Life (my favourite), Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas.
Generosity fought with greed and won. Hope won over cynicism. Love won over money. An angel got his wings. That was what I yearned for, that was what I missed and what I thought people who celebrated Christmas enjoyed.
Yesterday I was at a neighbourhood party. It was a lovely time and I had such pleasure playing with my neighbour’s one year old that I dreamed about him last night. But this is what struck me: how many people were not looking forward to today. How many had obligations to family members who had no understanding for the difficulties that they were imposing. Demands are at their peak, sympathy at a low. If only everyone could just stop, and look at each other, and hold hands like the people of Whoville.
So I want to take this moment to remember my childhood vision, to touch the light, and carry that with me later today as we head off to my in-laws for Christmas.
Wishing you all the joy of lengthening days.