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Christmas gives us a reminder to share


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POSTED: Sunday, December 13, 2009

Driving home one recent night, I turned up the sound on the primitive radio in the trusty Toyota to hear “;pah-rrhuppa-pum-pum,”; the repetitive song of sparse notes played, thankfully, only at Christmas.

Unnerved, I punched another button to find a second station broadcasting the same tune. Another punch and more “;pah-rrhuppa-pum-pums”; rolled through the airwaves.

Thus, the realization that the holiday season was really, really upon us smacked me upside the head.

Whether because of distraction or denial, the season always seems to arrive with surprising speed. One day, it's hot, humid and summer; the next it's sunsets at 6 o'clock and a blanket at bedtime. Time feels compressed and abbreviated, increasingly pressurized by obligation.

The City Lights flicker on, along with decorative illuminations at malls and commercial buildings. Usually shadowed trees glow fancifully, their trunks and limbs coiled with strings of twinkling bulbs. Lawns in the neighborhood become stages for sparkling displays of non-indigenous snowmen, polar bears and prancing red-nosed reindeer. Garages house manger scenes, their eaves dripping incongruously with icicles.

The air vibrates with busyness. There's shopping to do, gifts to wrap, parties to plan and attend—an abundance of activity telescoped into a few weeks.

No wonder people get grinchy. But consider the alternative.

I sympathize with those who bemoan the commercialization of what's supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ, but truth be told, that Elvis left the building a long time ago. And though the emphasis of Christmas seems to be all about buy, buy, buying, under the brass and crass there remains a blessing.

Without Christmas, there would be no tradition for sharing, which is what giving gifts really is. There would be no energy spent on thinking about others, whether it be a sister or colleague or an anonymous soul who would receive a meal, a set of clothing or maybe even a flock of ducks that would set her and her family on a path to self-sufficiency in a faraway land.

There would be no gathering of kinfolk, of friends inadvertently neglected through the previous months. There would be no arguments at the dinner table, no gossip about Uncle Harvey, no laughing recounts of the time when Garrett and Sharon gave each other the same Dylan album, no busting of Margie for re-gifting the weird coffeemaker from Augie's ex-girlfriend to Augie himself.

Without the holiday, mothers would not have tested her girls' creativity by challenging them to come up with different motifs while wrapping presents with the same paper, aunts and nephews would not have rolled out dough for cookies for the class party. A father would not have looped ribbon from a stocking tacked to a bookshelf (the substitute for a fireplace mantle in the islands) for his kids to trace down a hallway, out the door and into the yard where a first-ever, brand new bicycle awaited them.

Oh, yes, Christmas is bah-humbug, and yet, as the song goes, it is a most wonderful time of the year.