While listening to a Hungarian Christmas song on Youtube, I suddently received a wave of memories from the distance of time: the Christmases of my childhood. It’s something undescribable, just like the way Christmas Eve was always celebrated in my family. As far as I remember, it was never about the externals but something you can only see when you draw back and take time to feel it. It was totally about magic, smelling the scent of the tree, being with my family while knotting Christmas candy in white wrap on long strings to hang on the tree, listening to Christmas music that was mainly about the birth of Jesus Christ and going to play in a nativity scene in the church and a local pensioners’ home… and in the evening entering the room where all my family and presents were while lightening all the sparklers on the tree.
But even well before Christmas I prepared for it for a long time, my family would make an Advent wreath every year and we would light one more candle every Sunday – I was amazed how the power of one single candle could bring so much light into the dark room and as more and more candles were lit I was told it’s just the way how the soon-to-be-born Our Lord brings light to the world, the light of love to where it is dark and cold and grief. We’ve had a figure of Baby Jesus lying in a manger and I prepared a dress for him of paper every year. We cut small pockets on it and every time I did something good I could fold one pocket on his dress. “The more pockets you fold, the warmer he will feel” said my dear grandmother and I did my best to act as good as I could during Advent time.
I read quite much as a kid and I found some children books about Christmas, written at the beginning of the 20th century when celebrating Christmas in a happy and prosperous way was mostly the privilege of the rich. The characters of those stories were mostly poor children who dreamed of a warm flat and a Christmas tree – instead they were happy with whatever small things they would get and give. The stories have revealed how strange traits happiness had – sometimes it appears in situations of need and discomfort, soothing troubled souls, healing broken hearts and uniting families torn apart, at least, in spirit. Probably these moving pieces of children literature motivated me later to offer my help before Christmas to as many people as possible. I’ve been keeping touch with a family in need for years and I’ve been sending a Christmas package to them in every December, not because of the actual value but the human factor, because I’ve been hoping I could bring happiness to them. One more memory I’ve had is purchasing a handmade postcard once from a woman on the street right before Christmas. I still remember how she told be that her husband had just lost his job and how I thought she needed compassion from people the most, even if that means strangers. Yes, these inspirations are those that make Christmas still the most beautiful and touching holiday of the year for me.
Sometimes I hear people saying that for them, Christmas has lost its appeal and now they don’t find it anything else than a holiday coming with duties, spending money and dressing in a fake happiness to mime you are feeling totally content. Maybe the stories of our inner children are dying and the real meaning of Christmas might forever be lost… We are now living a too developed, happy and comfortable life and we have no chance for that strange kind of happiness that I experienced in my childhood readings. We don’t decorate our hearts anymore – “why would we? for the sake of a stupid religious holiday?” some may ask. Still, I’m afraid that with the sense of Christmas one dimension of the human spirit may also disappear.
And now this is the question – how can I save the essence of this human spirit to my yet unborn children? I have no videos from my childhood, only photos and the record of the Christmas music (luckily I could buy it some years ago on CD). And the books I’ve been reading. I think however that the main thing I should give my children is the sense of wonder around this holiday. I would like them to feel what I felt, I wish they would bring the news of the great joy to the world and that they would understand that it’s a time of the year when others are more important than we are. And I’m hoping they will believe that the newborn Jesus really is born in our hearts every year when we love each other and the whole world on Christmas Eve.